I found going to school really difficult. To compound this, I had mosque classes too (17:00 to 19:30 without breaks). Sounds tiring? You have no idea! Getting through my school day was bad enough but then I had to rush home and have to get ready for mosque classes after. My junior school was out of town so we got home quite late.
Anxiety and depression has consumed all my educational life where it hasn't allowed me to learn as well as I now think I could have. I wasn’t encouraged to go to school and I sure didn’t care about learning even the basics. I was a nervous wreck thinking about the smallest challenge. I would worry about mosque work, lift home, being picked last in football, not doing my homework, being told off and a lot of the time, being bullied. My mind just wasn’t in learning but on worrying. I didn’t know how to deal with it. I was feeling sick a lot and quite low. I couldn’t eat. This then caused physical health problems. I dizzy and lethargic. I had no idea what I was going through, so I blamed myself and just tried my best to fight it. I am quite shy and I was easily intimidated. Being surrounded by alpha-males made me feel pathetic. Some people don’t like men who aren’t stereotypically manly. This all affected me badly.
I look back at infants and junior school and remember myself just not being or feeling clever. Then a major incident happened. Perhaps a culmination of my illness. I had a major panic attack outside in bad weather where I was running for shelter screaming. I just didn’t feel safe and just an overwhelming need to get out of that surrounding kicked off. It might sound ridiculous but it was very traumatising. After that event, I was very uneasy going outside in that kind of weather - it triggers the same responses. This affects me to this day but I’m getting help for it.
This issue arrived around when I was getting ready for my SAT’s as well. I stared out of the window in class to check how the weather was. Are the trees moving fast? Are there to a bunch of dark clouds gathering? This was on my mind as we had to stay outside out of class and this was me preparing for it. I couldn’t face going outside in case I had another panic attack. I few occasions this happened as well including one time I banged on the door to be let in. I was.
I found school such a chore but still went because it’s the law. I was supported for feeling anxious outside so this helped. The issue was going in and out of school as that was not part of that. It got so bad of an ordeal that I just refused to go some days. I was throwing tantrums and was treated like a naughty child. My GP got a hold of this and referred me to psychological therapies. The waiting list was long. Then I was taken off the list for some weird reason. My GP wasn’t thorough - he was very old-fashioned. I felt hated. Still, I did get my SAT’s done.
Then I went to high school, back in my hometown. I was reunited with people I knew but they already had their groups. People had changed. I didn’t really know my place. I befriended outcasts which I took for granted. I was ridiculed for this.
I did enjoy learning in small parts but couldn’t really grasp that feeling. I was still worrying about having to go outside. I was able to attend occasionally as the phobia eased now and then. I particularly had trouble with P.E. where the teachers were very strict. When I tried to explain they laughed at me and made me feel like I’m making it all up. I was punished regularly by people in and out of school hours.
I didn’t really have ambition, like I was working towards a goal. It was just me going to school because I had to. I look back and realise that I wasn’t even caring for my health and wellbeing. Growing up is difficult as it is with all the raging hormones of adolescence. It was so difficult juggling all my problems. I became very self conscious and spent a lot of time trying to impress others. I tried so hard that I cringe looking back at it. I didn’t know who I was. I just tried to mimic the cool kids. I didn’t do much out of school either so that’s the only social setting I really had. This gave me no real topics to talk to people about. I didn’t want TV shows or films. I was just empty. It doesn’t help that difference isn’t appreciated either. I tried to win over my critics and be more ‘gangster’. Not surprised people found me annoying!
Another major problem came along where I was having anxiety attacks and thinking I was dying. It was awful. Random moments being in a cold sweat. Eventually I just couldn’t face going into school anymore.
I would get dragged in the car and near the front gates of my school, but I would just not get out of the car. I was really erratic and adamant that I couldn’t - not didn’t want to - face it. A way they tried to help was to tell me I could go out of class if I felt uncomfortable. I went in that day to class then went to the member of staff - turns out they would not help me but put me where expelled students were put! I just felt so lethargic and depressed. It might seem like all I had to do was just take a deep breath and go for it. It instead felt like I would fall apart if I went in. Anybody with social anxiety will understand this. I couldn’t face others. I found high school really loud and busy. I hated times when going to and from classes where the stairs were packed! People threatening to push each other down the stairs. I have been done so and got stood on. Nobody helped me get up. I don’t feel I got the support I should have.
Eventually people gave in and I was mostly housebound. My school didn’t check up on me to help. Rumours spread. In person, I was berated for ‘being lazy’ sitting in front of the computer all day, as if I enjoyed it. I was really morbid and slept a lot or too little. I joined forums but spilled my emotions a lot on them. Just an utter mess of a kid. I didn’t care about myself at all. It was too much of an effort.
I do feel the internet helped me a lot. It gave me an escape and offered so many different topics I could divulge into i.e. graphic design. I feel it allowed me explore and choose what I like, making me a much more intriguing person. I also got home-schooled - which really set me on a recovery route. The tutors dealt with other students that suffer from severe anxiety and let me know that I wasn’t alone. It was such a pleasant surprise that this was the case. They were very encouraging and helped me build my confidence. The attention I got from the tutors was very refreshing too and I felt people cared. I was valued.
I was enjoying my learning now. I really got into English which has helped notice I’m quite insightful. They didn’t come to visit often though. Then I was rushed to their anxious non-attenders school which was a little annoying. I suppose funding and pressures from elsewhere demands they have to just get me in a class so there were less special call-outs. It wasn’t perfect. I struggled to get prepared my GCSE’s but got it done even though the results were’t so good. Turns out the results didn’t accurately reflect my ability at all but they did affect my education after sadly.
Sadly. there were mischievous expelled students who were in our group who shouldn’t have been there. It frustrates me that in school quite pupils can get overlooked like I did and loud pupils can get so much attention. Now they were intruding our quiet space yet again! It didn’t deter me too much as I got very comfortable there. After this though, I had to leave and go back to mainstream. So sad! I liked being around people who understood my worries.
I am quite angry with how schooling went but I know I have developed through it. I feel like I could have done so much better. I really don’t want to see others get overlooked like I did. A child’s potential should not be ignored. It wasn’t long a go when I was at school so I might be able to understand those at Locala’s Youth Network. I know mental health awareness has progressed in the mainstream a very small amount but I don’t know how schools are now. I do know that I didn’t feel like I had anybody to turn to. Nobody noticed that I needed help. It took me getting to my lowest point for me to realise that mainstream education really didn’t suit me well. I much prefer one-to-one or small classes rather than being overwhelmed with loud people.
I wasn’t able to do work experience due to time constraints and not being ready. So I decided I don’t want to go back to being at home. I then felt I would like to get into mainstream education and learn more.
In part 2 I will talk about how I found the transition back into an institution that did not specialise in teaching those with severe anxiety. I will talk about how it went and where I went after this stage.