When you hear ‘high school dropout’ rebellious and carefree springs to mind. But my story isn’t quite like that. There is so much judgement around not completing school and not getting A Levels or equivalent qualifications. Immediately you become this stupid, incapable person that’s ‘never going to get a real job’ (as I have been told).
School life wasn’t overly traumatic for me; I had friends, I was never bullied and I was fairly bright but still, I hated it. From Year 10 onwards I rarely completed homework, I didn’t concentrate in lessons and I didn’t revise for exams; I simply just didn’t care. At the time I knew it wasn’t just school that was the problem, I used to cry every night and have thoughts that a normal 15 year old shouldn’t have. The first time I spoke to someone about how I felt was on the Childline website. It was a way of talking but not having to face anyone. This helped for a while but eventually my teacher noticed a change in my attitude and asked me what was going on. I told her everything and I was put on the school’s counselling waiting list. However, the teacher I spoke to didn’t keep what I told her confidential. She told my parents and friends about how I was feeling. To make things worse, I never actually got a counselling session at school; they just forgot about me. School is supposed to be a place where you feel safe, my teachers had a duty of care but they made me feel violated and alone.
Eventually, I got an appointment with a psychiatrist at CAMHS. Unfortunately they lived up to their awful reputation and didn’t help me whatsoever. Despite everything, I passed my GCSE’s with the help of a hypnotherapist who encouraged my motivation.
Afterwards I went to Sixth Form. I thought the change in scenery would help and I’d be able to cope with another 2 years at school. I spent my first year hiding in the toilets, in the counsellor’s office or walking home. Still, I passed my exams and went onto my second year. I only had 5 months left until I could leave forever but even that was too long. Everything that had built up over the previous 3 years suddenly caught up with me and it was best for me to leave. A lot of my friends and peers couldn’t understand it, but it was what I had to do and my parents were really supportive of my decision.
After I left, I went to a private psychiatrist and I was diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety. I now have to see a therapist every week and take antidepressants. It now makes sense why I couldn’t cope with school; I was coping with a much bigger issue. I honestly believe that if I stayed in school and continued keeping everything in I wouldn’t be here today. I may not have qualifications and be able to go to Uni but I am alive.
As much as your teachers, parents and friends may say it is, school isn’t everything, your health is. If in any way you feel like I did when I was in school I urge you to speak out. Even if your parents aren’t as supportive as mine were, just telling them how you feel will help them to understand and appreciate how hard it is for you. If your parents aren’t an option, speak to an understanding teacher (preferably one more professional than mine) it might make school easier if someone there knows what you’re going through. Also, you are not alone! 10% of children and young people suffer from a clinically diagnosable mental problem. Lastly, Simon Cowell, Richard Branson and Jay Z dropped out of school at 16 – I think we’ll be ok.
If you ever meet someone who has dropped out of school, wait until you find out what they’ve been through before you make judgements!
Hugs and wishes,