*Content warning: Mental health

Studying at university has given me a reason and purpose to move forward in the face of my mental health struggles, but right from the start it hasn’t been an easy road. Shortly after enrolling in my course, my doctors were concerned about my functioning. They wanted me to take 3 months in a mental health rehab in a regional location, well away from everything and everyone I knew – not that I knew a lot of people.

I really wanted to start uni, so in my mind, the rehab was not an option at that time. So, I tried really hard during my rehab assessment. I pushed through my severe anxiety and distraction to do the tasks required. Luckily, the OT assessed that I had the skills to live independently. I had won that round and was excused from having to go into a mental health rehab. This was a huge relief and let me continue towards my priority, university.

I see university as a stepping-stone towards gaining further employment. I would like to be in a position where I can ensure that mental health services treat people well, with respect and with consideration of their trauma backgrounds.

While uni may provide future opportunities, I find the autonomy it requires to be very challenging.

I have had to learn what my limitations are with studying. There was one semester where I felt I wasn’t up to studying. I tried to push through. I did well in the first assessment tasks, but then I landed in hospital for 3 months, missing the exam and assessments. My application for special consideration was denied. I was automatically failed. It was a really difficult time that took a lot of effort to resolve.

All in all, I am very grateful that I got through my interview and was accepted into Uni. I’ve learnt a lot since I’ve been there. I have learnt that I can face my anxiety (on most occasions), it is a good distraction, and it’s been an opportunity to work through my daily mental health challenges. I am in a better position now, as I have NDIS supports to help me through Uni.

I still have my moments where I feel giving up would save me a lot of stress and effort, but I think about my end goal to create better mental health services – which is so much bigger than me and keeps me going through tough times.

This piece was written by one of the ICLA eFriend Peer Support Workers. eFriend is an online platform where you can connect with a trained peer support worker whom has their own lived experience of feeling lonely, isolated, stressed or worried. You can speak to your eFriend Peer via video or phone call. Your eFriend Peer will listen, validate and provide hope. If you like, they can also assist you to identify any other services you may like to try or help you create plans to improve your personal well-being. Or they can simply listen.

To book your first call visit: https://my.efriend.org.au/preregistration/