By Declan Mills
My name is Declan Mills. I’m in my eighth academic year in UL. That’s a BA, an MA and now a PhD. I tutor undergrads. I’m on the committees of three societies, and a paid-up member of seven. I present a show on ULFM and occasionally write for An Focal. I co-edit an academic journal. I’m working in the First Seven Weeks Hub. I teach primary school kids. I’m involved in the PSU. I play music. I have great friends, and a happy relationship.
My name is Declan Mills, and I have problems with my mental health.
One of the most insidious things about having issues with depression and anxiety is not being able to talk about it. In my case, this took the form of being able to talk about it but being afraid to. I felt like my problems weren’t real, that they were little niggles I was blowing out of proportion. I was doing well in my day-to-day life, surely whining about my problems was just consuming help and attention that people with genuine issues needed?
That belief was completely ingrained in my psyche, and it stopped me from having any real chance of getting better. It held me back when one of my friends convinced me to go to the counselling service here in UL, where I went in and sought help dealing with a specific problem that was in front of me, but not the underlying issues that were making my life more difficult. It held me back after I left counselling, as I dealt with a difficult relationship.
It didn’t just hold me back; it held me down. I felt trapped. I felt like my problems were simultaneously utterly insurmountable and completely made-up. I was struggling.
Until one godawful day, in my best friend’s house, I cracked and told her and another close friend exactly how bad I felt. That was two-and-a-half years ago, and it would be nice to pretend that it was all uphill from there. It hasn’t been. There have been ups and downs, setbacks and breakthroughs. More friends know these days, and they have gone above and beyond the call of duty to be supportive. My girlfriend went into dating me knowing about my problems, and again she has been wonderful. That’s the important thing, the thing I couldn’t see, and that others can’t see: the people who care about you will listen to your problems, they will want to help, and they will take it seriously. And frankly, anyone who doesn’t isn’t worth your time.
Don’t get me wrong, talking isn’t some magical panacea that will fix your issues. There is no magical panacea, there’s just time and professional help and doing what you can to help yourself feel better. But it’s a good place to start. So this mental health week, if you have something that’s weighing you down, please try to talk to someone about it. And if you know someone who you think might need a smile and a query about their wellbeing, reach out to them. It’s a small thing to do, and it achieves an awful lot.