In this blog, I interview Emily, a third-year Economics student at university who is coping with anxiety. Find out about her journey at university and how she coped with having a panic attack mid-exam.
What made you choose to study Economics at University?
“I enjoyed the subject at A-Level. I like logical things and Economics is a logical subject that I enjoy learning about. It’s something I feel like I can predict and control. I also went through clearing so there weren’t lots of choices for degrees to study”.
When did you acknowledge or discover that you experienced anxiety? What happened? How did you feel during this first experience with stress-driven anxiety?
“In the middle of a second-year online exam. I opened up the exam paper and had a massive panic attack and meltdown. Initially, I felt confused. I had never experienced that level of anxiety before. I felt a bit nauseous as I was having the attack”.
Did you feel anxious prior to the exam? How long did your anxiety attack last and did it impact your day/week/month?
“No, I felt fine beforehand. Then I opened the exam paper and was emotionally triggered by the exam. It took about half an hour to properly calm down, and I still had to do the exam paper despite the attack. I felt a bit uneasy for a few weeks as I was worried I was going to have another attack”.
And you had no experience of anxiety before that second-year exam panic attack? What was it about this panic attack that made you think it might be anxiety?
“I think I had but I didn’t know it was anxiety at the time. I feel stupid looking back now that I didn’t realise what it was. I probably had an anxiety attack before but I didn’t know as much about anxiety before coming to university, so I don’t think I was as aware of the disorder. I think it was a slightly bigger attack than ones I’ve had before and therefore I realised it might be something more”.
What did you do once you had an anxiety attack? Did you ask for help?
“I was at home and so the first thing I did was send a panicked text to my mum who was in the nearby room working. She took me out of the room and took me for coffee and cake at a cafe outside so I could have some fresh air.”
What was the impact of the fresh air and removing yourself from the room? Did you feel nervous to go back into the room?
“I felt a lot better physically stepping away from the situation. Emotionally, I felt calmer. I felt apprehensive when I went back into the room. I was concerned that the panic attack would resurface”.
A year on, how have you learnt to cope with your anxiety in stress-driven situations such as exams? What methods have you adopted that have aided this transition?
“I like to keep a clear routine and I make sure to do things that I like. I make sure to do physical activity. I went to online therapy straight after the attack, so I had someone to speak to if something was concerning me. My therapist taught me ways in which I could cope such as creating a specific routine and helping to identify triggers”.
What do you wish you had known having gone through what you have on your anxiety and stress journey?
“I wish I had identified the problem earlier. I was accepted to university through clearing and now looking back, I believe that I went through clearing as a result of being too anxious and stressed in my A-Level exams. That is why I did not achieve the results I was meant to”.
What would you advise to those who are experiencing similar stress-triggered anxiety from your experience?
“Don’t wait to get it treated. There is no such thing as mild anxiety. I wish my teachers and friends at school had identified my anxiety when I had attacks because that external source telling me I think would have prompted my recovery journey. Being in the moment, it was harder to tell that I was suffering from anxiety”.
This blog was submitted by Ellie, a young person attending Cardiff University.
If you need to talk to someone to talk to, you can talk to Meic. Meic is the information, advice, and advocacy service for young people in Wales. You can contact a Meic advisor for free every day from 8AM-Midnight by phone (080880 23456), text (84001), or online chat.
For more info on getting support with your mental health, visit TheSprout’s mental health information page.
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