High School & Depression (CW)

19 August 2017


Today's post is a serious one. It's not that I'm tired of writing positivity posts, it's just that sometimes... I need to be serious. And this probably isn't going to be a fun one to write.

Most of you probably know that I've dealt with anxiety and depression in my life, because it's not something that I'm silent about, and in fact, I'd consider myself to be an advocate for speaking up about the stigma attached to mental health issues. Normally, these posts centre around my anxiety, but this time, I think it's important to talk a little about my high school depression.

I started high school in 2006, at the age of 12. God, I can't believe that was 11 years ago, I feel so old now! Throughout my primary school days, I'd already been dealing with anxiety, and this is something I had the chance to bring up last year with one of my primary school teachers (I interviewed her). I was terrified of answering out in class. Even the thought of holding up my hand made me nauseous, and don't even get me started on when teachers would randomly pick on people to answer a question! It wasn't a fun time. I'd decided that when I started high school, I'd be a new person.

High school came and there was so many people around me, I felt so disorientated and strange. Everything was different, but I managed to make some new friends. My homework was always done, and I was okay, I was steady.

Over the years, the volume of homework I was given increased, but the volume of homework I was actually completing was decreasing, which I'll come back to. I was getting stressed beyond belief, and I remember how confused and frustrated I was getting in maths trying to wrap my head around fractions and decimals (which, ngl, I still really struggle with, but not to the same extent.) Then, 3rd year came around (Year 9 if you're English).
There was a point where I was sitting a Geography "exam" (It was just a test to see our progress) where my pen ran out, and I was too scared to raise my hand to tell my teacher, so I just pressed really, really hard on the paper to make an imprint, to show that I tried to answer the questions. I got a 7 in that, and my teacher asked me why I did it. (for reference, a "7" is really bad. in these exams, Credit is a 1 or 2, which are the best, 3 and 4 are called General, 5 and 6 are Foundation, and a 7 is a complete fail.) After this, my life began to change, and very rapidly.

My parents seperated, and there were a few other family issues I won't go into. I was studying my prelims, but I managed to cope. I started 4th year, my gran was diagnosed with cancer, another family member had a mini stroke, I had prelims, my gran died during the prelims, more family problems were happening, I had a funeral to attend, I missed 3 days of school, I passed my prelims, some problems settled a little bit, then I had my exams and I was now 16 years old.

I passed my exams, and got some pretty decent grades in them, so I was happy with myself. Could I have done better? Yes. Did I study? Not really. Throughout this entire ordeal, my school were constantly informed of the changing situations, and I can't remember a single time I was ever pulled out of class and asked 'Gail, are you okay? Are you coping, or would you like some extra support?'

There are extra things I haven't mentioned yet. The biggest, I think, is that I didn't really wash that much. I showered once a week. I was now 16. Can you imagine how greasy I looked? Very. I remember once I took a shower on a school night and my friend asked the next again day if I'd dyed my hair because she didn't realise I was blonde. I also actually remember my mum giving me some dry shampoo, and I thought it was the coolest idea ever, and used it pretty much every day (which doesn't work, btw.) I'm also not proud of admitting it, but I struggled a lot with my appearance, and I had frequent thoughts about starving myself, and self harming. I did skip meals once in a while, and I have done this fairly recently as well (which I've sworn never to do again).

Another situation was in 4th year, when I was in a band with my friends. We had band practice every Sunday, and my attendance was really bad at it. I barely ever went outside. I only went out for school or Fencing. My friends stopped inviting me out places, one of my friends stopped waiting on me in the mornings for walking to school and I was kicked out the band. The only place I felt like I was safe and could express myself properly was online. I spent most of my time on Stardoll, or Bebo, Facebook and MSN. I also had an account on "The Scene Kidz" as well as creating my own website (which was terrible!)

In S5 (Fifth year), things began to improve for me. I was showering a lot more, I was able to talk a lot more, but my homework was still getting worse and worse. In fact, I don't think I ever really did my homework in my last two years of school, I felt too stressed out and I couldn't bring myself to start for fear of being wrong. In my exams during my last two years as well, I did poorly. In fact I got
AC in my Intermediate 2s, CFF in my Highers and a D in my Advanced Higher, and I didn't sit the final exam for one of my other classes because I dropped out.

Again, throughout all of this, nobody asked me how I was. My maths teacher (One of the Fs) give me rows and pulled me aside because I wasn't doing my homework, but that was all I got for that subject. No real support, just a 'come to supported study if you're struggling with maths!' Which I did do.

High school was a really difficult time. Lots of things were going on, but I managed to get through it all, though it's all still really impacting on who I am now. I'm slightly concerned that going through so much has slowed down my development slightly, because I feel like I'm only recently starting to get onto the same mental level as my peers, and it's possible that this has all had an impact on my 'strange' charactaristics, such as my weird teddy bear thing.

I don't think I've managed to convey myself very well in this post, but I'm 23 now and I'm doing good. I shower regularly, take pride in my appearance, and push myself to the best of my ability, I'd also say that I'm anxiety free as well. I'm sorry that there are details that I've left out in this post as well, but those things are extremely personal to me, or relate to members of my family and they're not things that I wish to talk about publically. The issues I've mentioned are very tame, but just know that there was constantly something going on in my life during my time at high school, and managing to get through it all is something I'm so, so proud of myself for.

I wish I was asked more by my teachers about how I was getting on. I know I've said it multiple times, but the only time I remember getting any help was when I realised that I had anxiety and tried to get help myself, I didn't have the support I needed at the time. We had a counselling service, but it seemed that you were expected to seek help there on your own. This is actually a point I've been thinking a lot about this year, after my lecturer at uni pulled me aside to ask how I was getting on after she noticed that I wasn't coping 100%, and it meant so much to me. Though, I will state that i
t's entirely possible that I'm wrongly remembering a lack of support, and if that's the case then I apologise to any of my teachers who may find themselves reading this.

If you're still at high school, and you think you're struggling with mental health issues, or you think a friend is struggling, seek some help if you can. Talk to somebody, if it's your friend that you think needs some support, ask them how they are. I promise it makes a difference, and please try to be understanding towards them, because mental health issues are really tough things to go through. High school is a difficult time, and mental health is so underrated at this point in your life, which needs to change. More focus is needed.

I'll see you again on Tuesday, so until then, be excellent to each other.
And look after yourself.

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