Thursday, 20 July 2017

My School Journey

3 weeks ago, on the 27th June 2017, I finished full time education forever. I've spent 15 years of my life in school and I lived in the grip of anxiety for 13 of those years. Even if there was the odd few months between the age of 4 and 16 when I might have considered myself happy at school, not a day went by without me finding something to feel utterly anxious about.

For the past 2 years of my life I have been happier than I can ever remember being in my entire life, but my journey to reach this point was harder than I even thought it could be.

This is my school journey.

My first experience of school was aged 3 at nursery in Denmark, where I lived until 2002. I don't have many clear memories of that time and most of my knowledge comes from my mum and the photos that perfectly sum- up me as a small child. I just didn't want to be there- like, at all. I kind of had a friend, but she was just a girl that lived near me. There were 2 girls in particular that were really nasty to me and I'm pretty sure they were sisters, so I didn't really want to talk to any of the other children. This was my first experience of school anxiety.

This is me in my nursery class picture. As you can see, I was just loving every second...

When I was 4, we moved to England and I started primary school. Right from the first day Mum or Dad would have to drag me in and then the teachers would have to drag me, crying, into school. One of my first memories of primary school is some of the other children making fun of me because I was wearing snow boots in the winter instead of wellies. I finally settled at primary school around year 4 and by then it was almost time to go to high school, which is when the real trouble began.

After a few uneventful years, I was starting high school. Even on the induction day I was so anxious I felt sick and hated every second. I'd gone from a primary school of 50 pupils to a high school of 900 and it was damn terrifying. Every morning when I woke up I had feelings of utter dread and worry and I tried to explain it to people, but they just saw me as refusing to go to school. They didn't seem to understand how much I wanted to be like everyone else; I wasn't being difficult, I was terrified.

I went through multiple doctors who told me I just had to get on with it and go to school until finally one doctor understood me and referred me to a child psychiatrist who gave me a lengthy diagnosis list. Separation anxiety, panic disorder, social phobia. Now that a doctor could give an explanation suddenly the school stopped hassling me and my parents and actually tried to help. It took pretty much the whole year for me to become sort of settled at school and things just kind of ticked on for a few years. Everything still made me anxious but I was going to school and making friends.

At the start of year 10, I had a massive falling out with my best friend. She said some awful things to me and I realised she had been manipulating me for years - using me as an extension of herself and making decisions for the both of us. I had trusted her with so much stuff about my anxiety that I hadn't told anyone else and I found out that they had been telling people behind my back. Its only recently that I realised it was emotional abuse. When I distanced myself from her, she started saying nasty things about me behind my back. She started ringing my home phone multiple times every day and I would go on Facebook to find they had liked 20+ old photos I had posted. I couldn't escape and the school did nothing about it because I was just the anxious girl who was over-reacting.

Year 11 had started and my anxiety was out of control and I was diagnosed with depression and put on medication. I wasn't going to school and was being bullied by someone I used to call my friend. I still had only told about 3 or 4 people that I was struggling with my mental health because at the time, it was something people frowned upon. This was the most miserable year of my life. I woke up every day not wanting to get out of bed or talk to anyone. Some days Mum would come in and wake me up because I had slept to 2pm.

I learned my GCSEs from the textbook but had to drop half my subjects because the teachers said I wouldn't pass if I wasn't there. I finished year 11 passing all 6 subjects I sat exams for, but with my attendance record, Sixth Form wouldn't accommodate my needs despite making me an unconditional offer just a few months before because they are funded based on attendance. They wouldn't help me because it wasn't in their best interests. I was alone again.

That year passed slowly and my depression got bad again. But that Christmas my parents set up a visit for a sixth form I could start in September. Someone that didn't just care about the numbers, that actually cared about what I wanted and what was best for me.

In September 2015 I started Year 12 at a small high school in Ipswich and had already met my best friends in the first lesson of my first day. My biggest class had 10 people in it and for the first time ever, I was putting my hand up to answer questions and I have even done presentations in front of the class. It might seem like a small thing for most people, but for me it was one of my greatest achievements. Fun fact: the first presentation I did was a Crystal Maze themed presentation on the Behaviourist Approach in my psychology class :)

One of my best friends asked me a couple of months ago,"do you like school?" For years I always said "No", but for the first time I said "Yeah, I do". I can say that for the last 2 years I genuinely wanted to be at school, not because everyone else goes to school, but because I liked being there.

Thanks for reading,

Bye x