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Alcohol and Mental Health: Lucy*’s Story

Every experience of mental health difficulties is different; this is one of them. 

*The writer has requested their name be changed for the purposes of posting this story. 

You always hear about alcohol being a depressant, but I didn’t agree. Alcohol made me feel happy and confident, especially when socialising.

The first few times I drank alcohol I was very anxious about its effects, so I took it easy. Everything was going okay until I came to university, surrounded by the drinking culture. I wanted to be “normal, like everybody else” so I joined in with as many socials as possible. It was fun at first, but gradually I began to drink a lot more.

It wasn’t until second term that I went too far. I had a bad day and little sleep but I decided to go out, have fun and drink away my problems. After numerous drinks, I had no idea what was going on or what I was doing, but when the bar staff asked me to leave I started panicking. I collapsed outside, terrified, crying and showing suicidal warning signs. For the following days, I hardly moved, ate or washed. Something changed in my brain that night, and ever since I haven’t been able to control my drinking.

I would drink dangerous amounts until I ran out of money, only to continuously end up in the same situation. Alcohol worsened my mental health a lot. The excitement I used to feel whilst getting ready was replaced with panic attacks. I became paranoid, dissociated, angry and overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and embarrassment which further led me to self-harm. I felt like I didn’t belong in my college.

Looking back now I can see how ill I was and I’m amazed that I survived with nothing dangerous happening to me. No one understood why I couldn’t stop myself from drinking-and I found comfort in that-but it hurts that I have a reputation for being “an alcoholic” or “always drunk”. However, when I told my doctor I realised that this is a common mental health problem.

The alcohol culture affected me so much that I very nearly didn’t come back to university. But despite several weeks of panic attacks, I’m here. Even though it’s incredibly difficult and upsetting to sit alone in my room listening to the party downstairs etc., I manage to get through it with the help of a lot of phone calls and music, but I still feel lonely and isolated at times. Reducing my alcohol consumption hasn’t cured my mental illnesses, but it has helped considerably in my recovery.

If you are interested in sharing your experiences, please message the Heads Up Durham Facebook page or heads.up@durham.ac.uk 

 

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