In today’s post we address the importance of great friends in helping you cope with depression at university…

I cannot express how important great friends are during this time. If there’s any experience in life that shows you who your friends are, its this.  Friends will naturally play different roles during this time, your self-absorbed friends who were always about ‘me, me, me’ will prove useless as they probably can’t even take one moment to look past their silly uni-boy drama to be of any reasonable help to you, my advice? Distance yourself from anyone who is of no help and grow closer to the ones who care. (The key to avoid isolation is to replace with people or things, even if its someone who you constantly talk to over the phone, or someone who doesn’t even go to your university, sometimes people online can help..just be safe and discerning of who it is you’re letting into your life). In my experience, my depression was the time I dropped some “friends”, distanced myself from a few, gained new friends and grew even closer to some of my long term friends.

DG. touches on how she similarly had to let certain friends go:

Leave toxic friendships groups at university its not worth the stress. I did so and although I didn’t handle it as well as I could have because I’m human and rightfully pissed, it was the best decision I made. You will make new friends, join societies and reach out to more people.

Active friends are important and by active I mean people who will let you sleep over so they can wake you up for your lecture and ensure you get ready, friends who don’t make you feel like a burden no matter how hard helping someone else may be. Friends who will make sure you’re eating and if they don’t see you for more than a day are buzzing down your line or knocking on your front door to ensure that you’re okay.

You need the type of friends who will drag you out of bed or offer to help you to clean your house. Here’s a few accounts of how those type of friends helped a few people to cope with their depression at university:

“I suffered depression and anxiety for most of uni. The worst was 3rd year. And I didn’t know what was wrong. I was lethargic and wouldn’t even get up to brush my teeth, or eat. I lost so much weight. But I had that one good friend around me who forced me to get up, she encouraged me, she’d get into bed with me and just stay with me. There was one time that I’d locked myself in my room for like 3 days and sat in darkness and slept. Most people thought I was just lazy but I remember S. coming into my room one day pulling my curtains and saying ‘okay that’s enough you need to get out of bed, let’s go out’ she dragged me to the bathroom opened that tap and made me shower. Then made me go to the library. That was the day I made a decision to make and effort and I started praying again. And I’m forever grateful to my friend. – O
G also shares a similar experience:
“I was diagnosed with severe depression in my final year of my undergrad and then with severe anxiety in the first semester of my Master’s degree. I was acting out of character, speaking out of turn, getting easily irritated, my eating pattern fluctuated, and I spent days, sometimes full weeks in bed without even leaving to wash. If it wasn’t for my friends, I may have suffered in silence without knowing I was acting differently to my ‘normal’ self, or I may have abandoned going to my appointments once I had actually taken that first step. Make your friends, who you trust to kick you up the backside, aware of when you have appointments. (My best friend, who was by my side from my second year to my fourth year, literally forced me into appointments, and called me after to find out what guidance I had been given so she could chase that up. I can’t ever appreciate that enough.) Just be honest with anyone you feel you wish to tell, and you’ll be surprised how many people are warm, kind and genuine in their support.”- G

And two others…

I made my family and friends aware that I was down, I didn’t go into detail with every single one of them but this ensured that people were always rallying round me – DG

D says, Do not be afraid to speak out and tell people how you are feeling. (People you can trust or health professionals) Don’t let people Shame you for how you’re feeling or dismiss your feelings. -D

There will also be those friends who do not know (of no fault of their own) but are great friends to you because that’s just who they are will undoubtedly be of great help to you during this time. I have a couple friends that didn’t have a clue about what I was going through but they never failed to provide a form of escape for me, people who cooked for me, made me laugh, helped me with my work when I felt overwhelmed, prayed for me, encouraged me and regularly checked if I was okay, even if I did lie. Sometimes you don’t tell people how you feel not because they’re bad friends and not because they make you feel uncomfortable but because you’re just a bit awkward for no reason, you feel as though there’s nothing they can do about your problems or you can’t be bothered to add another person to the “people who know list” or you just don’t want to panic more people than you have to. Those friends who are friends to you even when they are not aware of the extent of your problems should be treasured.

Active friends are helpful, but as life will have it, sometimes your reliable and trusted friends and family are not around you 24/7. So it may be time to utilise your phone and ensure that you’re talking to people whenever you can, be it discussing your issues or escaping from them. I had a few friends that didn’t go to my university that I regularly talked to who helped me so much.  It was actually one of these friends who advised me to come home during my final semester and commute to sit my exams, that advice saved my life. A balance of both kinds of friendship is important because it ensures progress is being made, that you’re not just talking about your feelings and sleeping your days away. I had friends who constantly ensured that I was okay, whether or not I had eaten, made me laugh and smile and talked through my emotions, helping me make sense of my feelings, separating the rational thoughts from the irrational thoughts which gradually stopped me from always letting my thoughts get to me. Some even came up to visit me, or met up with me when I was back in London.

DG. talks about how family and friends visiting, helped her cope at university:

Having family and friends come to my city, spend quality time and exploring it with me made me not resent my surroundings at times.

L. also talks about her experience and how her best friend helped her:

My best friend. The first person I opened up to. He helped me so much. Just having that one person to listen and be there for you is incredible. He told me to clear my mind and try do different things and spend more time with the family. So I did. For two days I was feeling “okay”. A bit better than usual.

Whilst we speak on relationships with people. It is also important to ensure you be extra cautious when it comes to romantic relationships, so when entering a relationship when depressed…this is not to say don’t but entering a toxic relationship or situation can definitely worsen your depression. DG offers up some advice based on her experience…”Be weary of getting into a relationship and allowing your partner to become a saviour figure because whilst it is useful and it might help. Them leaving throws you into a deeper depression, as your anchor has left.”  L talks on her ex-partners response to her depression,  “Although my ex never asked why, I opened up to him eventually. And to be honest, I was disgusted with his response. It wasn’t a response you’ll expect from someone you called your boyfriend. So eventually, we broke up.” Applying similar logic, it is extremely important to be careful who you live with when you’re in a bad space, if you can avoid making the wrong decision, do so. DG says “Be careful who you live with and your housing situation (ensuite etc) it may or may not add to your depression depending on the choice you make.”

As well as friends, family is also important, thinking about how much your family may care about you may help you choose to get better, here is L’s experience:

I was always in the dark. Want to know the worst part? No one knew. And it could have been hard for people to know. I’m known for being this “wild, bubbly and funny girl”. But that was just a “mask”. Because in reality, I was the saddest person on earth. I deleted my most used social media apps (Twitter and Snapchat) to avoid people. Only 1 friend and 2 close family friends asked me if I was okay. But like always, I said “I’m cool, I’m just trying to focus on university”. That lie always worked. On top of that, my housemate, who was and still is my only very good friend at university, was fed up of my attitude. I could see it. He wondered why one moment I’m in a good mood and another moment I’m this “sad/angry black women”. But I still never opened up to him. Even now, he still doesn’t know that every time I closed my room door I was crying, depressed and angry with who I was. I just had no self-love. And it then became worse: I started becoming suicidal. I can’t even say “starting” actually, because in my early teens, I did want to hang myself. I just never had the courage. But this time it was different.

I wanted to find the most peaceful way to end my life. I was thinking about overdosing on sleeping pills at first but the more I thought about it, the more dangerous it became. To a point where I imagined taking a knife and just stabbing myself. But one of the reasons why I never did it it’s because of my family. I’m someone who always think of others first. So I asked myself, if I do this, how would my mum survive? Her first ever daughter. My little brother growing up and not knowing who I was (he’s just 1-year old). My (step [really hate saying step]) father who took me as his own daughter since he met my mother. My sister who looks up to me and continuously says that she wants to be like me when she grows up. Those are the people that stopped me from getting that knife through my body.

So here you see the various ways in which great friends can help you cope with depression at university, in the next post we talk about how to make a decision on whether to stay or leave university…

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