So I’m writing this a week before I’m publishing it…that’s a bit weird.
I’m running to be the next Welfare & Campaigns Officer at Warwick SU(!). I’m as surprised as many of my friends from when I was an undergraduate and my parents when I tell them.
The reason behind their surprise needs a little explaining. You see, I’ve done this sort of thing before. My final year of university was consumed not just by academic study and dissertation writing, but by running my college’s student Welfare support network, working with Durham SU’s Welfare, Equality & Diversity Committee, and generally trying to make things a little bit easier for people who were struggling. Which was ironic, because throughout all of this time I was battling anxiety and depression, and also PTSD (but I didn’t really recognise a lot of this at the time).
The question was raised on one occasion as to whether I should actually be running, because in the lead up to campaigns week (something I’ve never experience before and which is utterly terrifying and energy sucking) my stress levels have reached a peak they haven’t done since I because my college’s Welfare Officer. “Do you think this is a good idea for your wellbeing?”. I was asked this, but I couldn’t care less about the answer.
According to many people, it’s wrong that I prioritise others over myself. To an extent that might be true. How can I help someone if I’m not looking after myself?
But I disagree with these people, even though I know what they say is in my best interest. When I started as Welfare Officer, I was at peak depression-taking-hold-of-my-life time. Everything was crumbling around me. But there was one thing that kept me going, that motivated me to keep pushing through.
It’s a pinnacle thing in my life. When I was at my first deep-depression point, I was running a month-long campaign: ‘Stressless’ (ironic, huh?). Had I not had this campaign to run, I would have had no meaningfulness to my life. There would have been no point. Exams were blurgh. Revision sucked. Life was rubbish. But looking out for other people kept me going. Organising Acoustic Nights, Jazz Cafés, yoga and pilates sessions, film nights, exam survival kits (I was particularly proud of that one because it had never been done before) – it got me through the worst part of my depression.
Even when I was sexually assaulted, and for a short while lost all sight of meaningfulness to anything, the thought of getting to spend the next two terms of my university career running my beautiful welfare team kept me going.
I had to sit my exams in the summer holidays (due to my depression rendering it impossible for me to be in a fit state to sit them alongside my friends). This was when the second bought of anxiety attacks happened. The thing that brought them on though wasn’t the thought of having to take a year out if I failed my exams…it was that I would have to step down as Welfare Officer. The thought of that simultaneously destroyed and motivated me to pass (and I did, thank God).
I could go on and on about how important welfare has been in my life. There are so many reasons that I value it’s place in my life over the past three years.
Training with Nightline was what lit the fire in me to want to help people.
Having mental health issues made me empathetic, and it made me want to try to stop other people feeling the terrible things I’ve felt over the years due to my anxiety, depression, sexual assault and PTSD.
Spending years actually helping people, campaigning for better support for students and seeing that little things can make a difference to them is what makes me want to continue to do it.
So if you’ve stumbled upon this during campaigns week, I’d like to say thank you for reading it (and also, if you think I sound like I’d do a good job and you like my manifesto, please vote for me). The concept of having to run around campus and try and tell people that I’m ‘better’ than three other people running against me is weird – I don’t think it’s really in the spirit of welfare to say you’re better than someone else (and I’ve also tended to listen to people far more than tell them what they should do).
I guess the final thing I should say is the thing that I said throughout my time as Welfare Officer, the thing which I will always proclaim when it comes to supporting students and which I told anyone who listened when they wanted to know what college welfare was all about:
If something matters to you, however big or small you may think it is, it matters to me.
So if you’re reading this and are a Warwick student, don’t forget to vote at warwicksu.com/elections.