What I’m really thinking: I should be able to cope but I’m not

An anonymous student tells their story and calls for more support

You possibly know me. I do lots of things. I’m heavily involved in societies. I know lots of people. I’m pretty accomplished. Today I didn’t go to college. I missed my 9am, I meant to go to the gym, I didn’t make it. I felt gross. I kicked myself for not getting out of the house on time, for not being organised, for being incapable of timetabling anything. “What’s wrong with you?” I shout at myself. Everyone else seems to be able to do it.

I tell myself I’ll make my 12pm lecture. At 11.55 I sit on the couch frozen. I’m already falling behind in this module. I don’t move: “I’ll stay at home and catch up.” Everyone else seems to be able to do it.

I didn’t sleep well last night. Should I take a nap? No, my diary is full. My brain plays an endless loop of all of the things I should be doing, all of the emails I need to send, all of the people I said I’d meet, the events I’d go to, the miles I’d run, the deadlines college has set for me, the deadlines I’ve made for myself. Everyone else seems to be able to do it.

I don’t want to go into college, to see everyone else being competent and capable. I don’t want to meet people and laugh and talk about how much work we have but say “sure look it’s still October, it’s no pressure yet” as my chest tightens and my brain whizzes.

I’m starting to get angry. This should not be happening. I am one of the lucky few who has accessed wonderful mental health support both inside and outside college. I have tools, I have strategies. I should be able to cope, but I’m not. I need some extra, how-to-deal-in-college specific support.

I looked up the Trinity Occupational Therapy service today. It should be obvious by now that I’m struggling with my work-life-social-society-college balance. These guys should be able to help. There are two of them. Two. Two people for 17,000 students, one of the most likely groups in society to need support in balancing their lives. To access their support with a mental health issue, you need a letter from a psychiatrist.

I’m not going to delve angrily into this issue, or the lack of counsellors. They are doing the best that they can with the funding they have. But college is not providing the adequate resources, and organisations like the SU need to step up. They have a duty to look after the wellbeing of their students. Everyday, I see too many students struggling with issues that can very easily be addressed. We have a Welfare Officer, who I’m sure is lovely, great at casework and very helpful. However, there are people with severe issues whose needs must be addressed as a priority.

He can’t feasibly do one-to-ones with the number of students who just need some extra support, some education on mental wellbeing, coping strategies and balance. I am not asking for radical intervention, for counselling, for diagnoses. I’m also not asking for five minutes in a puppy room or an annual week of great events. I’m asking for people to have a regular structured space to go to where they can learn and share and grow. Where there’s a focus on day-to-day support. Where people can talk to each other and break down the stigmas and confusion of suffering alone. Where how wonderful a life lived undefined by a lack of mental health issues is central.

I’ve been there. I know what it feels like to wake up in the morning and feel alive and energised. To be able to say no and to ask for help without feeling guilty. To do what I want to do. To be at peace with who I am and what I am doing. To feel passionate about an issue without it overwhelming me. To be utterly present whether it be with my friends or in a lecture. To take the bad days with the good. To love myself and let that shine through me.

I know that I’ll get there again. I know that others can too. We just need help.