Whilst the stress of A-Levels certainly did contribute to my anxiety, the main factor that led to it was that I was lonely. Very lonely. I had no close friends, and was almost always on my own throughout Sixth Form.
When people were out at parties, I would never be invited and would just spend my time at home, alone, thinking about what it was about me that people didn't like. At lunch times, I would always sit on my own at a table, feeling isolated from everyone around me. I had a girlfriend, but we were in a long distance relationship so I obviously could not spend time with her. Nevertheless, she was always kind enough to text me, phone me or Skype me whenever I told her I was feeling lonely. But then things got worse.
In the middle of my AS exams, I got news that my grandfather had suffered a stroke. He was probably the only person who I could easily talk to, and who I felt fully understood me. Naturally, this took its toll on me. I was stressed with my AS exams and then on top of that, this happened. This resulted in my feeling even more disconnected from people, and led to my loneliness getting far worse. A few months later, I got rejections from all of my university choices. By now, I was feeling lower than ever and was frustrated and anxious about everything.
All of this led to me becoming very insecure about myself. I would always doubt myself, become very suspicious of other people and feel as though I was worthless to everyone. Whenever I heard that my girlfriend was out with her friends, I would always get very angry at her, saying how she always put others in front of me and didn’t seem to think about how I felt. I was, of course, being completely unreasonable: even when she was out, she would text me, try finding a private space so that she could phone me, trying to help me feel less lonely. But still I was ungrateful for it all. I guess I was just very frustrated with everything, to the point that I started taking it out on my girlfriend.
Eventually, my girlfriend decided that she could not cope with how I was feeling and said that she needed to break up with me. I was distraught. My granddad was still ill, now with almost zero chances of recovery. I was stressed with A-Levels. I was lonely. And now I’d lost my best friend. My symptoms too had got worse: I was now having heart palpitations almost everyday; I felt very sick and nauseous regularly and I was having a lot of trouble sleeping. However, losing her had finally shown me just how much I had changed, and just how insecure, clingy and paranoid I had become. So, at long last, I decided I needed to try to find a way to deal with it.
Making positive steps
The first person who I tried to speak to was my form teacher. I feel one of the biggest hurdles in me talking to him, or anyone, was the fear of breaking down right in front of them. Unfortunately, I did end up breaking down completely as I was telling him how I felt but he didn't seem to mind at all. The response I got from other teachers was somewhat mixed: some teachers became very lenient towards me, and would understand if I needed to miss their lessons. However, other teachers did not seem to care much about it. I was slightly disappointed with that reaction: anxiety is a horrible thing to go through but, sadly, some people can’t understand that.
In addition to my form teacher, I decided to seek help from various other sources. Two sources I found particularly useful were Childline and The Samaritans. I did not feel comfortable phoning or talking face to face with the counsellors for either. Instead, Childline offer a 1 to 1 online chat service which I found very useful, and The Samaritans offered a free email service in which they replied to any email within 12 hours (I will provide a link to both at the end). Both allowed me to freely express how I felt about everything, and it felt great having someone who would listen to me (hence making me feel less lonely) and help explore my feelings.
Now, about two months after I started using these services, I find it much easier to deal with how I am feeling. Although I can’t claim to feel back to normal (for example, I still do feel very lonely: it is my 18th later this month and I am not much looking forward to it, out of fear that no one will remember and that I’ll end up spending it alone), I now have ways to deal with my anxiety. About a month ago, my girlfriend made contact with me once again after weeks of no contact and told me she was proud of the steps that I was taking to combat my anxiety. We got back together and hope to rebuild our relationship back to normal after our A-Level exams.
If you are suffering from anxiety, my biggest advice to you would be to talk to someone about it. I talked to my GP, my form teacher, several counsellors and used the services that I mentioned above. Talking can seem really daunting at first, but it really does help and is not as bad as we think it will be. Honest!
Services I have used
Childline’s 1 to 1 online chat
Samaritans email service
Image of lonely cloud courtesy of Kate Haskell via Flickr under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licence. Image cropped and resized.