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How counselling helped me manage my school anxiety

5 min read
29 March 2023

Topics mentioned: anxiety, school, counselling and therapy, bullying

Author: Ffion

About: Ffion, 23, explains how getting support and counselling for school anxiety helped her deal with bullying, and empowered her to help others.

I used to be terrified to go to school and this dread never seemed to go away.

When I was at school, I suffered a lot with school anxiety. I used to have panic attacks most mornings before school, which were very difficult to manage.

I used to be terrified to go to school and this dread never seemed to go away. I would stay up late thinking about the next day and struggled to shake this feeling in the mornings.

My heart felt like it was beating 100 miles an hour and my palms would start to get clammy.

Why I stopped enjoying school

My school anxiety began halfway through year seven. I used to really enjoy school before this point, but for me, secondary school was a scary place for many reasons.

I was bullied by some boys in my class because of the spots on my skin and my weight. I started to stay at home because I was frightened of what the bullies would say next. This impacted my mood which only made staying at home more comforting.

I wish teachers and family members knew it was okay to ask questions about why I was feeling anxious about school.

This cycle of anxiety, low moods and school avoidance continued until year nine. It was at this point that I decided to reach out to school teachers that I trusted, which really helped me feel less alone.

By talking to my teachers, I began to feel as though school could be a safe place if I spoke up.

What I wish people had done when I asked for help

Although I had people to speak to, there were family members, friends and teachers that seemed to have no idea how best to support me. I wish those people had understood that all I needed was a safe place to speak freely and not feel judged.

By speaking to me openly, they could have simply asked what I needed from them rather than assuming what was best. I wish teachers and family members knew it was okay to ask questions about why I was feeling anxious about school instead of telling me off.

I was on the waiting list for a year to get support which was very difficult.

My experience of school counselling

I decided that I would seek support myself. I went to the school nurse and asked if I could see a counsellor during school hours. I thought this would encourage me to go to school if I had more of a reason to be there.

A boy in a blue denim shirt looks at his phone while sitting down against a grey sofa with a purple wall.

I was on the waiting list for a year to get support which was very difficult. My anxiety and low moods got a lot worse. This was a very lonely time in my life where I believed that I wasn’t worth helping.

Finally, I got an appointment to see a school counsellor. We had two sessions together where she spoke to me like I was in primary school. She acted as though my feelings were not valid and that I was overreacting.

She started to cancel sessions and then disappeared entirely. Again, I was left with no support. The school didn’t assign me another counsellor. I was lost in the system.

She made me feel like I had a safe space to share my pain.

How my counsellor empowered me to help others

My mum noticed that my low moods were getting worse and that I was struggling a lot. She helped me speak to the GP who referred me for counselling.

I spoke with my counsellor about my struggles with anxiety and low moods. She made me feel like I had a safe space to share my pain. I was really lucky that she took the time to understand my struggles and what I was going through.

My counsellor helped me:

  • Understand my low moods and how avoiding school was giving power to the bullies.
  • Manage my anxiety by doing guided breathing techniques with me.
  • Begin my journey of self-love, helping me to see that it was okay to be proud of who I am.
Having a safe space to process my feelings helped me feel less alone.

She told me, ‘you haven’t come this far just to come this far.’ I will never forget these words. They changed my life and empowered me to support other people.

I joined a peer support group in school and started delivering anti-bullying assemblies to help other people like me who were scared to be seen.

This journey of supporting others continued when I went to university where I am now training to be a counsellor myself. It wasn’t an easy journey to get to where I am now but having a safe space to process my feelings helped me feel less alone.  

If you are experiencing anxiety, low moods or school avoidance. Please reach out for help. You are not alone.

She told me, ‘you haven’t come this far just to come this far.’ I will never forget these words.

More information and advice

We have tips and advice to help you find the support you need. Take a look at our guides.

Where to get help

However you're feeling, there are people who can help you if you are struggling. Here are some services that can support you.

  • The Mix

    Free, short-term online counselling for young people aged 25 or under. Their website also provides lots of information and advice about mental health and wellbeing. 

    Email support is available via their online contact form.

    They have a free 1-2-1 webchat service available during opening hours.

    Opening times:
    4pm - 11pm, Monday - Friday
  • Childline

    If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.

    Sign up for a free Childline locker (real name or email address not needed) to use their free 1-2-1 counsellor chat and email support service.

    Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.

    Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.

    Opening times:
    24/7
  • No Panic

    Supports people struggling with panic attacks, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and other anxiety-related issues - and provides support and information for their carers.

    Call 01952 680835 for a recorded breathing exercise to help you through a panic attack (available 24/7).

    Read information about call costs.

    Opening times:
    10am - 10pm, 365 days a year

Thanks for sharing your story Ffion, 23

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