I’m not entirely sure when it began. I’ve suffered with the odd bit of stress or anxiety just as everyone does growing up.
My first notable issue with my anxiety was triggered with the stress of exams nearing my GCSE period. I happen to be a migraine sufferer and so intense stress is never good as it can trigger them quite easily. However alongside sleep deprivation it became an endless up-hill battle.
I hated that I felt I was constantly falling behind with my studies and barely making a passing grade in some classes. Comparing myself to my friends and family didn’t do wonders for my self esteem either, especially as my best friend was at least 2 grades ahead of me in everything. I felt as though I was stupid. My predicted grades weren’t bad. But compared to my cousins who have both gone to Oxford, my aunt who went to Cambridge and my over-expectations of myself… I didn’t see it that way.
I kept pushing to go to extra after school classes and do extra hours of revision, which wouldn’t have been an issue if I didn’t have a 2 hour commute to and from school. By the time I was getting home in the evenings and finishing up revision hours to match that of my friends it was nearing midnight.
By Easter my exhaustion caught up with me and I watched all my extra efforts fall away while spending a good week off school with constant migraines. At the time they had noticed that something was wrong but I just didn’t want to bother them with it. I didn’t feel as though I could say to their faces that I was failing to please them. Looking back, if I had opened up sooner to my teachers and parents about how much stress I felt I was under it wouldn’t have gotten so out of hand. They have never been the type of people to care if I failed or not. They would love me either way as I could never really ‘fail’ them.
I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs since, but recently my mental health has gotten significantly worse. Around Mid-September my mental health took a serious downturn. It was just annoying to begin with so I just ignored it. After some time it got a lot worse. It wasn’t something I wanted to turn to my parents about. Frankly it wasn’t something I thought I should have been getting so stressed about.
After a while two of my closest friends noticed a few things were amiss and I confided everything to them. I honestly don’t think I would be here now without them. Their support has been invaluable to me.
Unfortunately telling them wasn’t enough to stop the increasing number of panic attacks or my thoughts keeping me awake late at night getting worse which repeated the effect with studies I’d had before my GCSEs. It wasn’t until almost two months later that I came out with everything to my parents. With the reality of it all finally hitting hard I mentally collapsed ending up being signed off school for a full month.
During my time off I had time to dwell on everything. Being at home on my own for most of the time didn’t help me much. I did far too much thinking.
Isolation from social circle, attempting to do work to keep up, art and pet therapy.
Things didn’t get much better when I went back to school. Sure seeing my friends again helped, but my workload become unbearable. I had switched courses in October just before taking the month off, so I had three months’ worth of catch up to do for one subject.
As for the others it wasn’t as drastic but it was still going to be an issue. I started back with a phased return- only attending classes for bio and psychology as those were the subjects I had the most concerns with. It worked for 2 or so weeks but it became apparent how much work I had missed and I had little hope of catching up fast enough for a passing grade.
In the end the school came to the conclusion that I should take more time off to heal and better myself in other areas then return to my education in September. This would be the best opportunity for me to get some kind of help and to sort myself out.
While I was willing to see my doctor, I was never intending to go through with counselling (despite my parents protests). I’ve never been the type of person who can sit across from someone and just spill problems and personal stuff without knowing them well or having enough trust with them.
I would much rather cuddle my cat for an hour or so. No matter what you say to animals they won’t judge you. All they want is affection, warmth, food and water. As long as you have those then you’re set. No feeling judged for what you say. No need to re-explain things to get across what you mean. No miscommunication. What’s not to like? As I’ve never really thought there’s an answer to some of my problems that someone could supply, I’m not missing out on anything.
Alongside my pet therapy I often find artwork, baking or cooking and writing (basically any outlet of creativity) is helpful for distracting and entertaining myself. Finding things to occupy myself with in the meantime is helping significantly especially while most of my friends are at school and can’t talk.
Right now I’m just taking one day at a time and figuring it out from there as it means I don’t have to worry about too much at once.