Studying day and night for four exams; sociology, psychology, biology and nursing skills, stopping only to go to the loo or shout down the phone at sales people, almost broke me. Thankfully the boys were revising for their exams too, so they understood and kept out of my way, tapping on my bedroom door only to ask if I’d like a coffee. Wine was the answer!
Pre computer, the worldwide web (www) and wi-fi, I was struggling to get my head round the biology terminology in the extra large books from the course reading list but, when rummaging in the sale box at my local bookshop, I was delighted to find a pop-up biology book for kids. Job done! I did suggest in class that this book ought to be on the course reading list.
Still, no matter how much I’d studied, outside the exam halls, I felt the familiar onset of palpitations, sweating, tingling fingers and toes. I’d read that this was the blood rushing to where it was needed ie the brain and large muscles, to activate the body for fight or flight*. So, I had this thing where, by using breathing techniques and distraction, if I could stop the tingling before it got up to my wrists or ankles, I could prevent a full blown panic attack. Today it wasn’t working.
Standing rigid (freeze*) as the other two hundred and odd students found their way round me, out comes my tissue, liberally soaked with lavender oil; known to be another stress reliever. I desperately sniffed in copious amounts of the stuff and I wasn’t taking any chances as I dabbed the tissue on my wrists, under my nose and under my ears? The well-used tissue was then shoved up my sleeve so I could inhale at my leisure during the exams. Who cares that I smell like my gran’s underwear drawer?
Well guess who passed all four exams? Okay, the highest mark was just sixty eight per cent but I’d only gone and done it. Now this really was a big deal because, with six poor GCE’s, I’d always thought I wasn’t very clever. When teachers tells you often enough that you’re thick, it cuts to the quick and you start to believe it.
The queue for the public telephone in the student union room snaked down the corridor as excited students waited to give the good news to parents or partners. Despite the fact my tummy was screaming out for food, I too wanted to share the good news. I called the boys’ dad at work and I hadn’t even gotten the words ‘I passed all four’ out when he snapped ‘did you take twenty pounds out of my pocket this morning?’ I said ‘yes’ and he hung up. I was hurt and mortified but carried on chatting cheerily into the phone, while my heart was breaking, until my ten pence ran out.
Note to self: “Don’t let the man bring you down.” — Maya Angelou
*Flight, fight or freeze is the body’s response to perceived threat or danger and which prepares the body for flight or fight; the physiological and psychological response to stress prepares the body to react to the danger.