Leaving school

Photo link: https://pixabay.com/en/school-corridor-architecture-1540428/

I have always been determined to do my leaving cert. I didn’t want to disappoint my parents or for people to think I was a failure. I know that I’m smart and that I can achieve great things. However, I had a pretty shit time in school, I hated it. In February of 2017 (during 6th year) I couldn’t put up with it anymore so after school I went to my locker, got my books and left for good. I felt somewhat at peace. When you are trying to study in a toxic environment it really does impact your self-esteem. I felt completely invisible in school, like I would never be good enough and never fit in. People have different opinions of school. Some people love school, others dread going in the morning.

After I left school, I could tell my parents were a little disappointed. They didn’t mention anything but at the same time they were happy I wasin’t in that school anymore.  I was thinking about my future and I thought, I’m not going to get anything without my leaving, my job prospects will all go down the train. I did a little bit of research. External candidate seemed to be the best solution. I told my parents about becoming an external candidate. The school allowed me to sit my exams in the school.

Well,in June I finished my leaving cert. Done and dusted. I am done school forever and this is a new chapter in my life. An article published in 2013 by the Irish examiner  https://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/4300-kids-drop-out-of-school-before-fifth-year-230568.html stated that 4300 kids drop out of school before fifth year. While the exact reason why those kids dropped out is unknown, it’s still an incredibly high number.

At the age of 18, I honestly haven’t a clue what the future holds or more specifically where I’m gonna be in 10 years time but I do know this, I did my leaving cert, I have the piece of paper to prove it. My piece of advice for any of you going through something similiar, don’t ever make anybody think you’re not good enough and don’t ever let anyone get in the way of what you want to do in life.

I would encourage anyone thinking of leaving school to:

  • Make a plan(what are you going to do every day?)
  • Do your leaving- I cannot stress this enough. You don’t need to get all honours just do your best and get it done and over with.
  • Talk to friends and family – talk to people about how you are feeling about school
  • Remember that some people don’t want to go to college and you don’t have to. College, apprenticeship etc, are all just future options if you wish to pursue them.
  • Explore your options( youthreach,college,PLC course, apprenticeship etc)

Go through all of these and make a list of what you want to do . Whatever option you decide to go with, remember, just do what makes you happy.

Panic attack in school

Photo link: http://jronaldlee.com/

Photo © 2010 J. Ronald Lee 

I distinctly remember a time when I was in school. A time I got my first bad panic attack in a public place. I was in 5th year. It was one of those days where the holidays were approaching so the teachers put on movies for the class to watch. There were several classrooms along the corridor.

A teacher decided that it would be a good idea to place all the SPHE classes together in the one room to watch a movie. The movie was School Of Rock. As Jack Black appeared on the screen, the other girls began to laugh. Sweets were passed around the room as everyone sampled the haribos and the mini chocolate bars.

I placed my hand into the bag and took out a sugery circular green sweet. The lights were turned off and the room was in darkness apart from the screen infront of us. The whole class were bunched together practically squashed but nobody seemed to care,only me.

I was trying to talk to the girl next to me as a method of distraction while the anxiety started to build up inside of me. I couldn’t think straight. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I looked around the room. Everyone was glued to the screen . I was getting more and more fearful of what could happen in this moment. I had stomach butterflies and I was sitting so close to the people next to me that I couldn’t move.

I have to get of here. Get me out. I asked the girl next to me could she please move her chair aside. I got up and walked straight out of the classroom. Everyone stared. I walked briskly into the nearby bathroom. I was breathing heavily. I was trying to control my breathing. I took a few deep breaths. Breathe 1.2.3 . Breathe 1.2.3.
Then I started crying, hard. What just happened? Did I get a reaction to the sweet? Did I eat too much sugar yesterday? No, I just have claustrophobia. I can’t even get into an elevator and I guess the way everyone was bunched together combined with the darkroom triggered the panic attack.

I went up to the secretary’s office. She saw me crying and asked if I was ok. I said I was fine. I called my dad. He said he would come down to collect me. Before I could leave I had to go back and get my school bag. I walked back into the room. I told the teacher I wasin’t feeling well and I was going home. She looked kind of annoyed but I didn’t care, I was just after having a panic attack.

I went home where dad sat me down and made me a cup of tea. He asked me what had happened and I explained how I was feeling in the room. It was too stuffy,too warm,too claustrophobic. I couldn’t handle it and panicked.

That was a while back now but I still think of how proud I am of myself. I got up and walked out of that room without looking at anyone,without asking for permission because I was having a difficult time and I needed to figure it out,on my own. I realise now that I helped myself more than the teacher or anyone else in the room could.While it was a terrifying moment for me, I am delighted with how I managed it on my own.

Darkness Into Light 2018

This year on the 12th May 2018, I took part in the annual Darkness Into Light for the first time. It was the first time it was held in my town. The idea of getting up at 4 am didn’t seem to bother me. I wanted to do it even if I had to walk it on my own but in the end my friend said he would walk it with me.

We woke up around 20 past 3. We started off in our local GAA pitch at exactly 4am. Many people took part in the walk. Everyone was dressed in warm clothing,torch in hand and all were wearing the darkness into light t-shirt to mark the 10 year anniversary of DIL across the world.

We made our way though the town, the bright street lamps leading the way while local volunteers held signs and photographers took pictures of the crowd. At 5am it began to get bright as dawn broke and birds began to sing.

We then made our way back up the hill to the original starting point and were greeted with water bottles, tea, coffee and scones. I got a few protein bars. I was so tired and while I was delighted I had taken part in the walk, I couldn’t wait to get back to bed.

I decided to do Darkness Into Light to help prevent self-harm and suicide and I also did it for me. I suffered from depression to the point where I had suicidal thoughts in 2016. I felt so worthless and out of place that I actually wanted to die. Many people don’t realise that when you are severely depressed,your thoughts control you ,not the other way around.

So when I heard that it was coming up again, I got my wages from the previous weeks work and paid to participate. I was delighted that I was doing something that was not only helping other people but was also helping me.

After recovering from depression, I decided shortly after that I wanted to become a mental health advocate. I know that if I didn’t have the support of both my parents and my friend, I would not be here today. I was told by a counsellor once about how great the work is that Pieta House do. Although I never went to Pieta House to seek treatment, I do believe that their message is an important one. Prevention of suicide and self-harm.

I believe that together we can spread this message not just in Ireland but across the world.According to a recent article published by the Irish Examiner, Suicide claims 70 school children in one year. That figure is shocking. Young children and teens struggling with mental health need someone to turn to, someone to talk to about their problems but the lack of mental health services here in Ireland is a disgrace and as the suicide rate continues to rise, we sit back and do nothing.

I realise that this is a sensitive topic for many people but this stigma against mental health, suicide and self-harm in Ireland and indeed across the world has got to stop. While there are other charities here in Ireland that you can donate to if you want to,(while it’s a tad bit early) I highly recommend that in 2019 you participate in Darkness into Light in your town/city whether you are walking for you, a friend or for the young/ old people of Ireland who need a helping hand getting out of the darkness of depression and into the light of hope.

My Struggle With Mental Health

I can safely say I am no stranger to the topic of Mental Health. Mental Health Issues are a very big problem within Ireland. Unfortunately, Mental Health is not talked about enough. Anxiety and Depression are the most common Mental Health problems in this country. An article published from thejournal.ie stated that Ireland’s teen suicide rate is the fourth highest in the EU. It is clear that our society need to do something and we need to do something quickly before another young person turns to suicide.

As with my own struggles with Mental Health, I suffer from both anxiety and depression. Having one of these problems is bad enough but having the two combined is an everyday struggle. I have had anxiety since the beginning of third year in secondary school. The school had given us an option to do TY or go straight on to Fifth Year. Personally,I have always felt that TY is a waste of time and money.

However, I was pressured by the school to pursue the option of TY and with the added stress of the Junior Cert on my mind, I became very anxious and I changed as a result. My anxiety grew stronger everyday. It was the beginning of January, I started having stomach problems(butterflies),became increasingly anxious and overwhelmed. I did not want to attend class and so my grades suffered.

I have since found ways to cope with my anxiety such as doing nightly meditation,learning several breathing techniques and not putting myself into rather overwhelming situations. I used to wear black travel sickness bands on my wrists and regularly used rescue pastilles but not so much anymore.

I had slowly managed to recover from one problem when another even bigger problem emerged. As someone who suffers from anxiety, placing me into a classroom with nobody I knew in sight was, as you can imagine,terrifying. The main problem was the class were a very close knit group,like family. They are still very close. I immediately knew I would always be seen as an outsider. I would never fit in.

Believe me I have tried countless times to get to know other girls (I attend an all girls’ catholic secondary school) but with no success. The first month of Fifth Year was the worst month I have ever experienced.

My friends and I broke up and as a result I became self-conscious and very lonely. I felt like I was unlikeable,invisible and people saw me as a loner.
Eventually I grew into a deep depression. I stopped paying attention in classes, I didn’t talk to anybody,I was simply mute. My grades dropped rapidly. I barely completed my homework and I never,ever studied. Everyday at lunch, I would walk briskly into one of the bathroom stalls and just cry. I would not come out until I was sure everyone had left the bathroom.

Everyday was an ongoing struggle, a very tiring struggle.I was absent many days. When the summer holidays arrived, I slept during the day, everyday. I cried myself to sleep,I sat on my double bed listening to sad music and cried and cried. I would imagine someone holding me telling me it would all be ok but that thought didn’t last very long.

I had some suicidal thoughts, I spoke to my mam about it and immediately went to my doctor. I was prescribed antidepressants and was told to eat heathily and to exercise.

I have had depression for two long years now. It is still challenging. I am more talkative and I feel much more like myself again. I would ask anyone with a mental health issue to ask for help if you need it, to be yourself, to build up your self confidence and I can’t stress this enough,please take care of your mental health.

It is imperative that you learn about your mental illness, you explore it and you learn tactics to cope with it and remember if you are having a bad day and you feel like giving up,”You can do this,I believe in you”. You are not alone.

This article was originally published on the http://spunout.ie website