‘I’d down vodka and self­harm to es­cape the stress’

Closer (UK) - - Real Life In The News -

For Amanda Kelly, 26, life spi­ralled out of con­trol when she moved to uni in Septem­ber 2010

to study adult nurs­ing. She says, “Ev­ery­one kept telling me how much fun uni would be, but the re­al­ity was so dif­fer­ent for me. The course was in­tense. Ev­ery day from 9am to 4pm, we were as­signed work place­ments in a hos­pi­tal. We also had a moun­tain of course­work. At just 18, it was a shock to the sys­tem. I’d never lived away from home be­fore and I be­gan to feel home sick.

“When I did so­cialise, I’d down sev­eral vodka Red Bulls to es­cape the stress. Some­times I’d throw up, then just carry on. A few months into my first year, I met Chris, a fel­low stu­dent. I skipped lec­tures to spend more time with him. I was strug­gling at uni and look­ing for ex­cuses not to go. My per­sonal tu­tor seemed un­in­ter­ested and, when­ever we had a rare one-toone, he didn’t seem to lis­ten to my wor­ries. It wasn’t un­til af­ter I left uni that I found out they had guid­ance coun­sel­lors, but no one told me that at the time.


“I felt re­ally low and started drink­ing more to lift my mood. I’d have a bot­tle of wine to my­self at home ev­ery night and ate junk food. I quickly went from a size 12 to a 16 and be­came de­pressed. My par­ents had no idea as I avoided go­ing home at the week­ends. I con­fided in Chris, who en­cour­aged me to see a doc­tor, but the GP didn’t of­fer any coun­selling or med­i­ca­tion.

“I fell so be­hind that I had to re­take the first year. But with­out any guid­ance, things got worse. I even be­gan to self-harm. Then, a few months later, I broke down in front of a teacher and told her I couldn’t do it any more. She was sym­pa­thetic, but didn’t of­fer any sup­port, and en­cour­aged me to leave, as I’d fallen too far be­hind. I was dread­ing telling my par­ents I’d quit my course, but they were bril­liant and, in June 2013, I moved back home.

But my drink­ing and de­pres­sion es­ca­lated. I’d never suf­fered men­tal health is­sues be­fore uni, but I felt like a fail­ure. I got a job as a re­cep­tion­ist where I’d work just eight hours a week. Ev­ery morn­ing, I’d pre­tend to my par­ents that I was go­ing to work or look­ing for an­other job, then go to the pub. Then in Fe­bru­ary 2016, I be­gan hav­ing sui­ci­dal thoughts. It was then I re­alised I needed help and told my GP, who re­ferred me on to a home­based detox pro­gramme for two weeks. I had med­i­ca­tion to help with al­co­hol with­drawal and a re­cov­ery nurse checked on me ev­ery day.


“Af­ter two weeks, I had a much clearer frame of mind. I knew I’d never drink again. I over­hauled my eat­ing habits and, within two years, lost 5st, go­ing from 14st to 9st, and I now feel the best I ever have. I’m work­ing as a nurs­ing as­sis­tant and I love my job. I know that if I’d re­ceived more sup­port at uni, I’d be much fur­ther in my ca­reer, and my life would be very dif­fer­ent. It’s so im­por­tant for unis to of­fer men­tal health ser­vices. It’s a huge ad­just­ment that can af­fect the rest of your life.”

Amanda at uni and (right) now

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