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TW: “Campus is the biggest trigger”: PTSD and university

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TW: sexual violence, suicide, mental illness.

When campus is the biggest trigger for your mental illness, it makes studying almost impossible.

I suffer with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and this comes with numerous difficulties which are tough to cope with at the best of times and even harder to come to terms with under the weight of a degree and a part time job.

After struggling with depression and anxiety for many years, I was raped when I first came to Warwick. Since then, after naively believing I would be able to move on with my life, I have had recurring flashbacks, nightmares and states of panic.

This comes with numerous difficulties which are tough to cope with at the best of times

I am in therapy, I have friends and family who support me, and I take regular medication. However that doesn’t always make life at university bearable.

I am normally very open about mental illness, however for the past two years I have been lying to a lot of people about the root cause of my mental health difficulties. Instead of telling friends about the PTSD, I decided instead to just put it down to the anxiety and depression I suffered as a teenager.

That doesn’t always make life at university bearable

Mostly, this is because I want to avoid the obvious question of “what happened to you?”. I don’t blame people for asking or thinking it, but curiosity has often been to the detriment of my mental health.

It is only very recently that I have opened up to a small amount of people about this diagnosis. For the most part of this term I have been confined to my bedroom. I had no choice but to heavily rely on those who I care about for the most basic things, making me feel even more useless.

I want to avoid the obvious question of “what happened to you?”

The never-ending deadlines, especially now that it is my final year, just put more pressure on me to spend time around the university. However campus is the most difficult place for me to be. I constantly feel like I’m avoiding and compromising in order to placate my disorder, but often this means that my academic work suffers.

Panic attacks and bouts of depression can occur at almost any time. Unfortunately, the realities of PTSD don’t comply with the pressures of university life.

I constantly feel like I’m avoiding and compromising in order to placate my disorder

Even though I have spoken to my department about the issue, I still have lecturers breathing down my neck about missed seminars and an apparent lack of effort. Constant changes in medications – seven in the space of just over a year – mean that I often have weeks at a time when I can’t function during the transition.

From my experience, there is relatively little understanding of this admittedly complex disorder at Warwick. Getting support has been very touch and go, which only makes life here more stressful. At the worst times, such as the start of this term, PTSD has led me to feeling suicidal.

I still have lecturers breathing down my neck about missed seminars

I have been rescued far too many times to count this term by friends and housemates who have been keeping watch over me. It is a lack of other places to go within the university that isolates me in these feelings.

All mental health support at Warwick needs work, but these more complex issues are so misunderstood. The stigma towards anxiety and depression has reduced significantly, but the ability to help people in my situation is just not there.

It is a lack of other places to go within the university that isolates me in these feelings

This is a powerful and mutable time of year. With new sabbatical officers coming in and a new wave of students on their way sooner than we might think, we need to learn how to properly support students with complex mental illness.

Just as we need disability-friendly facilities in every building on campus, we have to learn about facilitating mental health support. I didn’t choose to have this disorder but it is something I now have to live with.

We have to learn about facilitating mental health support

A better understanding of PTSD amongst the wider population of Warwick would do so much and would make the rest of my time at the university so much happier. Just because Warwick is my biggest trigger, it doesn’t mean that my entire time here has to be intolerable.

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