The Right Time
The following article is written by a 17 year old Sixth Form student, who wanted to get involved with Student Life to try and help fellow students who are experiencing similar situations.
For some people, discussing our mental wellbeing is something we try to avoid, diverting any questions with a simple “I’m fine”. Throughout high school, I did this on a weekly, sometimes daily basis, never really telling people how I felt.
Come sixth form and I find myself in a brand-new situation, one I have never experienced before and one that many people experience for the first time around this age in life; I was in a relationship. Teenage relationships are scary enough, especially when it’s your first, but we always want to try and make them work out perfectly, deluded by the teenage love stories we see in the movies. At first, I attempted to keep everything pretty and perfect and so I decided to keep the truth of my panic attacks separate from my boyfriend. Not out of deceit or disloyalty, but out of fear he’d think I was some moody drama queen who randomly cries for no apparent, external reason.
However, about a month down the line I thought “this is crazy” and decided to tell him. I was scared, muttering and mumbling trying to explain how it feels to have these experiences of panic, often in my case for no exact reason, and he understood. He just listened and understood, and as of then, I knew I’d always have someone who understood me and knew exactly how to help me; when exam dates are getting closer, the coursework is due and multiple other issues are all toppling up and everything gets too much; I had someone who understood.
Soon after, I could open up to everyone close to me because I took the first step by confiding in someone trusted. I’m sharing this on behalf of anyone else who keeps everything locked up inside. I’m sharing this as a reason for anyone else in the position I used to be in to find their person. Whether it’s a friend, family member, teacher or partner, find someone you can be open with. It will be scary to share what you are going through, but finding ‘your person’ to help get you through is a blessing and I guarantee it will be worth it.
WRITTEN BY EZRA HEWING
For those of us experiencing the symptoms of anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions, the thought of talking about and sharing our experiences can be a daunting and stressful prospect. An additional cause of concern may be sharing our experiences with a new partner; particularly if we are unsure of how they will react.
Our approach to reducing the stress which can arise when we talk to others about our mental ill health is to share information which normalises people’s experiences, and helps us all to think about it more clearly.
For example, we can introduce the idea that all of us have mental health, just as we have physical health. Also, it can be helpful to understand that anxiety is a natural response to unmet emotional needs, perhaps for physical or emotional security or to feelings of being out of control of events in our lives. Whether these needs are unmet in the present, or the memory of a past event when we felt unsafe or out of control is affecting our mood, stress is a natural response to unmet needs.
One of many reactions to becoming too stressed is a panic attack. A panic attack occurs when our body’s response to stress, in attempting to prepare us to run away or protect ourselves, overwhelms us (visit Mind’s website to find out more about panic attacks www.suffolkmind.org.uk).
Returning to the challenge of broaching the subject with a partner, how might we approach the conversation? First of all, choose a time when you sense that both you and your partner are feeling reasonably calm.
You might begin a conversation by asking if they already know about, or have any personal experience of, anxiety or depression. You could also ask if they’ve heard that one in four of us experience anxiety or depression in the course of any given year. Have they ever experienced or witnessed a panic attack? This will give you an idea of what they already know and how likely they are to be sympathetic. You may discover that they have personal experience themselves.