16? I might as well have been 30!
To say that GCSEs were stressed as being vital would be a massive understatement. Whether it be from teachers, parents or even those closest to you – the idea that exams were the ‘be all end all’ of your future career was not a looming thought I could easily escape from!
Throughout the majority of my final year at high school I was sleep deprived, angsty and far from looking forward to the impending doom that was exam period. Utterly exhausted, the overwhelming amount of work and assignments set to me were far greater than I could ever have anticipated; I honestly felt like a middle aged man stressing away behind an office desk, not that I ever spoke up about it. I couldn’t get a moment, a mere fraction in time to sit myself down and just breathe! There’s nothing I regret more than retaining myself from the one thing I’ve always known I’ve been good at… talking.
I never would’ve considered myself as an introvert, even from an early age, but there was just something about this period in my life that completely shut me down. I felt like my voice just wasn’t worth people’s time to hear; I had never felt so useless. All the things I would’ve considered my passions just didn’t interest me anymore. Art? ‘It’s been done before’ I’d think. Gaming? ‘I was never good anyway’ I’d say. Even the subjects that I specifically chose to study didn’t spark the flame like they used to; my mind simply caved in.
Alone, I’d sit aimlessly on the edge of my bed pondering about all the outcomes that could possibly come my way at the end of the year. Would I strive? Would I fail? In the back of my mind I knew that I was stressed but didn’t know to what extent. Independence was always a proud trait of mine and the thought of speaking out about said inner emotions was far from my agenda. Instead, I’d trap myself within my own mental tomb of negative and self-loathing comments and just let the tears resolve all of the issues. Clearly I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was!
Looking back, I realise now that I was suffering from mental stress – an unfortunately common issue within teenagers. Lack of motivation and constantly questioning oneself are symptoms of this luckless but natural mental state; it was clear that my sixteen year old self was facing challenges that no teen should ever have to endure. I felt like I was encased in the mindset of an adult, constantly being reminded about the future and how ‘these exams will shape my career’. This idea felt like it was never going to recede and I did the worst thing I could’ve possible done. I said nothing and put up with it. Had I known of the options available to me, I would’ve actively searched for further advice from secondary sources like the NHS, but that was far too much for my stubborn sixteen year old self, thus I coped with the overwhelming amount of stress on my shoulders and battled through exam periods… stupidly.
The board for education needs to be made more aware that the pressures teenagers face during exam periods are far greater than is perceived in the media and real life. Five years’ worth of education all being rolled out into twenty hours’ worth of exams is astonishingly tedious and the perspective of the student must be taken into consideration as it is not the board members who are sitting these increasingly difficult exams, it is the pupils! Leniency and flexibility around exam periods has to be made possible in some form or another as the burdens students face around this time is simply not just. Change is necessary!
For all those who are currently or will be facing exams in the future, I urge you to take a moment to sit back and read through the messages I have conveyed through this piece. Whether you think I was stupid or smart, learn from my mistakes I wrongly made! I find that giving myself those few precious moments to breathe now and again to be so crucial. It allows me to reflect on the issues that you may be dealing with and see them from a calmer and smarter perspective. Don’t make the same mistakes that I did. Speak up, speak loud, make them hear the voice you deserve to be heard!
Find out more about coping with stress and anxiety.