So a while ago some of you may remember that I wrote a blog post about my experiences with mental health problems while on my year abroad. At the end of that post, and in the one after, I talked about my difficulties accessing on-campus psychological support and eventually how I found therapy. While I found counselling useful, I began to feel that with my particular therapist I’d reached somewhat of a dead end. They focused on homesickness as the beginning and end of my problems, and after three sessions I felt as if I was wasting CAPs time. As the semester came to a close, I felt better because I was making a few new friends had the prospect of a much needed break away from Arlington and family time to look forward to.
However, fast forward to my Christmas vacation and I began to feel something was not right. Despite having an amazing time with my family in California, and then exploring the beautiful state of Texas with my parents, there were days when sadness or anxiety would consume me. Seeing my parents and being cocooned in a layer of Britishness was great for the homesickness, but didn’t get to the bigger problems that lay underneath. My anxiety, in particular, has been with me for years and no short term solution will fix it.
My struggles with anxiety and stress have escalated to the point that I’m having trouble sleeping without melatonin and my hair is falling out, and since returning to school I’ve accepted that I still need help. So this time, I’m returning to CAPs but seeing a new therapist, one who will hopefully understand that I have underlying problems exacerbated but not caused by failure to adjust to life in the United States. I’m excited to start my journey to feeling better, coping with my mental problems which will then hopefully somewhat improve my physical health too. I’ve also started trying to go to the gym at least two times a week and try and manage my feelings that way. I guess the take away from this is that recovery is possible but it can take a long time, and it’s important to be assertive and change therapists if you feel you need to. After all, if you felt your GP/primary care physician wasn’t doing a good job and didn’t listen to your concerns, you would switch doctors. The same is true for therapists or councilors you may need to see.
This semester I’m required to research and put together a workshop on a social justice issue, and I’ve decided to focus on mental health while in college as it’s something obviously that’s personal to me, but it’s also something I care deeply about more broadly and that impacts a large percentage of students and faculty. I’m looking forward to learning more about various mental health conditions, and hearing experiences of other people experiencing the same feelings.
It’s important I get help for the underlying concerns, after all I’m actually feeling a lot more adjusted and excited about the prospect of my second and final semester. Even though I miss my family and friends more than anything and there’s nothing I want to eat more than fish and chips and a proper roast dinner, I do feel settled here. I’ve made a few new friends, and already have my steady selection of friends from last semester that care about me. I have my surrogate family in ISI (International Students Incorporated) and now I’ve started volunteering as a LEAD Ambassador and working as an Office Assistant I have a lot more things to fill my time, new people to meet, and great new experiences to look forward to. Even my tastes are changing, and I know I’m going to miss Tex-Mex, Bar-B-Q and the other fantastic food I’ve eaten in Texas when I’m home just as much as I miss scotch eggs and pork pies now.
Here are the resources from last time incase anyone reading this needs help
If you need support and help there are people out there – if you’re a University of Leicester Student the mental wellbeing service is there for you. It even has resources to help you while you wait for your appointment.
If you’re not at Leicester, your university or college or local health authority will have some kind of therapy that you can access. In the meantime, MoodGym is a great online resource recommended to me by a friend.
While I’d welcome and encourage a discussion about mental health, particularly whilst at University or studying abroad, in the comments I’d like to remind people that I’m not in any way trained as a counselor and the links below are much better places to find help.
MIND – UK based charity that offers support and guidance, including emergency help.
Samaritans – Crisis support.
Master post of numbers and hotlines – A master post of a wide variety of support helplines for people of various backgrounds suffering from various issues including a wide range of international hotlines for issues including abuse, suicide, LGTBQIA+ support and mental health. It’s on tumblr so I’m not responsible for other content of the page!