The number of students who are dropping out of college courses due to mental health difficulties has risen in over the past few years. UK Illustrator and student Ella Baron captures the experiences of 11 undergraduates in this remarkable and beautiful illustrations.
‘There’s a claustrophobia about student life; you work and eat and drink and dance and sleep together. It gives everything a painful intensity. But living back-to-back can leave you feeling so alone. I hate hearing the music coming through my neighbour’s wall.’
‘I remember doing my laundry when I was really down and it took me four hours just to get off my chair. That’s the thing with depression – the absence of the person who you really are. Sometimes I’d get the sense that my younger self would be disappointed.’
‘Every day I relapse a little – it depends on who I’m with, or the colour of the sky. I set myself little to-do lists: go for cake with mum; make myself a snakes and ladders board; turn the voices in my head into cartoon villains. But the question is, how can we become world leaders if we don’t even think we deserve full-fat yoghurts?’
‘I see going to sleep as a logical problem that I can strain to solve, but I forget that this is when sleep is most difficult.’
‘Before going to sleep I’d plan my whole day in five minute intervals. The routine helped counter the illogical nature of anxiety; it gave me something stable to follow.’
‘When I first got bad depression I stopped playing the violin. Instead I watched six series of Dance Moms. I saw one episode and thought it was just shit, then I watched the next 119 hours. I occupied myself with inane things that took repetition: knitting, weaving bracelets, baking. Focusing on these simple, physical activities was easier than confronting whatever the fuck was going on in my head.’
‘Sometimes I feel small, like only the very smallest piece of a Russian doll. The outer shells are always smiling, even if I’m not.’
‘“You’re going to feel like you’re drowning and if you’re not then you’re doing it wrong.” That’s what my tutor says to her undergraduates at the beginning of their degree.’
‘We were brought up breathing the internet. Why go to the library when all the articles are online? Who wants to go clubbing when Tinder can find you the perfect one-night stand? Who even needs real friends?’
‘It’s like the panic is so overwhelming there’s no room for anything else – like you’re unfolding. I developed a habit of having a panic attack before every essay deadline. My friend used to joke that he’d wear his comfy jumpers on those days – because when it started he’d just hug me until it was over.’
‘Five days before her birthday, my cousin overdosed on her bipolar medication. She used to call me a lot – I didn’t call her a lot. I got a missed call from her half an hour after she took it. After she died, Facebook was full of statuses about her, and a week later it wasn’t. I just thought: how is it not all about her? Her death became the thing my life revolved around. But I’ve realised how differently I think about it now. It’s like the grief is a weight tied to me by a string that is breaking as time moves on.’
You can learn more about Ella here.
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