If someone had told me four years ago that I would have gotten everything I’d ever wanted, I wouldn’t have believed you. In fact, I would have laughed. Perhaps I was (and am) a pessimist, but it’s not something I ever thought would happen.
But it did happen. All the goals I set myself when I was 14 were reached. And amongst the craziness of growing up and dealing with adult life, I simply forgot about it. It all happened and I didn’t even realise it.
I visited New York City, which was a life-long goal of mine. I passed all my GCSEs and my A-Levels. I shaved the side of my head and dyed it bright blue. I got a nose piercing and I got tattoos. I moved to London to study journalism. I saw Paramore in concert and Hayley Williams even replied to me on Twitter once. That was everything my fourteen year old self wanted.
When I realised that the other day, I began to cry. I was living the dream life of my former self and I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t content. I still found things to complain about, and I’d completely forgotten where I’d come from. I forgot how depressed I was at that time in my life and how all of these things happening then would have solved that. They’re small and dumb things, I know, but having a bright hair colour or getting a piercing mattered to me then.
So why weren’t these things helping me now?
We change. We all change. We have to change.
The things I dreamed of when I was fourteen aren’t the goals I have now. To me, having blue hair or a shaved side is just a thing. It’s trivial. Seeing Paramore in concert was amazing but it wasn’t the best day of my life. I appreciate all of them but they aren’t essential to my happiness now like they were then.
I’ve grown up and the things that used to mean so much to me are just...Things.
It’s not bad to change. It’s not bad to grow up and lose interest in things you used to love. If anything, it’s natural and part of life. It’s not healthy to stay the same forever. We’re growing and changing every day and sometimes we have to accept that.
I had a hard time doing that at first. I couldn’t understand why I had to change. I didn’t want to - I was pretty happy staying fifteen forever and writing fan fiction and not having a worry in the world. The idea of becoming an adult and getting a degree or a job seemed so dull to me. But, ultimately, aging and growing is something we don’t get a say in. It’s not up to us whether we grow up.
Ironically, everything that fifteen year old me wanted, she got - because I grew up. I became the person I wanted, even if I don’t always see it now.
You might be feeling that right. Being a teenager is a weird time; you’re constantly changing and growing and getting to know yourself. I had a million different identities and obsessions and interests when I was in early teenage years. You have to grow to get to know yourself. Dealing with the growing pains of your teenage years is simply a stop on the way to becoming who you’re meant to be.
It’s sad to grow up and say goodbye to our childhoods. It’s sad to see our goals change and see our old hobbies and interests gather dust. It might not matter too much now, but it mattered to you at one point and that’s the important thing. The things we used to want, our old goals and hopes and dreams, were the axis of our whole lives.
Don’t let yourself get down about growing up and changing. The person you are now is probably exactly who you wanted to be four or five or six years ago. The life you have now, although you might feel unfulfilling or not quite where you need to be, might have seemed so exciting when you were younger. We owe it to our past selves to remember that.
I was really motivated when I first moved out. I had a schedule for my laundry and cleaning, I did my meal planning and I even went to the gym regularly. For the first few weeks, I kept thinking ‘adulting is easy! I’ve got this’.
Then, the novelty of having so much freedom worn off and suddenly, adulting was terrifying. I had no-one to force me out of bed in the morning. There was no-one to force me to eat proper, healthy meals. I was suddenly, completely in charge of my own finances and I no longer had my mum around to raise her eyebrows at my questionable spending. I felt like I could handle it but it was a learning process.
Then, October rolled around. The days began to get shorter and the weather got worse. It was getting dark before I even got home from university: I’d get on the tube when it was still light and get off at my stop to total nighttime. That could mean only one thing; the start of my seasonal depression.
I’ve anticipated every year since I was about 15 (ironically, the same year I was diagnosed with the not-season-kind-of-depression). Whenever it gets colder and darker, it feels like my head does too. I lose all motivation to get out of bed, sleeping becomes an escape and my energy simply disappears.
It’s different to the other kinds of depression that I’ve experienced. There’s no invasive or scary thoughts, there’s no deep dark place that I go to. It’s just apathy. For example, I was able to force myself out of bed to go to my lectures at the beginning of the year. Now, I turn off my alarm and go back to sleep for ten more hours just because I don’t have the energy nor the motivation.
That’s why seasonal depression is scarier when you’re living alone or as an adult, especially the first bout of it. I’ve had to adjust and make changes to my regular solutions, mostly because a lot of them involved the help of my family.
There are some things I’ve learnt that can help:
Anxiety, whilst technically being considered a mental condition, can have a lot of physical side effects. This can include, but is not limited to, sweaty or shaking hands, breathlessness, dizziness and feeling as though the room is spinning. I know I’ve experienced all of these things at one point or another. However, there can also be more internal effects such as butterflies in your stomach (though I would refer to them as wasps), headaches and brain fog.
Dealing with such symptoms on a day to day basis can be difficult. I would find myself becoming physically exhausted by them - both mentally and physically. My anxiety goes hand in hand with my OCD to create a monster of hyperfixation and intrusive thoughts. This can lead to a lack of sleep, a tired brain and, in general, it just makes the whole situation worse. It can be helped with medication - I was actually put on beta blockers for my migraines but they are also used commonly for anxiety. This was a happy coincidence; it took away some of my physical symptoms but the actual anxiety still manifested.
Sometimes, it might feel like there’s not much you can do. I’ve had days where fear has actually stopped me from living my life. I’ve sat at my computer for hours on end with no break, frantically googling and researching things, ranging from the chances of nuclear war to symptoms of brain tumours. It can be extremely stressful because it can lead to you forgetting to drink, eat and use the toilet, which can make the discomfort reach another level.
But is it manageable? Can you deal with it?
You can certainly try. I’ve found that some things work occasionally and sometimes, they’re useless. It’s really a hit and miss situation.
- One option is to visit a doctor. Certain criteria has to be reached before you’re put on any kind of medication but there are a lot of cases where medicine has worked. As aforementioned, my beta blockers weren’t prescribed for anxiety but reduction of physical symptoms has made it easier to deal with.
- The doctor may also refer you to a therapist or counsellor. Cognitive behavioural therapy has proven to be a popular method, especially within people who suffer OCD. It kind of takes the approach of resetting your mind and re-approaching how you think things. It’s often done over a series of weeks or sessions. It may take longer for others but patience is key, as is not comparing your own recovery to anyone else’s.
- I’ve found that meditation is also a very good short term relief. There are apps such as Headspace that can help you, as well as YouTube videos. It’s a good way to take a break from your mind and think about other things. It’s definitely helped me clear my head enough to start thinking straight and rationalise things.
- That brings me onto my next point - rationalisation. There is different ways for everyone; speaking out loud about why you shouldn’t be anxious can help get it through to you. Equally, so can writing it down. For example, when I’m panicking about a health problem that I know I don’t have, I’ll tell my sister every reason why. This seriously helps me accept that I don’t have a certain illness or ailment and I can move on.
- It’s also super important to avoid anything that can make it worse. You’d think that researching something might help but when you google your symptoms and end up on a website for a fatal illness that you’ve never even heard of, it can make things so much worse. This particularly applies to those with health anxiety. I’ve ended up triggering panic attacks by spending hours on the NHS website.
Short term techniques can vary for everyone. Something that helps your friend may not help you. It’s important to explore lots of different ones and find that something suitable for your own personal experience.
I’ve sometimes found that my anxiety can make me worry about the weirdest things. Once the anxiety is passed and my head is clear again, I sometimes find myself wondering why the hell I was worried about it in the first place.
If I could list all the things I’ve been anxious about in the past year, it would look very wild - my friends hating me, being arrested, a nuclear war, being scared about having several different illnesses (brain tumours and skin cancer to name two) and then we circled back round to the nuclear war thing. I would find myself frantically Googling things in an attempt to calm myself but it would only make things worse.
But no matter what it is you’re worried about, whether it be world peace or your health - it is totally valid. Anxiety spares no prisoners - it’s go big or go home. Don’t worry about it or spend a week having anxiety attacks and losing sleep over it.
Anxiety is a proper medical condition; it’s an emotion too but speaking medically it is recognised by health professionals and it is a big deal.
People without anxiety might not understand the complications it brings. The sleepless nights, the anxiety attacks, being an irritable nightmare and finding yourself snapping because you’re so on edge. That’s not nothing; I repeat, it’s a medical condition and it is a big deal. Never let anyone convince you otherwise.
You can’t control when your anxiety comes or when it goes; it’s just there. It can pop up when you’re reading an article on international relations and suddenly, the fear of nuclear war is back. Or, a dodgy looking pop up will come up on your computer and suddenly you’re worried you’ve committed a cybercrime, you’re just not sure which one.
When I’m typing those out, I realise they sound a bit ridiculous but both those situations have occurred in my life and I have to remind myself they’re not stupid. Unfounded, maybe, but definitely not invalid or stupid.
I sometimes wish I could choose what it is I’m worried about. If I could channel my anxiety into worry of failing my A-Levels then it might actually be useful, but instead, I’ll be on Quora asking how likely someone thinks a third world war is.
Again, you might feel your fears are unfounded but they’re not - they’re caused by your anxiety and your anxiety is valid.
Depression and A-Levels - not two words you’d expect to go hand in hand. And at first, for me, they definitely did not go well together. Why would they? It’s a disorder that creates lack of motivation paired with qualifications that need commitment. It’s definitely not an easy thing and, at first, the temptation to drop out and pick up my job full time was quite overwhelming.
So yes - it’s scary, and it seems daunting. That probably applies to other courses as well; GCSEs, mock exams, coursework subjects. But it’s not the end of the world. Off the bat, you’ll question how you can possibly deal with depression and academics, and it’s not something that everyone can work out. Some people might be able to come up with a plan and a step by step guide of how they’ll deal with the two.
I couldn’t do that - yet, I still pulled through. You’ll adjust, probably without even realising. It might take a month or two, maybe more, but before you realise, you’ll learn to juggle it. That doesn’t sound like a fun metaphor, I know, but refer back to the adjustment. I know it took me a little while to find a good balance between focusing on my depression and coping, and revision and homework.
I found that writing down to do lists was almost essential - prioritizing the most important stuff, and making sure it’s done. Keeping your workload to the bare minimum may sound as though it won’t get much done, but do only the essentials. Extra credit is important, but your main focus should be core homework and classwork. It looks better to have good grades on your everyday work, than bad grades on them as well as extra credit stuff. If you feel ready to do extra work, then by all means do but not unless you’re completely certain.
With that said, you might find it easy to detach from college and A-Levels, and you might feel dropping out is the best decision for you. College, at the end of the day, isn’t everything and you have plenty of other options. A part-time job or apprenticeship that doesn’t require revision or coursework is a perfectly good option. Some apprenticeships even pay. Equally, online courses can be very helpful. My mother, for example, got a psychology degree via the Open University and is now a lecturer at a college. Alternatively, if you have family members or friends who work in a career you’re interested in, talking to them may be hugely helpful.
If college is the only route for you to go down, most places will have a counsellor or some kind of support system for students who need extra help. For example, my college has drop in sessions or assigned weekly ones, where they can discuss coping methods and techniques. Obviously, each college will be different but it’s a requirement that colleges have some kind of help system and it’s definitely worth checking out the options.
If not, you could look at other options too. Friends can be an amazing support system; getting them to help you, or remind you of work can help you get stuff done. I also find that studying in groups is super helpful, because you can motivate one another. Some subjects may offer study groups teach, like once a week during lunch.
College stereotypically lasts two years, but there is also the option for staying on for three or four if one year is particularly rough. Most colleges and sixth forms either have an age limit of around 20, whilst others may not have one at all. This means you can resit a year, or start again entirely. No teacher or college employee would judge you for staying on for extra time - if anything, they’ll admire you for persistently trying.
However, if you do choose to stay in college, there are ways to find a balance. I found that getting as much work as possible done when I was feeling okay and motivated really minimised the workload for the bad days. Rewards are also a good way of motivating yourself (I covered this in article titled Keeping A Good Work Ethic - it’s one of my earlier articles but it pretty much covers the whole how to do work when you’re feeling crap thing).
Lastly, and probably most importantly - your health comes first. Don’t overwork yourself on bad days, and even the good days. It can result in tiredness, headaches and irritation that definitely do not coincide well with the things that depression brings. I let my college know that I’d been diagnosed, and although my teachers don’t give me special treatment, they understand the situation. You don’t have to open up, but making them aware can adjust the environment around to make it an overall, more supportive place for when you feel bad.
If you’re not comfortable talking to your teachers, there’s also the option to email them. I didn’t feel comfortable telling them directly, so I spoke to my tutor, who passed on the messages. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to any teachers or tutors full stop, you can also get your parents to call them, or your doctor to write a letter.
To conclude; explore other options, and understand that it’s new circumstances for everyone. Without sounding blunt - your teachers aren’t going to know about your situation unless you tell them. It might not be easy to tell them, but it’s important that you find a way you’re comfortable with. When people around you know what’s going on, they can support you. It’s not a solution to depression, but it’s tiny little things like that that can help you.
The patience and understanding of the people around you can feel like a godsend when things are tough. It doesn’t mean that my teachers are a shoulder to cry on, but a simple extension on homework or a ‘well done’ when you’re in a depressive episode can be the tiny little bits of motivation that can, in the end, help you pull through.
Many of us at TWE have dealt with depression or other mental health related struggles during school and college. We have an education section on the website with school and exam articles that may have other useful information, or if you want a more immediate and direct response, you can contact us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat or via email.
I have written quite a few articles about my experience with OCD. I’ve had it since I was 10 and over the years have been up and down and all over the place, but because of this have been able to discover ways to cope and deal with the disorder.
In my experience, it’s not something that you can get over quickly like a cold or the flu. It’s been all over the place for me, and there’s been weeks where it’s very low key and other weeks where I can’t leave the house without checking things multiple times. It can be difficult, and if you’re struggling with ways to deal with it, there are a couple.
The first one I found very useful was recommended to me by a friend, who incidentally had no experience with OCD and thought it would just be helpful, and that is to take pictures of the things you feel the need to check before you leave the house. For example, when I leave the house in the morning, I take a picture of my hair straighteners plug to show that they’re definitely not in the outlet. If I get uncomfortable or itchy throughout the day, I can simply look at the picture and be reminded that I have definitely done it.
Secondly, lists are very helpful! One of my OCD things (for lack of a better term) is that I can’t sleep without checking my alarms have been set multiple times and that my phone is definitely charging, etc. But, if I write a checklist of these things and tick the items off when I’ve done it, I know for certain everything is dealt with and I can get some sleep. It’s easy to glance at and check, rather than going through the whole process of actually double (and triple, and more) checking everything.
Another way is to get someone else to watch you when you do things compulsively. This sounds strange straight off the bat, but if you turn around to go and double check something, they can remind you that you’ve already done it. This is helpful if the two previous methods aren’t working for you and you find another person more reliable than your own photo or checklist.
Lastly, keep yourself distracted. This probably seems like the useless piece of advice that someone will tell you with no prior experience of OCD, but I find on my bad days that watching TV, listening to music or writing can help my thought track stay in it’s own lane and not verge onto the itch in the back of my mind.
These are just a few things that worked for me personally, and I cannot guarantee that they will help everyone given that no person’s OCD is the same as the next. But at the same time, I hope you do find these somewhat helpful!
Bad days can be caused by pretty much anything; a certain person, a certain lesson or a certain event can all have negative effects on your mood. I’m no stranger to that - there’s been days where I’ve got hardly any sleep and am already grumpy, and something as small as stubbing my toe can make spiral downwards and release my inner Grinch.
It can be much bigger things as well. If something major happens in your life, it essentially creates a shadow of negativity that overshadows any type of positive thing in your life, like a sort of storm cloud that blocks out any sun rays.
When I’ve had a bad day, I know for a fact that the only thing I’ll want to do is get into my pajamas, watch Netflix and sleep until things are okay again. But I also know that that is not something I can possibly do - especially not with my GCSE’s coming up.
I could flop into bed and stay there for the rest of the day, but I can’t. I have to force myself to do things, which seems really crappy and tiring at the time - but I feel a lot better once I’ve done it. This is because a) it’s done, I don’t have to worry about it and I can watch TV without putting it off and b) I’ve done something productive, even though I was feeling bad and that in itself is a small achievement.
It might seem like a drag that takes lots of effort, but it’ll be worth it. It’s only a small difference, but putting off the work that needs to be done will cause it to build up and it’ll become harder and harder to keep up with - and a lot of work to do all at once before a deadline or a due date can create a bad day in itself.
So, ask yourself - would you rather curl up under a duvet and put off your homework and studying, or just simply do it and then be able to do the aforementioned without worrying?
The prospect of being labelled with a disorder can seem terrifying. Before I was told I had anything, I thought I was perfectly fine. That was until I realised I wasn’t. And it was so, so scary. I can’t really describe the feeling of being twelve years old and, as a doctor tried to explain to me what all these letters stood for, I just cried.
I wasn’t given a proper name or label for my first trip to the doctors. I’d been bullied for two years straight and it had affected me so much that ever when it had stopped, I kept imagining a bully behind me, calling me names, but there was nothing there. I told my mum after a terrible parents evening and she was probably as freaked out at as myself. A week or so later, the doctor told me I was experiencing symptoms of PTSD but, I wasn’t bad enough or old enough for them to actually tell me I had it.
Next came OCD, hair-pulling disorder and anxiety. I didn’t go to a doctor for that, I went to a private counsellor who gently explained what they meant, where I could get help, etc. I was fourteen by this point but I had a much wider understanding of how mental disorders worked, because I knew people very close to me who had different forms of them. Even now, aged nearly sixteen, I’ve recently discovered I’m possibly dealing with Attention Deficit Disorder, and I have another doctors appointment for it.
It smacks you hard, and it can be very hard to understand how it works. If you’re quite young, it might feel like the end of the world. I remember feeling like I would never fit in and would be considered strange. But honestly, if I kept it to myself, they wouldn’t have even noticed. A lot of mental disorders have no physical symptoms. So many people are surprised to find out I deal with some of the stuff I do.
I promise you, it is not as obvious to other people as it is to you. I spent the first month or so after being diagnosed in a panicky state, and whenever someone said something like ‘I’m a bit OCD about how I arrange my pencils!’ I would turn around in fear.
The key to coming to terms with it is taking it slow, only telling the people you think should know and also speak to others who have experience with whatever you may be dealing with. Each person reacts to each thing differently, so it’s hard to summarize it all in one article, but I swear that talking to others with the disorder can help. I don’t want to say other sufferers, because that makes it seem drab and dreary, which in truth, it probably is. But it’s not the end of the world, despite it feeling like that, and hearing others journeys can be more inspiring than you think.
The one key thing someone said to me was ‘you were this way before you got diagnosed, you just know what’s up now,’ and that is still very significant. In retrospective, you’re still you. Nothing has changed. Before you were diagnosed, you may have thought everything was fine, and you would have adapted to dealing with the undiagnosed disorder. And in a way, that’s beneficial because you already knew how to deal with it.
Getting diagnosed won’t suddenly increase the severity of your disorder. You might feel like ‘oh my god, I’ve got something wrong with me, what do I do?’ but try and be more ‘Okay, I found out I have this disorder. It’s scary, but I’d still have it even I wasn’t told about it.’
So, to summarize it - stay calm, stay focused, stay positive and stay strong. Stay yourself, and stay with the people you love.
Being diagnosed is not the end of it. It’s the beginning of a new journey - one you’ve already started - and the journey may be long and hard, but you can never know. Take each day at a time, and you will the find the strength within you to fight.
When I say songs that saved me, I mean songs that I turned to, and still do, when I’m down. Songs that will always be the same, even if my life isn’t.
Some lyrics can speak to you in ways no professional, trained doctor or therapist can.
For me, songs were sometimes my only escape from the world. I’m a teenager with no car and little of my own money, so getting out the house when I was feeling sad and doing something to distract me isn’t always easy.
So instead, I would put in my earphones, go for a walk (or sometimes just stay in) and listen to the following.
1) Last Hope by Paramore
The salt in these wounds isn’t burning any more than it used, the blood in these veins isn’t pumping any less than it ever has, and that’s the hope I have, the only thing I know is keeping me alive
This song talks about having the courage and a reason to carry on even when you don’t feel like it. For me, this song is everything and I can’t honestly explain how much it means to me.
2) Be Still by the Killers
Rise up like the sun, labour till the work is done
This song says that the world is rough and nothing is perfect, but if you pull through, fight and work hard, then everything will be okay in the end,
3) Missing You by All Time Low
Hold on tight, this ride is a wild one
This song tells you that there is still so much more to come, so don’t let go now because you have a lot to live for.
4) Perfect by P!nk
You’re so mean, when you talk about yourself, but you’re wrong
This songs says that no matter how rough you are, no matter what you’ve dealt with and no matter what type of scars you have, you are still perfect.
5) New Perspective by Panic! At The Disco
I felt the salty waves come in, I feel them crash against my skin and I smile as I respire because I know they’ll never win
This songs talks about starting fresh and seeing everything from a different angle, even if you’ve been mistreated, walked over or hurt.
6) Human by Christina Perrie
I’m only human, I crash and I break down, I’m only human, I bleed when I fall down
This song says that you can only take so much and deal with so much, but it’s okay to cry.
7) Happy Song by Bring Me The Horizon
If we sing a long, a little goddamn louder, to a happy song, we’ll be okay
This song sort of explains everything I feel - That even if everything is turning to absolute balls and you’re hurting or sad, that songs make everything okay.
8) Interlude: Moving On by Paramore
Let them soak in the sun, sit back and let them have their fun, let them spill their guts, cos’ one day their gonna slip on ‘em
This song is more about people than emotions, and it’s very lighthearted, but it simply says that the bad people in the world will catch up with themselves and justice will be served one way or another.
9) When September Ends by Green Day
Summer has gone and passed, the innocent can never last
This song is probably more of a personal thing to me, because Billie Joe Armstrong (the lead singer of Green Day) is someone I look up to and to know that he dealt with hardships and overcame them makes me determined to do the same.
10) Beautiful by Christina Aguilera
Words can’t bring me down today
It seems like a cliche, but this song is exceptionally powerful and says that the only persons whose opinion matter is your own, and that you’re the only one who can decide your self worth.
These are the songs that helped far more than I can explain, and I hope they can help you out or cheer you up too.
I’ve never enjoyed school that much. I have my favourite subjects that I look forward to, but as a whole, I’m not really the number one fan of attending. It’s a legal requirement, and I still have three years before I reach the age in which I can legally drop out. I will admit that I’ve faked illness before because I’ve dreaded the idea of going in (I don’t recommend doing that at all, you really actually should stay in school) and it’s even worse when my mental health isn’t in a good place.
I’m about to enter my fifth year at senior school, and I’ve genuinely surprised myself by staying in for four full years. When I first began dealing with mental health problems, I could hardly do it. But as time passed, I’ve found coping mechanisms and built up strength. I didn’t think I could do it, but I can. So, here’s a list of ways to help you deal with school when you’re feeling down.
It made me think - Rather than taking on the day as a whole, you just have to do it in small steps. Focus on getting through that lesson, or that period, and before you know it, you’ll be onto the next one. And the next, and before you realise it, you’ll be packing up your stuff to go home.
This is probably the most simple. It can apply to other stuff like revising/studying or doing chores (which going to school can seem like sometimes). For example, I would tell myself that if I could get through that day, I could watch an episode (or a season, TV streaming is addictive) of my favourite show. You don’t just have to use shows - It could be anything, from a piece of cake to going somewhere nice that weekend. It’s just nice knowing something good will come out of going to this supposedly bad place.
3) Soldier Through
If you choose not to think about the problem too much, which I relate to, then this method could help you. Rather than thinking oh no, I have to go to school, just do it. Just get on the bus, or in the car, and do it. Don’t think about it, and when you get home, you can be proud of yourself.
4) Picture the Future
This can work in two ways - the near future, or the far off future. For the earlier mentioned, you can imagine yourself walking through the front door, having got through another day, and being proud of yourself. Maybe then you’ll go to school and get through it, just to say that you were able to do it. For the latter mentioned, think way, way further into the future. Whether it be opening your GCSE results and getting what you wanted, or getting the qualifications for your dream job, You have to go through school or an education to do that - It’s like the light at the end of a long, dreary tunnel of homework and textbooks and perhaps being in a classroom with people you don’t want to be with. It might seem far off, it’ll be worth it.
I really hope this helped, and I hope everyone has a good day back (or had, if you’ve already started school) and that your school year is a good one.