I will never forgot those few years of my life, GCSE’s are hard enough as it is, they are so hard on your mental health. The standards expected and the idea that you know what you want to do at 14 is just mad. I feel like the whole education system expects far too much with little care for ones mental health, which is why I think it is so important to have in-school counsellors.
For me, I changed school three times and missed a whole 3 terms over the two years that I was working on my GCSE’s. I was battling a lot with my mental health, I was self harming, drinking and acting out because school made me feel so miserable and each day I spent there, it made me literally want to die. I was bullied a lot, so mixed in with the stress of school itself, it was so hard for me, I resented it.
Then a week before my 14th birthday, my Grandma passed away, it was the first death in my family and I had no idea how to cope, it was all so new. That year was bad enough anyway as I was in went on to be sexually assaulted by my first boyfriend.
The following year, a day before my 15th, my mum had a stroke and I had to change schools, except this time was hard as I actually like the school I was in. I felt at home, accepted, I had good friends – I was so happy and now it was being ripped away from me. It was right before I was due to do my mock exams, so social services got involved and I was struggling to deal with my mother who had been reverted to a baby like state. It upset me to see her like that and I felt responsible, I spent so much time caring for her instead of being a teenager.
Finally I settled into a public school the next town over, I hated that I had to get the bus but it was my only choice. At this point I had only ever been to private schools so this was a huge culture shock. I only had 4 terms left to sort out my GCSE’s, I had to catch up on 3 terms worth of work as well as deal with the struggles at home, I was drowning but no one would help. Then to add salt to the wound, I met a boy who I liked a lot, who went on to cause issues with the police and ‘had his way with me’ in my sleep.
It was the hardest time of my life, I forget now how difficult it was. I spent so many nights crying and wanting to die, hurting myself and self medicating with alcohol. However I cannot allow myself to fail, I am very good at surviving and getting things sorted because I’m so determined not to live my nightmares.I didn’t want to have to re-do my GCSE’s, the idea of an extra year of school was humiliating. I spent so much time working hard to do the best I could, considering the circumstances. I started giving up my free time and revising like crazy, I practically self taught myself most subjects as the teachers were not the most helpful.
Before I knew it, my GCSE’s were over and I was able to leave school early because I actually finished all my course work sooner than expected. I remember how good that felt, to be the first person in my year to finish school when I had been there the least time. This was one of the few times my compulsions worked in my favour, It was like a reward for doing so well, I was so proud of myself – I still am.
I remember waiting in the car as we drove to pick up my results. I swore I was going to fail, I prepared myself for the disappointment. When I opened my results and I could have cried, I did cry, despite it all I had risen out of the ground like a freaking Phoenix.
I got a B in English Language and Literature, a C in Maths and a D in additional science (I failed physics but I don’t mind) and a bunch of BTECS. For me, these results were the same as getting A*’s, I was expecting a D in everything and to re-do the year, but now I could do whatever course I wanted and I did not have to re take any exams.
So how did I do it?
Honestly, it would be hard to say, I think I put my anger and fear into my work. I was so determined that I did whatever I could to pass, I put in extra time and gave up lunch breaks, I spoke to teachers and pushed myself – I didn’t let my unfortunate circumstances limit me.
Maybe if my life was a little easier I could have got A’s but I am so proud of myself for what I have got. I was always in the bottom sets at school, always failing and looking at a bleak educational future so just passing, was cause for a huge celebration.
So I want you to know, if you are worrying about GCSE’s remember my story and my own success because I have been there and I did so well for my situation, as narcissistic as that sounds.
School is not easy, it can be very cruel and the system is so outdated but it is temporary. GCSE’s will not rule your life, I only ever need my English Language and Maths nowadays and that pain that I endured through school, it no longer bothers me. In fact it feels like high school could have been 5 decades ago, all that worry about popularity and teen angst is non-existent, it won’t last forever.
Success is not determined by grade, just because you are not good at maths does not mean you are not good at something else. We all have skills and sometimes they are not found in school. Just because you have a learning difficulty does not mean you cannot be a writer or mathematician, success is determined by not giving up. I am now 22 and have just decided to pursue a career in writing, which is not easy because I struggle with spelling and grammar but I don’t let it bother me as I love it – that is what is important, passion and determination will give you all the success you need.
School tries to shove everyone in the same sheep pen but that does not mean you are a problem for being different. You can be a freaking rainbow sheep and have more success in your life than someone who did not follow their heart.
You can pass your GCSE’s but even if you fail, it’s not the end. You can retake certain GCSE’s as an adult and return to education any time! You are never too old to learn, I’m now currently attempting college for the third time and I am set to pass, which means I can apply for Uni.
Remember that some of the most successful people didn’t even get one GCSE, you got this!