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"Prioritise emotional health over academic achievement"

Beat Clinical Training Lead Jess has written about her personal experience with exams, reflecting on her feelings then and her progress up to now.

I’m hugely grateful for friends and family. 20 years ago on my 18th birthday, I received my A Level results and missed getting into uni by one mark (and one grade). What followed was a horrendous time in my life: I plunged further into my eating disorder and wasn’t able to reason with myself to process the failure I felt. I was really reflecting on this this week due to all of the news coverage around results and I shed a tear thinking about it on my morning run.

I can’t imagine how tough it’s been for those collecting/waiting for results. As a grammar school girl, getting results seemed hugely important in comparison to my mental health. On the morning of some of my A Level exams where I had three on one day due to clashes, I was being physically sick because I was so anxious about them. I remember evening letting myself think that I could break my own arm so I didn’t have to do them (SO extreme)!! I had to take pretty much half of my A Levels on one day and the pressure was too much. I was hugely unhappy and suffering with mental health issues all throughout my teens. In a very dramatic and extreme way, I learned the very hard lesson that I was not able to reach my full potential unless I started to accept and take care of myself.

Fast forward to now and I don’t think twice about chairing a parliamentary meeting or speaking to hundreds of people. That girl who was petrified of failure seems like a distant memory. How did it I get from how I was then to now? I put one foot in front of the other and learned from my mistakes. My biggest error was the lack of self-compassion. Once I learned that and began to work with what I’ve been given and embrace facets of my personality that I hated, things became so much easier. I never even entertain any thoughts around being hard on myself anymore. It’s a slippery slope once you go down that road. I don’t let any other person or external force define me.

Hopefully I can instil in my kids that life is a balance. Yes, it is important to get good results and qualifications at school but in our house, we prioritise emotional health over academic achievement. Working hard has to be held in high regard but fun will always be promoted to the top of the list.


Contributed by Jess