World Mental Health Day: A Conversation with Lauren Joyce
This World Mental Health Day, we wanted to 'practice what we preach' in regards to opening up the conversation about mental health. Residence Life Assistant, Milena, interviewed Lauren regarding her experiences of Mental Health and Autism and how they impacted her time at University.
1. How did it feel getting that call from Tom?
It wasn’t the call so much that comforted me. It was hearing that I wasn’t alone in my experience. Tom explained to me that he had seen many students drop out or come close to dropping out in his time. He explained that life throws curve balls but it’s how we deal with it that really matters. I think my anxiety was so debilitating because I saw dropping out of University as complete and final- I thought that I had passed the point of no return. When Tom explained to me that in fact some of the brightest and most dedicated students had mental health concerns and had had struggles at some point in their time at University.
2. What does talking to someone about your feelings/ worries/ experiences mean to you?
When I was younger and I didn’t know I was autistic I had real trouble talking about my emotions and feelings. I was incredibly isolated and struggled making friends who I could share these mediated intimacies with. The path of isolation just gets darker and darker the further you walk along with to the point that there is nothing else. It wasn’t until I was 19 that I started opening up about my feelings and experiences. It was really liberating once I started opening up, I found that I wasn’t alone in my experiences and managed to make friends with people with similar experiences. It definitely made me feel like if they got through it then so could I.
3. What do you do when you're feeling stressed/anxious? (talk to someone/occupy your mind etc?)
I’m a very creative person, art allows me to express and convey feelings and messages that I struggle to express using words. Having an outlet to express yourself is one of the most important things in my eyes. Even if you never share the piece of art it can be really cathartic and help you understand yourself on a deeper level.
4. If you saw a friend or family today, who was suffering with their mental health, what advice and guidance would you give?
Seek help! There is no shame in going to see a GP or going to a mental health service. Taking ownership over your thoughts and feelings is one of the most powerful things you can do and I have so much admiration for people who have the courage to take the first step themselves. Once you learn to unpick thought processes, experiences and relationships it can be really empowering to take the steps to make changes that you want.
5.How does it feel to be where you're in life and see how far you have come?
There was a time when I didn’t think I’d be around to even make it to University so in regards to that, I know that I’m incredibly strong and resilient. I still have my struggles like everyone don’t get me wrong, but because of what I’ve been through I have access to coping mechanisms and tools that help me day-to-day. I will say that I do have to take regular medication to deal with my mental health which there is absolutely no shame in! Mental health is just like physical health, some diagnosis and conditions require medication for treatment or psychotherapy. Medication has allowed me to live a ‘normal life’ and I’m thankful every day for living in a world where it’s accessible to someone like me. If you do need help/advice or treatment, ask for it! That is what it’s there for!
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