Facing deadlines with depression

Source: Steven S via Flickr.

By Claudia Rutherford

How to pick yourself up in time for mid-term deadlines.

When I suffered my first bad bout of depression at university, all I did was waste time. I watched two seasons of Gilmore Girls before realising I actually hated Gilmore Girls. Then I watched another season of Gilmore Girls. It was a weird time.

I consistently shied away from lectures and seminars. I’d miss a couple of classes then feel too behind to attend the next. I thought that the only answer was to recoil into my room and hope it would all just go away. My attendance dropped, along with my grades. This cycle continued to spiral on until I was left with a gut-wrenching anxiety, one I assumed was too strong to remedy. I told myself that I wasn’t cut out for my degree, that I was a failure, and I strongly believed it.

But, even though it seemed impossible to conceive at the time, there is a loop-hole. Even to illnesses as persistent, deceiving and crippling as depression, there is a way out and you can pull through. There is a beacon of hope. To guide you through times of stress, I’ve compiled a list of coping techniques that helped me power through the weekly seminar prep and those ever-pressing university deadlines.

Communication is key:
One of the main reasons I was too terrified to begin the numerous tasks I had to complete, was because I believed myself to be so behind, I didn’t know where to start. But it’s okay, there’s always time to catch up and your lecturers will be surprisingly more understanding than you first assume. E-mail your seminar tutor and explain. They’ve witnessed it a million times before and you’re no exception. They’re here to help you and better your education. They’re not waiting to catch you out, or pick on you, or tell you you’re not good enough (as much as your anxiety may attempt to fool you otherwise). Reach out to your personal tutor and arrange a session to help organise yourself. They’ll want to help. Recognise that it’s your education and that these people exist to help you. You can pull yourself out, as unfathomable as that thought may seem at first.

Log your thoughts in a diary:
It’s difficult to think with clarity and ease during a bad bout of mental illness, but having your thoughts written down physically on paper can be more beneficial than you think. Anxiety can drive you to feel intense emotional turbulence. It often fogs your understanding of yourself and the world around you. When I would have bad spells, I’d go for days obsessing over the thought that I couldn’t do something before actually starting it. Then I’d find out I wasn’t so bad at it after all. It was irrational and silly, but as anyone who has suffered with mental illness knows, anxiety has a sneaky way of deceiving. It makes illogical thoughts seem logical. Writing those thoughts down actually makes it a lot easier. Reading over your thoughts, like you would a piece of literature, can help you to read your emotions like you would anyone else’s. It helps to remove yourself from the subjectivity of anxiety. You’ll look back over your writing and think that what you’re going through is fixable. It’ll help you to logically assess your emotions during times of stress.

Watch your favourite film or listen to your favourite piece of music:
It’s seems like a cliché suggestion, but it works. When I would spend a lot of time lumbering in anxiety, to mentally indulge something other than my own thoughts felt really good. It’s also a fantastic source of inspiration. What better way to gear you up for a deadline than watching Bill Murray humorously navigate his way around Japan in Lost in Translation? Films and music are a sense of escapism. They’ll make your commitments seem much less gigantic than they appear in the midst of mental illness.

Dealing with depression is an emotional mine-field, and with the added pressure of weekly exam prep and course deadlines, university can feel like a heavy burden. But you can chip away at what you can. Understand that your happiness comes first. If you’re suffering, a bad grade is never a reflection of you and your capabilities. All it takes is time.

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