How can we understand and deal with intersecting mental health challenges?

We ask how combinations of mental health challenges may present unique difficulties and solutions

Mental health and wellbeing
By VoiceBox ·

Avery

Avery is a 20 year old Public Health major at the University of South Carolina. She is apart of Carolina Club Dance and the Alpha Xi Delta Chapter!

When mental health issues come in threes

Growing up, my parents got divorced when I was really young, my grandma died and my dad was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. Having all those things happen to me within a 5-year timespan was really difficult and the start of my mental health issues.

I didn’t always deal with mental health issues – but when I did, they were never really noticeable until I started university. I had a lot of friends, made good grades in school, participated in extracurriculars and still struggled with mental health.

I was diagnosed with OCD when I was about 14 years old. Everything in my room was placed at a certain angle, my closet was color coordinated, I over cleaned almost every single day and I found myself repeating movements if I didn’t like the way I did them the first time.

“Everything in my room was placed at a certain angle… I found myself repeating movements if I didn’t like the way I did them” – Avery

It first started to be problematic in high school. I found myself rewriting essays all the time. It would take me twice as long to complete assignments because I had to make sure they were always perfect. I packed the same lunch every day just because I was comfortable with my routine. I thought maybe it was a phase – but it wasn’t and I still deal with it today.

I also struggle with ADHD and anxiety. Both coincide with each other, especially at university. Since everything moved online, it’s been very hard for me to stay focused. I sometimes find myself wandering off or not paying attention, because my attention span is extremely low. I always have to be moving, whether it is moving my fingers or squirming in my seat. If I’m sitting still, I feel like I am getting nothing done and that gives me anxiety by itself. I hate being alone and prefer to get schoolwork done with a partner – that way I don’t feel alone and if I start to get distracted, I have someone to keep me on track.

Thanks to my hyperactivity, I often lack patience. When it comes to waiting for a grade, waiting for an email or text response, or even waiting in line, I get overwhelmed. All of these typically lead to a panic attack – and it is so hard dealing with that when no one understands enough to help.

I am always an advocate for mental health. I wish there was more help on offer and people understood how much it can affect someone’s everyday life. My first year of university was extremely difficult – I was showing early signs of depression and ended up pushing everyone out of my life. I didn’t have any friends, because of my own choices – and I never left my dorm room unless it was to eat or shower. Even then I would often eat in my room.

Nowadays, I try my best to raise awareness around campus, in my family and even in my sorority when people reach out and tell me they are dealing with poor mental health. The biggest pieces of advice I can give are to have a schedule for your everyday responsibilities and to balance your alone time with a social life. It is important not to draw yourself away from people who love you and support you, but it is important to have alone time as well. I also attend therapy sessions, which have been extremely helpful. They are confidential and the therapists give me really good exercises and advice.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to understand the seriousness of mental health and the complications that come along with it – but please reach out to people and find a routine that best balances your personal life with your social life. Trust me – it will get better.

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