Everyone has dreams when they’re little. Some want to be a pilot or an astronaut. Some want to be police officers with big scary uniforms or even a postman, handing out newspapers early every morning.
I didn’t really have any dreams, I’m more of a “whatever happens-happens” kind of girl. Sure, I dreamed about working alongside Charlie in the gigantic chocolate factory, with so much chocolate you could physically explode through the roof and whizz off into outta space. You know, nothing too drastic.
School was one of the best experiences for me (I know, shudder, gasp) because I loved to learn, though to tell you the truth, most of what I learned back then I can’t remember today. It was a place of stability where, even though I hated most of the lessons (I was never too good at rounders anyway) , it gave me a routine which is how I like things, in order. Parts of school were terrible of course, the horrific bullies in the corridor at lunch, waiting to lob their yoghurts at passerby’s, falling face first into my math teachers behind, colliding into a teacher during dodgeball (the best sport might I add) and sending her flying, and the endless amounts of falling outs with friends and ex-boyfriends, but I wasn’t bullied at school, aside from a few slimy comments, which I am grateful for, because I know just how cruel people can be.
During my final years of school, I started getting a really weird feeling during our weekly assemblies. Now, I know we all hated assemblies, sat on the cool hard floor listening to the headteacher drone on about correct uniform and could the boys please stop “setting off fart bombs in the boys changing rooms.” But this was a feeling I had never experienced before. It was a tight feeling in my chest, like somebody was grabbing me around the throat and I was struggling to breathe.
I would sit in the hall every week, my head bowed low, avoiding eye contact with everyone, and my back bent at an awkward angle. I would feel paralysed. I would sit in the same position for the full twenty minutes in agony, scared to move incase everyone laughed at me. Time seemed to stretch out for a lifetime.
It felt as though all the students and members of staff were burning holes in the back of my head, whispering about me. I would have these thoughts rushing through my mind, “oh god why are they giggling, am I sitting funny? Does my hair look messy? Do I smell? Please hurry up and finish.”
I felt as though everyone was judging me, when of course they wasn’t. They were just wishing they could be back outside on the field instead of listening to another lecture.
The thought of sitting in those rows with the other pupils in my year group still haunts me to this day. I could never focus on anything the headteacher was saying, it was all just a blur. It felt as though I was on a different planet to everyone else.
God help me if a teacher called me to the front of the room for something. The pure horror of having a teacher call out your name, beckoning you to the front. That heart sinking feeling as you carefully step over your classmates as though you’re walking a tightrope and then unintentionally stepping on somebody’s foot and hearing a loud shriek. With your head bowed, face flushed and your legs like jelly, you make your way to the front, only to be greeted by a hundred pair of piercing eyes, burning straight into your skin. Oh how you wish aliens would finally make a visit and snatch you up from this living nightmare. You hear the popular crowd roar in laughter as the headteacher offers you his hand to shake and you accidentally miss and hit him straight in the stomach. What may feel like a casual evening stroll for the rest of your classmates, you feel as though you’ve just stumbled into dragons den, where the judges lay waiting. Thank god I never have to endure another one of those tribulations.
Although it wasn’t until I started college that my anxiety started to get progressively worse, there were times at school that I knew that there was something wrong. During my final year, I had an English speaking exam, where each individual within their designated group was to prepare a speech that was to be read out in front of the whole class. I have always been a shy and timid person and I remember the feeling of nausea going around my stomach the night before the presentation. I was worried that I would mess up and I didn’t sleep that night, my mind felt heavy, going over and over my speech until the words turned to mush.
The next morning as I headed to school, I tried to think of anything but my presentation but it was hard to block it out. As my group and I awaited our turn to perform, my breathing suddenly became unsteady and I felt dizzy. I knew I had to focus, I couldn’t afford to make any mistakes. English was my favourite lesson and I wanted to do well in that particular subject.
Our teacher suddenly called us up and as I stood, my legs suddenly felt numb, like I was engulfed in quicksand. My group had already made their way to the front, so with everything that I had I forced my body forward to join them. The paper I held shook violently as my body trembled and I could see that everyone was looking at me although I wasn’t the only one stood before them. The room was silent for a moment and then we took turns saying our parts. Once it was over, I fell into my seat, deflated. I wasn’t at all shocked therefore when I received the news a few weeks later that I had in fact failed. I felt angry at myself for stumbling upon my words that I had learned so thoroughly, angry at myself for letting my team down. Looking back now, I know that had I been given the choice to perform privately in front of a smaller group, I would have received the grade that I had worked so hard for. I would hope that schools now allow students to do so, for the sake of their mental health, not just their education.