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Why Mental Health Should Come Before Studying and Achievement

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In just 12 more weeks, I will finish my university experience and I’ll be taking away three important lessons:

1. Health comes before achievement.

2. Life should be done with others.

3. Always know how to get help.

Getting into university is a big achievement for anyone and should be celebrated, but sometimes those achievements don’t make you feel the way you expected them to.

I always wanted to do better. I wanted to be “good enough” and to achieve something great, but nothing was ever good enough. I managed to pass every essay, exam and placement but entered into my third and final year even more self-critical, fearful and unkind to myself. Nothing I could do would ever be good enough, regardless of how much I had overcome in order to get there.

Finding myself sat in front of a mental health worker after yet another breakdown felt like the beginning of the end to everything I had worked towards. I didn’t feel good enough to make it through the degree. I wasn’t strong enough, resilient enough, smart enough … I just wasn’t enough. But whilst I felt like I wasn’t enough, I learned some of the most valuable lessons:

1. Health comes before achievement.

Health comes before essays, exams, placements, jobs etc.

If you really want to graduate from university, you will get there. Maybe it won’t be this year or the next, but it’ll only happen if you learn to put your health first.

If you need to take time out here and there to make sure you make it through your course, then take that time out. There is no shame in caring for yourself, only strength.

You’ll get to where you want to be in the time frame that’s set out just for you.

2. Life should be done with others.

As a nursing student, it’s not uncommon to not see your cohort over a number of months. Bumping into a friend led to a conversation about how lonely university can be. It is so important to meet new people and to share the experiences with them. Sharing the best and difficult times with others sometimes makes it all a little less overwhelming, and makes life a much less lonely experience.

3. Always know how to get help.

Following on from the point above, we aren’t meant to do life alone. Sometimes we just need the help of someone else — it’s totally OK and totally natural. Bringing things into the light is where change and healing begin. Take time to know how to get help, whether it’s through your tutor, lecturers, doctor or university support services.

Don’t try to get through life alone.

Give other people a chance to help you — you might just be surprised.

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Unsplash photo via Kate Williams

Originally published: May 29, 2017
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