Struggling with pressure: So I'm doing... - Mental Health Sup...

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Struggling with pressure


So I'm doing my final year of A-levels and the pressure is getting too much. I've stopped going to see my GP because she was worse than useless and the counselling service have told me just to sit tight and wait for them to call me... I've been waiting 3 months! I'm really struggling at school and my grades just keep getting lower, what will I do if I can't go to Uni? It's my chance to get away from the life I have here!

Reading some of the other blogs here, most people tend to be older than me, so maybe some of you have some advice? I went to my head of year and his suggestion was to get medicated (seriously? A school child?) and the teacher I told just thinks by grinning with false brightness at me will somehow make everything better.

I just can't seem to focus anymore. I want to sleep too much or not at all. I don't want to eat but have to or else my concentration just gets worse. Cutting helps focus but the backs of my wrists just isn't enough anymore, all I can think about is how good it would be to cut the back of my head and let it bleed and bleed and bleed.

What do I do? I'm really lost

5 Replies

I'm sorry you are feeling so stressed, but do get back on to the counselling serivce to see when you can have an appointment. Also do they have an emergency service? Do get on to them tomorrow to find out.

You are still at school and I'm wondering whether it would be any help talking to the head of pastoral care? It's their responsibility to try to help you at times like this so they should understand and allow you to talk, then see whether they can provide further help.

A'levels are the most stressful qualification to study for - when you do get to Uni you will find that easier than A'levels because although the first year at Uni is the same level as A's the kinds of pressure are different and everyone opts out a lot of the time and just has fun in order to settle into Uni.

I'm wondering with so much pressure in feeling going to Uni is your only chance of getting away from your life there, whether that is why your grades are going down. It can be frightening to contemplate leaving home however much you want to and often at this point students start failing things or getting worse grades. What were your grades like before you became so stressed, were they really good or average, do you need to work really hard to get into Uni or do you tend to get good grades usually?

The responses of your head of year and teacher were not helpful, you needed someone to understand how you are feeling. You say you are cutting and that does sound as if youhave learned to cope with stress in ways that are harmful to you. Do you know where that pattern comes from? You say you want to get away from the life you have and I wonder whether that life has been difficult and hasn't enabled you to cope with stress in more productive ways.

I'm wondering also whether you need some help to structure your studies so that you can get through the work without feeling stressed. Often students who hope to go to Uni don't need to swap extra hard but just need to ensure they do the routine study in a structured and repetitive way so the info goes in and they can throw it all back during the exam - I used to teach in FE so am used to students struggling with A'levels.

If you can't find anyone at school to talk through the studying with and to help you to structure a working timetable then come back to me and we can do something like that by e-mail. Just knowing things are organised and that you will be doing enough work may relieve some of the stress and enable you to feel more on top of things.

If all else fails consider either going back to your GP to explain about the cutting if you haven't already done so or better still change to another GP - have you heard of one that is any good? Often GPs seem not good because they don't have all the information and so don't really understand the problem - they come up with solutions to what they think is the problem and because it isn't patients feel they are useless.

Why do YOU think you are feeling so stressed? Not just the A'levels, but what is it about doing them or other aspects of your life that makes you so distracted that your grades are dropping?

Do come back on for more chats as talking about the problem and finding practical solutions will help your mood change. Later once you have finished your exams it would help you to ask to be referred to a unit that deals with cutting behaviour so you can learn to cope in better ways before you go to Uni.

Take care and hope to hear back from you,


Betsy13 in reply to Hidden

Thanks Sue,

I've had depression for a number of years and that's what the counselling was for and the cutting and eating disorder, coping mechanisms. I find it not so bad during holidays because when I feel bad I can just do things to cheer myself up, but during the course of a normal school timetable I can't do that, I have to go in and do everything they say.

My stress is the lack of control. I don't like having a timetable, I prefer to just study the subject I feel like studying at that time. So I hate doing the homework, because there is a deadline. Add to that my depression and it's hard to get any motivation. At GCSE I was an Oxbridge candidate (I just memorised the textbook the night before) and I was supposed to get A*A*AB at the end of my A2's but I'm struggling to get the AAB necessary to get into my Uni (I was rejected from Cambridge).

My depression has only been getting worse as I don't have the time to do the things that cheered me up, like running, because it would tire me out too much, I end up falling asleep on my desk by 6pm.

I was offered pastoral care by my school, but since it's a catholic one I was offered access to a priest and a private prayer room, or the counsellor (who is part of a Catholic youth group) the first two don't really apply as I'm agnostic, and the counsellor has just left Uni and really is lovely but very naïve, so not someone I can really talk with. The counselling service has been really disappointing, I've been pestering for 3 months and they still keep saying to 'wait' (assuming they bother to reply).

I'm just really tired of it all. All I can think about are ways to hurt myself, just to see if anyone would notice. When walking down stairs I find myself picturing the damage that would occur if I were to fall down. I've even had dreams about it and it's starting to look really attractive in a scary kind of way.

While I don't have suicidal feelings anymore, if I were to give into this compulsion I worry I wouldn't stop which would end badly.



Hi Betsy

Thanks for your long reply which clarified so many things for me. I can identify with so much of what you have written.

I thought you were perhaps a high flying student... It sounds as though you set yourself very high standards but fail to meet them. I am sorry you were rejected by Cambridge - that must have been a blow for you. I imagine it was disappointing and I wonder whether you feel you have been a disappointment to someone, perhaps to your parents or to yourself. You hate working to a deadline but sadly whatever Uni you go to the work will always have to be to very strict deadlines. As a child we can do what we like but as adults we have no choice but to fit in with the demands of others, that is reality as I have only just learned to my distress.

It sounds as if the issue of who has control is a major one for you which suggests you have been subject to excessive control in the past. You may have been abused or it may have been more emotional than literal control, someone may have ignored your healthy self-assertive wishes. However it also sounds as though you hurt yourself in the process of freeing yourself from control and from your dreams it is obvious that you want and need help, understanding and support. You seem unable to protect yourself from becoming self-destructive and may feel there is no legitimate way that you can express your anger about the control you have been subject to. I can identify so much with your comment that you want to hurt yourself to see if anyone would notice - I used to doubt whether anyone would even notice if I disappeared. The idea of no-one noticing is sad and suggests you feel that no-one cares enough and I am wondering about your parents, whether you feel they do not care. People do not always care although sometimes they care more than we realise. It may be difficult for you to allow people to care if you have felt controlled by them, it may be that you confuse control and care. It sounds to me as though you are looking for limits rather than control, for someone who understands how you feel and does not control you but does help you to stop damaging yourself. That is not easy to find because when people show their care it may seem to you like further control. Your comment about fear that you would give in to a suicidal compulsion makes it clear that you don't want to die but want someone to help you to live. At the moment you are exhausting yourself with all the stress and anger and sadly you are the only one who can stop yourself from doing that.

I am wondering what you are so angry about, how you have been so controlled that you feel a need to retain control now over for example your timetable. It sounds as though you have been very hurt by someone or something, perhaps felt your emotional survival as a person was a stake. Perhaps your parents wanted you to be someone you are not, or maybe that is just my own experience colouring the way I am reading about yours.

You are agnostic but attend a catholic school and my guess is that the control issue is particularly strong for you within that environment which stresses obedience and guilt. You are obviously bright enough and mature enough to have formed your own opinions as to whether the religion is one you can follow, but I wonder whether harming yourself is a way of expressing guilt. Often people who have been brought up within a catholic environment struggle with expressing anger towards the environment you are in. I have worked as a therapist with catholic clients and so often they felt enormous guilt even though they had consciously rejected the religious view. It is hard to go against things you were told as a child to believe in.

I am wondering what your childhood was like, whether you lived with your parents and what you felt they were like towards you, whether you FELT cared about by them. Also I wonder whether you have siblings and how they manage life.

No-one can stop you from cutting yourself or even committing suicide if you do ever want to, they can try but are likely to fail. You are the only one who has control over your life, although school will have control over some of your time and what you do with it at this stage of your life. If you can find a way to hold onto the knowledge that you do actually have some control and can relax then I think you will get better grades than most students - perhaps not as good as you might have got bu putting yourself under more pressure, but why should you do that - you don't have to be perfect, you only need to please yourself. You are no longer a child, you can set your own standards now.

What subject do you hope to study at Uni? I envy you being able to choose at the right stage of life - I was 40 before I realised that I could choose what to do with my life.

I'm sorry if what I have written is not much help to you. Counselling may help, but I think you will be more helped by thinking about what you want from your life and going all out to get it. You clearly have the ability and also have the trust in people to use their support.

Keep writing and take care, I'd love to know how you progress.


Dear Betsy, I really feel for you. My son is coming up to his A2 exams and the stress is enormous! A levels are cruel with AS exams coming right on the heels of GCSEs. No break allowed to just get to know yourself and have a bit of fun! What subjects are you taking and what do you plan to study? Oxbridge looms large in the mind as this special thing and place especially if you are an intellectual as you most definitely sound but many people get there and then wonder what the fuss is about. It can seem too as if A levels are the be all and end all but really not at the cost of your mental health! It's really weird but a lot of things we get really worked up about turn out ok in the end. My A levels went pear shaped all those years ago and I was a very stressed, angry young woman but I look back now and think wtf! I left home (very difficult situation) anyway and did some travelling, got a job, took stock and retook the A levels. You don't like deadlines and the pressure they impose but if you want you can do it your way too - it just might mean giving yourself some love and space. Alternatively, you obviously know how to pull the rabbit out of the hat when your back is against the wall (memorising the odd text book! wow! ) so, lovely Betsy, with everything ahead of you and so much to do and see and experience in your life ahead, take a slow deep breath and know that whatever happens you WILL be ok. Xxxx

Sounds like your really really depressed. You need to find a new doctor, they supply a service if you dont like the service, change it!! they get paid for seeing you.

A child can get depression, it can be related to hormones, So unless you find the right doctor, !!!!

wanting to sleep and having trouble sleeping is all part and parcel of this illness, because that is what it is a illness. Also headaches, migraine,,, the reason you feel like this, and having trouble concentrating, is because the chemicals in the brain, isnt being produced, so you will have quite a few symptoms, so you have to be totally honest with your gp.

Also I was let down with the nhs, counselling service, months waiting and never contacted me when they said they would.

Go private, help yourself!!

maybe your doing too much at this time. ??? your ill.

Do a diary, see if theres any pattern to the level of coping depressed feelings with your cycle. speak to your college, tell them you might need some time off, and you need advise.

take care, oh by the way, my daughter who was 13, I saw her go down hill, and at the time, doctors wouldnt,, or didnt like to admit,,, kids get depression... I talked to my gp (who was so good with me) I think my daughters got depression, (her boyfriend who she,d known, for four years broke up with her) her first love,,, broke up with her,,, she was distroyed. Said yes she has got depression. She was very reluctant to give her drugs, but needed to.. theres a strong family link, and shes still on them now, and working 40hrs per week and doing very well. a Very inteligent woman. So please see your new! gp asap!!! take care linda

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