One Step at a Time
February 1st 2018 was “Time to Talk – Time to Change” People don’t talk enough about mental health. I asked Charlie to write a piece for her English lesson and this is what she wrote
My anxiety has pretty much gone now.
Even though there was a point when I thought it never would.
Anxiety is a hard thing to deal with, you get people who could overcome it easily, and then you get people who struggle immensely, and find it much more difficult to find a mind-set where they don’t feel anxious.
For those people who struggle the most, it’s tough to fight it, but it is possible. Those people know that they don’t have control over when or where their anxious thoughts come back, it could happen when they expect it, or least expect it, it’s just as difficult either way.
Anxiety is different for everyone, for some people it could be over the simplest thing, that to other people who don’t face that problem, may sound ridiculous, but to the person experiencing it, it feels very real. There are people who panic about bigger things, like auditioning for a school play, or meeting up with someone for the first time, or many other things, but to those different types of anxious people, the feeling of anxiety is very much the same, or at least similar.
My anxiety was often triggered by really silly things, like when I was walking to school and walked past a certain spot that held a bad memory, e.g. on one of my first days of secondary school, when I reached a certain spot near my school, I instantly started to panic, knowing that I was close to where I really didn’t want to go, so after that, whenever I reached that certain point, I panicked. Or the same thing happened when I went to a certain lesson with a teacher I didn’t like. On one occasion I felt so anxious on the way to school I was actually physically sick. Again, after that each time we neared that spot my anxiety would rise and I’d feel sick again. I had constant stomach ache. I often had chest pains that were so bad.
In school, my life was nightmare. I was up all night crying because I was terrified to go, I felt really uncomfortable and out of place at my old school. The first few weeks of year 7, the teachers were really nice; they were really supportive of my anxiety, but after a couple of months, they started to lose their patience; they eventually started telling me to ‘grow up’, ‘you just need a distraction’ or ‘you just need to get through it’, but they really didn’t understand that anxiety isn’t just a case of ‘growing up’ or ‘having a distraction’ it was much more that, but that’s one of the many things that they didn’t understand.
Eventually, a lot of the teachers who promised me they’d be beside me no matter what, stopped being around as often, and I’d only see them once a week, and not when I desperately needed them. Anxiety controls you, you don’t control it.
The private therapist (Dawn) who I talked to while I was still at school took me back to the first time I ever had an anxious feeling.
The first thing that came to my mind was one of my first days at play school. I was three years old, and saying I didn’t want to be there would be an understatement. I remember being dropped off with a member of staff, then my mum was starting to leave, that’s what triggered me to panic. I clung to my mum and the people who worked there had to bring me inside. I always made up an excuse so I could go home. I always told them I felt sick, and at first it worked, then I started making myself sick so they sent me home. After they realised what I was doing they gave me a bucket and said “Here’s a bucket for if you’re sick.” I ran over to the door and put the bucket down and stood on top of it, banging my fists at the door screaming for me to go home. To others that day, I looked really stupid but what I was feeling wasn’t. The staff left me to scream and cry until I was too worn out to continue, then I’d find something to do by myself.
Eventually I started to make friends there, which helped me leave my mum each morning, but that feeling never went away.
Nothing ever ‘got rid’ of my anxiety, but quite a few things helped me overcome it.
These are a couple of techniques Dawn taught me. I still use both now if I ever feel slightly anxious. First off, I repeated a series of words to myself, these words were ‘I release and let go of feeling …’ When I was at school, I often felt sick as a result of my panicking, so I kept repeating ‘I release and let go of feeling sick’ to myself a few times, and believe it or not, it helped. It calmed me down and helped me control my breathing. I also said ‘I release and let go of feeling anxious’ that helped too. Another thing that helped me was setting a certain colour to a memory. There is an audio download which talks you through how to do it. It basically tells you to think of a colour, which at first, you may already have one in mind, but most of the time you always end up using a different one. Before I started listening to it, I wanted the colour to be pink, so I had that colour in my mind, the download asks you to think of a memory that makes you happy, a memory that makes you smile, so I did and the first colour that came to my mind while thinking of that memory was blue. So at the time, we got a piece of ribbon and tied it to my pencil case, so whenever I felt anxious, I looked at the colour and thought of the happy memory, which replaced my anxious feeling with a happy feeling.
Since being taken out of school, my life has changed dramatically. The difference in me today is unbelievable. At school I had little, to no confidence, but while being home-schooled, my confidence rose daily. For two years, my mum slept on a mattress on the floor of my bedroom, because I was terrified to sleep on my own, I’ve now been sleeping on my own for nearly 11 months . I talk more confidently, and I used to hate talking. I’ve had multiple sleepovers with my friends, and plan on going to my friend’s house for a sleepover soon, which I never would have done while I was at school, because even at weekends, I couldn’t sleep knowing I had school on Monday.
I know that these may sound really silly or stupid to some people, but to me they all make a huge difference.
At school, there were a lot of subjects I hated. Maths, English and Science because I couldn’t be creative. This is why I enjoyed Drama, Art and Music so much, because even though we were given a certain task, I could make it my own. At home though, I absolutely love Maths, English and Science, because I can decide what I want to learn, that benefits me which has sparked my love of learning again.
When I’m older, I want to study Forensics. At school, I wouldn’t have been able to learn this until I was in year 10 or 11, and being at home I’ve done a lot of it in year 8, which means when I begin to study it in college, I’ll have a general knowledge already.
Some people have asked my mum some questions to do with my home education which she answered, but I want to answer them in my words, with my opinion.
How will you make friends and socialise at home?
Do kids ever really socialise at school anyway? I stuck with my friends at school, and I never really spoke to anyone else, because I stuck with who I felt comfortable with. The only time you’d ever ‘socialise’ during school is break/lunch, and even then, like I said before, most people stick with the group of people who they’re always seen with.
As for making friends, I still do. I still talk to my best friends from when I was at school and if anything, it showed me who my true friends are, because the people who were my true friends made the effort to keep in contact with me, whereas a lot of people who I believed to be good friends of mine, haven’t spoken to me since I left.
I still make friends. I make friends through this Facebook page, I have pen pals who I write to, I occasionally meet up with people, so yes, I still make friends.
What about exams?
I’ll still do them. If I want to, I could do some now, some next year, some when I’m sixteen, I don’t have to follow curriculum. If I didn’t do them during my school years I can do them in college. I’ll study and learn for the exams I’m taking at the time, and do them.
All home schoolers are weird.
How? Home schoolers are no different from public school kids, yes we get taught at home but we’re taught no differently. We still learn, we still talk to our friends, we don’t act differently, that’s just what people assume.
You’ll become a recluse.
Some people maybe. But you can’t assume every home schooler is. I’m not. I go out and meet my friends regularly. I have sleepovers with my friends. I talk to new people. I feel confident talking to people. I have my internet friends but I still keep in contact with my real life friends.
What about teaching to obey rules?
Teachers don’t teach you to obey rules. Parents do. Teachers only tell you to raise your hand to ask a question, and when you’re older and get a job, you don’t need to do that. Your parents teach you how to listen, to say please and thank you, they’re the ones who taught you to be polite. So being at home doesn’t change anything, you’ll still be able to do as you’re told, just as any child can.
At most schools, to be able to go to the toilet during lesson, you have to have a pass. But when I was at school, even when you had a pass, you still had the odd teacher who refused to let you go.
We don’t miss the crazy rules, the school run, and the stress, we simply love life and learning 😀