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Health Student Life

Scented Candles, Really?

Hello, I’m Alex, and following an incredibly intensive period of negligence and self-destruction, I sat in my flat completely and utterly suicidal.

It’s really hard to try and describe what it feels like to be suicidal to someone who has never been there. It’s the most utterly devastating and destructive darkness you can ever imagine. 

It’s almost impossible to put into words how logic becomes meaningless as every inch of your being is swamped in nothingness. Nothing makes sense anymore; there is only the complete and utter pain of your existence trying to fight against the endless barrage of negative voices telling you just to end it all.

I fought for as long as I could, trying to reason with the unreasonable, but in the end, I couldn’t do it anymore. With stockpiled sleeping pills in hand, I reached for my phone and typed, ‘can someone please take me to hospital.’ 

That was more than three years ago, and after an intense period with the hospitals Mental Health Crisis Team, an attachment-based therapist and 4 of the most beautiful friends the world could give me I’m still here…and I’m happy.

During my time in the hospital, one of the psychiatrists kept telling me to focus on the small things that give me pleasure, “like a scented candle” she’d say. I wanted to punch her, didn’t she know years of childhood trauma couldn’t be fixed with a f*****g candle? Now, looking back, I can (sort of) see her point. I’m writing this because if I had focused on the small things, I might have heard myself before it got so awful.

Below are some of my small things. It’s not going to cure you magically, but I’ve pushed myself to incorporate a few of these things into my day to day routine, and it helps me.

Push yourself to get up before the rest of the world – start at 7 am, then 6 am, then 5:30 am. go to the nearest bit of nature with a big coat and watch the sunrise.

Push yourself to go to sleep earlier – start at 11 pm, then at 10 pm, then 9 pm and wake up in the morning feeling re-energised and focused.

Get into the habit of cooking yourself a lovely meal, fry tomatoes and mushrooms in real butter and garlic, fry an egg, slice up a fresh avocado and put too much hot sauce on it. Sit and eat it and do nothing else just think about that lovely food.

Stretch. Start by reaching for the sky as hard as you can, then trying to touch your toes, roll your head, stretch your fingers, stretch everything and breathe…breathing is excellent.

Buy a 1-litre water bottle, start by drinking the whole thing in a day, then try drinking it twice.

Buy a notebook and a great black pen and write down everything you do, including what you had for dinner, people you saw on the street that caught your eye, what temperature it was outside at sunrise, coffees, what you need to do that day, no detail is too small.

Strip your bed of your sheets and empty your underwear draw into the washing machine put a massive scoop of scented fabric softener or a few drops of essential oil in there and wash it. Make your bed in full and organise your room, fold all your clothes and Marie Kondo your wardrobe, clean your mirror, your laptop, hoover under the bed and….light a beautifully scented candle!!

Have a luxe shower with your favourite music playing and wash your hair, scrub your body, brush your teeth, lather your whole body in moisturiser, get familiar with the part between your toes, your inner thighs, the back of your neck.

Push yourself to go for a walk, take your headphones and go to the park, smile at a stranger walking the other way and be surprised how they many smile back (I know, this is London and I’m realistic). Most importantly watch dogs and observe dog’s behaviour and realise you can learn from dogs!

WhatsApp old friends with personal jokes and reminisce, suggest a catch up soon even if you don’t follow through you can push yourself to follow through.

Think long and hard about what interests you, is it true crime? Sex? Slow cooker recipes? The history of denim? Find a book about it and read it.

Become the person you’d fall in love with and write down who that is. Stick your tongue out at kids in the supermarket, compliment people on their clothes, challenge yourself not to ridicule anyone for a whole day, then two, then a week. Walk with a straight posture, look people in the eye, and if you can’t quite do that look at their eyebrows, it seems the same to them!! Ask people about their story, talk to acquaintances, so they become friends.

Daydream about the life you would lead if failure wasn’t a thing and take small steps to make it happen for you and most of all  – F**K DEPRESSION.


Don’t forget that there will always be someone at the other end of the phone waiting to talk to you, no matter what time of day or night – you’re never alone. Here are some of the main helplines:

  • The Samaritans – Their support line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 116 123. If you prefer to write down your feelings, or you’re worried about being overheard, you can email them to
  • Nightline – All universities have a nightline, which typically runs from around 8pm–8am during term time. They offer a completely confidential and anonymous service, where they listen to you and offer advice but allow you to make your own decisions on any further action. Head to the Nightline website to search the phone number for your university
  • PAPYRUS – This suicide prevention charity run a HOPEline every weekday from 10am–5pm and 7pm–10pm, and 2pm–5pm on the weekends
  • Mind – Mind is the UK’s leading mental health charity, and you can call their infoline from 9am–6pm every weekday for further information about the mental health support in your local area
  • SANE  Another leading mental health charity, SANE, run an out-of-hours helpline from 4.30pm–10.30pm every day of the year on 0300 304 7000
  • CALM – CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) has a specific focus on reducing suicide rates among young males, but still offers general mental health advice too. Their helpline and webchat is open 5pm–midnight every day of the year.

If you need urgent medical help, call 999 or visit your local A&E department. The NHS non-emergency number, 111, will also offer free medical advice whenever you need it.

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