They came in. The results of the winter exams.
Remember I said I’d thought they’d gone alright? Well, here’s how that panned out…
I’m checking my university email before bed, when a new one comes in, followed by four more. I blink at the screen, tired and not really seeing it properly. But then the word’s ‘scores’ and ‘up now’ jump out at me, and I feel my chest clench.
Seconds later my thumb is drumming in the url to get to my marks, all the while my brow so furrowed that I feel a migraine beginning to brew.
It’s a convoluted process, going into each module individually and having to access the documents with contain our student numbers and corresponding scores; naturally, they aren’t in numerical order. I can’t ctrl+f the documents either as I’m on my phone, so I scroll through the 8 pages of jumbled numbers with painstaking precision.
I locate my number.
At first I’m sure that I’ve jumped a line as I’ve scrolled to the right, but then as I zoom out to see my student number and score on the screen at the same time, I realise that I haven’t. My stomach tightens and twists, and I swallow thickly before locking my phone.
It’s only seconds later when I grab it back up again to check the marks of my other modules.
Part of me knows this is a stupid time to do this, before bed, when it takes me a considerable amount of time to wind down, and even then my sleep is restless. Causing myself unnecessary stress is pointless. But leaving me without knowledge of all the marks is equally -if not more- anxiety provoking.
All the marks come back similar to my first, and I forcibly chuck my phone aside to dash for my ensuite. After about a minute or two, I’m pretty sure my stomach has emptied its entire contents into the toilet bowl. But it doesn’t stop, bile rises up in my throat and dribbles from my mouth, even though I’m trying to clench it shut. My head is pounding and my vision is hazy and doubled in some places. I think I’m sobbing, but I’m not sure. I don’t cry often enough to really know. And even if I did, I have no idea what to do to make my eyeballs stop leaking fluid. It doesn’t serve any purpose, so there is no logical solution that I can come to.
I stand, albeit shakily, and flush the toilet. After cleaning it and all nearby areas (just in case) I drag my numb and poorly responding body into the shower, flopping down onto my disability seat that’s there.
I’m not sure how long I sat there, but I didn’t realise for a while that the water was too cold. My fingers, toes, and joints were all tinged blue. I turned the temperature up. Twenty minutes pass before I finally wash myself and get out of the water. It had been too hot. My skin had reacted.
Covered in burning and itching lumps (courtesy of my urticaria and angioedema), I make my way back to bed. My eyes painful, my head pulsing, my stomach aching, and my throat raw. Picking up my phone from where I had discarded it, I check my last mark. It’s an 84%.
I text my mum, not wanting to wake my boyfriend even though we have a skype call on for this very purpose, for the event that I’m panicking and/or about to have a meltdown. She replies within seconds, and part of me is wishing she doesn’t ask me what’s wrong, and the other half needs her to ask so I can unload this all, have someone rationalise it to me.
It may have been mothers intuition, or it could be the fact that I’d texted her in the early hours of the morning. But she knew. I tell her I got my marks back, that they weren’t good. She doesn’t reply. She calls.
The tired aspie in me doesn’t feel like talking, I don’t even feel like being. I just want to curl up under the covers and try to not think, to not feel. But I answer, just to spite myself.
We talk for a while. I let slip that the real reason I’m upset is that without my intelligence I’m just weird. Weird and intelligent (in my mind) = eccentric, maybe even endearingly so. But without my intelligence, I’m just irritating and weird. There’s no use for me.
I won’t go into too much detail, but essentially we determined that I was putting too much pressure on myself. Every waking hour (some of which I really should have been sleeping or eating) of last term I was working, and on the weekly tests I would get 75-100% on everything, I didn’t even drop below 100% in one of my modules, not once.
By the time exams rolled around I wasn’t really all there. Mentally and physically I was exhausted. From trying to socialise to compensating for the stress of said socialising by insisting I do better and better on my work….it just became more than I could get my head around. So I numbly read through my notes, knowing them word for word, understanding every concept to the point where I was reiterating it in many different phrasings, switching to Spanish, then back to English. And then I hobbled along to my exams, my legs no longer giving me any feedback, much like my brain.
Vaguely I remember having the words morph on the page, creating patterns and pictures unless I really focused on them. When I did focus, the wording was ambiguous and difficult to interpret. But I remember finishing them all, not caring at the time that I’d just sat an exam in a state much akin to a 5 month old zombie. I just wanted to be able to sleep, to just be without having something looming over me.
And the worse part?
In these exams I’ve gotten a high 2:1.
That is not a bad grade. That is a grade most aspire towards. But in my head, I saw scores nowhere near 95 and went into full on freak out. So I didn’t do badly, I didn’t even do okay or average, I did well. And yet I worked myself up into such a state that it felt like the world was ending, that my life had nowhere to go from that point on. Honestly? I was already thinking about what I could do instead which would support me sufficiently in this economic market, what with the housing prices and competition for jobs. How silly is that? (this question is rhetorical, please do not answer, I know it is silly).
I watched X+Y over Christmas. It’s a film on Netflix that depicts two boys with ASDs. I hadn’t thought about it until now, but when I was watching it I had been thinking ‘I would never put so much pressure on myself that I would become that stressed and unhappy’, turns out I was wrong. I didn’t even realise it. But that’s what I was doing.
I guess the moral of the story is to keep a check on yourself, little by little you may be inching your way towards a state of mind that isn’t healthy; one that, with perspective, you would never venture towards intentionally.
For helpful links on stress, anxiety and depression see my blog post here.
If you want to know how to help and aspie or identify that they’re stressed check my post here.
Both have links at the bottom to helpful sites.
I hope everyone has a wonderful day,