Overcoming depression when you’re in college

Sitting exams isn’t easy when you have a mental health issue

Written by Rebekah Humphries


Depression gets a bad rap for a lot of things, which to be fair is pretty reasonable because living with depression is pretty shit. Especially when it comes to exam time, and everyone seems to be bragging about how much study they’ve done, and you can’t even get the energy to make a study plan. This can be ten times worse for repeat exams, as everyone is out enjoying the summer, and you’re at home just staring at your laptop and praying for motivation to fall from somewhere.

Depression plays havoc with your concentration levels, affecting your focus, memory and the ability to sit still and pay attention to something for more than 5 minutes. Or at least, that’s how I find it. Sometimes I get bursts of motivation and I can bring myself to study for a decent half hour, but even then it isn’t easy. Making revision plans doesn’t work, trying to avoid distractions is just a ridiculous suggestion and time is pretty hard to manage because depression is hard to manage, and it doesn’t always abide by time schedules or deadlines.

I used to be really good at studying, I love learning and since I’ve become affected by depression, the thing I’ve struggled with most is not being able to study. I feel lazy, and ungrateful, and despite how hard I worked to get into college in the first place, I feel like by not being able to study, I’m wasting my college place, and all the money that has been spent on it. Depression affects your ability to enjoy the things you used to love doing, so it’s blatantly obvious that it’ll do even more to the things that you know you have to do, but you might not enjoy. Due to this, I don’t enjoy a lot of stuff that I used to do, so when I find things I like, I tend to do them instead of studying. Procrastination is a massive part of my life, and I have wasted so many hours watching Geordie Shore and H2O: Just Add Water, instead of sitting down and going over notes.

I’m repeating exams that I failed because I was in a rough enough place when I took them, and I just didn’t have the spare energy to study, and now I’m back in the same situation. I think there’s a massive amount of pressure on people to go to university and graduate with a decent degree, and when people fail exams, the typical response is “Get your head down, and cop on”. It’s hard for people to understand living with depression if they have never had to, and so some people don’t get how difficult it can be for people with mental illnesses to actually “get their head down”. Studying is hard for most people, and exams are a rough time for everyone, so with added pressure, it’s ten times worse.

Sometimes I wish I could just be accepted into next year without having to study, because I love my degree, and I wouldn’t be able to afford repeating the year. I know I’m not the only one struggling, and I would love it if we were all a bit more honest on social media. It’s natural for us all to compare what we see on Facebook, where people show off their best sides, but every once in a while it would be nice to see some honesty, especially when it comes to things that most of us will deal with. I’m very open about my struggles with anxiety, but sometimes I’m almost embarrassed to talk about my depression, which is ridiculous.

It’s healthy to talk, and 1 out of 5 people in Ireland suffer from depression, so you won’t be the only one talking.

We have some of the highest suicide rates in the world. The conversation has been repeated so many times, and we made some incredible strides fighting against the mental health cuts in the budget this year, but we need to do more. As difficult as it is, I think we need to talk more about our feelings. It’s even harder for lads to talk about their feelings because of the ridiculous stereotypes surrounding masculinity and emotions. Ireland is ranked as the 4th in the world for suicide rates in young men between ages 18 and 24. Having depression, or other mental health problems are not something to be ashamed of. If you don’t have any mental health problems, that doesn’t make you any less entitled to speak up if you’re having a bad day. It can sometimes be totally isolating, and you deserve to have someone to talk to.

There are many supports for mental health problems in universities, so if you’re struggling with your repeat exams, or any exams at all, don’t be afraid to message your welfare officer and see what help you can avail of. Don’t suffer in silence this exam season, and even if you can’t study, you can try to make things a little bit easier on yourself. You deserve it!

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