Why I Think My Mental Health is a Blessing in Disguise

Its taken me a long time to get to this point of view and I still don’t see all of it as a blessing (I wouldn’t wish PTSD on my worst enemy) but just hear me out for a second.

When I first got diagnosed with Anxiety back in 2012 I viewed it as the end of the world. I couldn’t be in a room with more than 8 people without a panic attack. I got CBT for it in March the year I took my A Level exams and guess what question was for the research segment?

Evaluate the effectiveness of CBT when treating phobias.

Could it be more suited for me? I got an A* on that paper and without it I wouldn’t have gotten a B overall so I am actually thankful.

Also, CBT isn’t just useful for my anxiety, I’ve used it with every difficult situation I’ve been in because it’s taught me to challenge my beliefs of certain outcomes, push myself to overcome obstacles and then reevaluate the results. Invaluable.

Moving onto a later period in my life …

I was diagnosed with Depression back in 2014 and eventually took a leave of absence in February 2015. I chose to scrap the grades I had gotten in uni so far and repeat the year from scratch in September that year.

Best decision I ever made.

During that time off I learnt so much about myself, how to keep mentally healthy and how to manage things that triggered my depression or anxiety such as stress, troubles with relationships and thrown into new environments.  Its also responsible for my possibly slightly less than healthy addiction to knitting – but that’s a story for another time.

When I came back to uni I made new friends and I gelled more with the people on my course that year. I was able to teach 53 people a dance at Kpop Dance Soc back in October that year and was able to shake a relationship with a less than ideal first love.

Fast forward to months before my Year Abroad. This was far from plain sailing and that’s before we even get to the whole leaving England bit. I was originally not going to be allowed to go on my year abroad (which tore me to bits) because of my mental health and my previous history with depression. But that made me all the more determined to fight for what I wanted. There was no way I was gonna lie down and change my degree because there were concerns. If anything having battles with depression and anxiety made me stronger and gave me a reason to fight for the things I wanted because it was that much hard for me to get them.

I learnt a lot about myself during my LOA (Leave of Absence) as I said which worked in my favour when I was arguing my case for going abroad. I was immediately able to come up with an action plan for when I landed, a list of coping strategies and a support network which I knew worked. I could never have done all that if I hadn’t taken that time to learn about myself during my time off.

As a result, I was not only allowed to go on my Year Abroad but whilst I was out there I was able to push myself, look after myself and actually deal with homesickness and jet lag way better than some people who perhaps didn’t have those problems. I figured if I can deal with my brain telling me it will be better off for everyone if I wasn’t around anymore, then I can deal with living in another country doing what I have always dreamed of for the best part of a year.

I admit I didn’t spend as much time out in Korea as I had originally expected or planned for but actually the time I was out there for meant I grew, my mental health actually improved and I was able to figure out more about myself without the stresses of home and relationships back in England (who knew I’d be a Gothic Princess who speaks Korean and loves Panic at the Disco?).

In short I am trying to say that whilst I got dealt a pretty shit hand over the years and have had more battles than most my mental health has challenged me in ways I never expected and having come out the other side of it I am so proud of myself and know anything else thrown my way won’t stop me from getting my degree and doing what I want in life.

I am also writing this for all the students who feel they can’t go on a year abroad or are feeling disadvantaged because of their mental health. I don’t think you should automatically switch to seeing it as a positive –  that comes with experience. But you shouldn’t rule out the possibility that your mental health gives you an edge over other people. Fight for what you want in life and challenge yourself – use your experiences to your advantage and remember what works for you.

Whoo  ~ that’s all the serious stuff, I’ll try to post some more lighthearted stuff this week like the rest of my adventures from my time in Korea or maybe even my adventures since I’ve been home – its been a week and I already have a few under my belt.

~Ruthie

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