What I Want People to Know About My Test-Taking Anxiety

I am in high school. That means I have to endure final exams just like every other student. But for me, it’s a little bit different. I have anxiety.

My mind works a little bit differently than most other students might. My rational thoughts can often be overridden by a simple anxious moment. One second I feel good about all my grades and the next I’m frantically calculating exactly how many questions I can afford to miss and still get an A.

You can tell me a million times that I’m prepared. I can actually be prepared. But I won’t stop studying. I’ll read through my notes until my eyes bleed. I’ll spend hours before bed quizzing myself on the properties of carbohydrates instead of sleeping.

And for most students, that is somewhat the norm. It’s often normal to stress about big tests. It makes sense to study. But for me, it’s more than stress. It’s my heart racing while I study because I can’t remember how to graph a sine curve. It’s my breath nearly stopping when I realize I didn’t finish my review guide that wasn’t even due.

I think I’m going to fail. I probably won’t, but my anxiety doesn’t really care about the rationality of my thoughts. Someone might read all of this and think that I’m describing any normal high school student. And I might be, at least on the outside.

But for me, it’s anxiety on top of all the memorization. It’s tears on top of all the flash cards. It’s hyper-fixation on all the essay prep. It’s spacing out for long periods of time while trying to study because my thoughts are so jumbled that I forget to breathe. It’s curling up in a ball and wishing I could disappear instead of walking into class ever again. It’s almost throwing up when I think about spending two hours in one classroom filling in a hundred bubbles.

I don’t hate my anxiety. I don’t hate exams. What I don’t like is when people don’t even try to understand what I’m going through. Yes, finals are stressful. Yes, you worry. No, my anxiety attack does not mean I’m “crazy.” It means I’m scared. Because I can’t fail. Not because my parents pressure me, but because I pressure myself.

And while exams might be stress-inducing, just think. Somewhere in your very classroom, someone is almost in tears while having a panic attack. In your classroom, someone is so worried that they cannot see straight. Be mindful. Take care of each other. We don’t have to struggle alone.

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