By Afsa Ahmed; Post-graduate, Legal Practice Course at BPP Law School; Graduate, University of Manchester
Depression: such a loaded phrase with no real definition.
Every individual is never the same but mine has become a mixture of pain, anger, death, anxiety and fear; wrapped around in a ribbon of fire. A fireball of emotions determining the nature of my character. Like with any fire if it is not contained, all control is lost. For a very long time, this fire of emotion burnt within me and there was no explanation as to why I felt the way I did. For me, that realisation came the day I had failed an examination, the dreaded course of nearly every law student (land law), and was on the brink of being kicked out of university.
Reality came tumbling down.
I thank god for Carolyn. She was rather a friend than my personal tutor. She asked me if there was anything holding me back, anything that was resulting in my lack of attendance and general behaviour. She made me question myself. I don’t know if it was my pride that had stopped me before but I decided that I now needed assistance. I reflected on what she had asked me. I took the step, one of the biggest I’ve ever taken, and went to seek help from my doctor. My symptoms were diagnosed. I was suffering from depression. This is where the story begins, but in that moment I thought it was the end. Thinking there would be an end to all the guilt in not achieving my ambitions and that I would instantly be cured, rehabilitated to the same motivation I had in life as before. I was wrong. This was only the start of a long journey to recovering back some sort of normality in everyday life.
But what is normality anyway?
Figures show that at least 1 in 3 people will suffer from some sort of stress related injury; call it a ‘mental breakdown’ if you will. Knowing that helps; being aware that I’m not abnormal for feeling the way I do, and that it is only my reaction to my problems that is not so ordinary. The only difference between me and the ordinary is a fine line. My prolonged overthinking into an issue, reflection on the negative and neglecting attention on my progress forces me outside of the bracket and into the definition of the unordinary.
But what does this all mean? Well, on certain days I will get lost, drift my attention span from what is important and prevent myself from achieving my objectives set out, due to the built up emotion affecting my will power. Before I went to seek help this period would last for weeks, even months. Now I have a plan in place to counter-act any negativity, shut it out as quickly and effectively as possible. The coping mechanisms I’ve built are personal to me, allowing me to reflect on the positive, but will not be the same for every individual suffering from my condition.
Depression is a lonely path and you have to find the right people to help you guide yourself through this path of uncertainty.
The thought of relapsing to the previous severity of my mental condition has allowed me to turn it into a positive beam of light.
As I said it’s the people you meet along the way and Helen at MyPlus Students’ Club has allowed me a platform to express my concerns and provide an understanding to others around me the implications of my mental condition. With depression being an unseen disability, it is sometimes hard for others not suffering from the synonyms of the condition to understand the severe impact it can have on the day-to-day activities of a person. Working with Helen has allowed me to speak with recruiters from leading companies in both the legal and banking sector to provide them with knowledge and insight about what it is like to suffer from depression. It also provided an opportunity to clear any concerns they may have had in hiring someone of my mental background and gave them reassurance that my condition would not affect the ability to perform the job required of me if I were to be hired by them, as long as certain reasonable adjustments were put in place.
When I first met Helen at the OPEN careers event for undergraduates interested in a career in law, I was shy and still embarrassed about my condition. I had only ever spoken publicly about my disability once before, in an event held by Aspiring Solicitors. It was from there I found out about OPEN and MyPlus Students’ Club. With the event being aimed specifically at individuals with disabilities, it felt for the first time I could freely speak about my condition to someone who has been through same or similar circumstances, in the comfort of a ‘safe zone’. It also allowed me to collect the views of other students and assist in suggesting improvements as a student representative on the Equality and Diversity Board at BPP University. The suggestions have led to practical changes and further developed inclusion to allow the organisation to become a champion in disability. Attending these events have helped me feel more comfortable about my disability and disclosing it to a job application. Before this, I would have been reluctant in doing so.
I am now at a time in my life where I am about to finish my formal education after completing the Legal Practice Course, therefore it has been vitally important that I’ve built up the courage to disclose my disability to potential recruiters in the legal industry to further my chances of success.
All in all, I am proud of my journey, from fearing my condition to now being able to openly express it to an audience.
There’s so many people I’d like to thank for helping me through my journey; Carolyn for making me realise my problem, my GP for helping me through my medication, my counsellor for guiding me through every personal grievance I have ever faced and especially BPP and Helen for helping me to take my disability from the darkness to the light.
The result – now whenever I’m sad or suffering from one of my low moods, I know exactly what to do.
For me, I watch a documentary on cosmology. An art that has allowed me to reflect on the importance of my journey. So rather than regressing out of reality, I remind myself a few important facts. My favourite is that the blood in our veins is made of iron built inside of stars billions of years ago, trillions of miles away. We are more than what we set out to be as the universe has a plan for us, with us as a reflection of itself, in the form of blobs of atoms endued with human consciousness, we journey through it’s space for the merest moment in infinite time. That is my journey. And the ultimate aim; to turn positivity from negativity for me, while being a helping hand to all those around me suffering from any impairment, disability or trauma.