Between exam nerves and anxiety


During the last months I had an experience that wasn’t pretty, but I think it’s worth telling. To do so I have to elaborate somewhat so, please, bear with me ;)

Last year I failed an exam that was about the complete Spanish grammar. Many students don’t pass and our lecturers nearly drove us insane. I was actually pretty well prepared and during class I usually answered most of the questions correctly. ORIGINALLY I felt good until exam’s day arrived. The exam took place at 4pm so there were loads of time to kill and get worried and when we arrived at the room were we were going to take it all hell broke loose. Everyone asked some last-minute questions about some special grammar cases and those students who were about to take the exam for the third (and last) time couldn’t be calmed down. Thing is that you can only take this exam once a year, instead of every term, so you have to prolong your studies for a year as well. Well, end of story is that I had a complete breakdown during the exam including shaking hands, blank mind, gone concentration and eventually a failed exam.

Naturally I had to take it again this year and of course I was much better prepared considering expertise in Spanish grammar – that’s just the way it is, if you do it twice. About two months before the exam was about to take place was when my dilemma started; bad dreams, ongoing nervousness, no concentration… after two weeks I had to admit to myself, what I unconsciously already knew: I had extreme exam nerves. It went as far as that I couldn’t study for other exams for I had the feeling to „steal“ time from my preparation for the grammar exam. No matter when and where I was, this exam kept buzzing like an annoing bee in the back of my head.

To someone like me, who is usually very relaxed when taking exams, this was very new. I am not talking about being a bit nervous here, I mean actual, physical and psychological anxiety. The hardest part of fighting this panic was actually admitting that I had a problem – and not only admitting it to me, but to someone who could help me. I informed myself at our university and ended up at the (free of charge) programme for coping with exam anxiety at the Catholic congregation of the university. For religious sceptics; this counselling was not about faith, the counsellors are simply employed by the Catholic church.

In the beginning I had a hard time really letting myself in for the exercises and I felt ridiculous, but when I finally opened up to it I started to benefit from it. Another great help was the intense conversation with a friend of mine that is fighting anxiety on many things in life. I learned very much about myself and how I deal with stress and panic. The outcome was that I was actually calm (though not relaxed) before and during my exam and I managed to get through with it just fine. If I passed is still written in the starts, but one thing is certain: I gave my very best and that’s all I could’ve done.

My – thank god – limited time in this state of anxiety and worry taught my a whole new respect for people with diseases as anxiety or depression. I admire these human beings for how they get on with their life and how they try to make it as good as possible. I also learned that – for me, at least – one of the hardest steps in fighing such a problem is to admit that there is a problem and to get help. And with help I don’t mean taking some drugs, but I mean turning to somebody who counsels, helps and empowers me.

I have the very egoistic and heartfelt hope that I will never be in this situation again and I wish everyone, who is still fighting, lots of power.





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