Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Exam stress

The last exam period was probably the most stressful and busiest I have had so far. I have had three deadlines, one for a translation and two essays of 2500 words each, and I had four exams, crammed in little more than a week. I have massive performance anxiety and my ADD worsens a lot around exam periods, making me even more distracted and forgetful than usual. I start looking for other things to do so I don't have to think about my exams, yet they keep hovering over me like a giant black cloud.

So I thought I'd write something down about how it went and maybe give myself some tips on how to avoid things in the future. Maybe you can get something useful out of it as well?

Surprisingly, this exam period went quite well, as to my recollection. I have messed up one out of four exams, and this was only because I wasn't given enough time for it. I can probably fix that issue in the future because I have a letter from my therapist somewhere that I can hand in to the exam committee to give me extra time in the future. I messed up one essay too but I still have a resit for that.

What really helped tremendously was my new medication. I had to struggle with my ADD medication for about a month before I got the right meds and dose. On working days or when I have lectures I usually take 10 mg dexamphetamine in the morning and 10mg in the early afternoon. When I have an exam I usually up my dose by 5 mg within the time frame of the exam which seems to work quite well. When I'm at home I don't take any.
I reacted very badly to the methylphenidate/Ritalin which is the usual go-to for ADHD/ADD sufferers and I had loads of side effects that made me feel very ill but switching to dexamphetamine made them disappear instantly. Rejoice!

What the dexamphetamine does to me and why it helps me:
It allows me to get a better grip on my environment and planning, but also on the exam itself. I don't get so confused and panicky anymore and I have more control over myself and what I want to do. My short term memory increases significantly, as does my concentration. I can remember more and write more consistently. Since dexamphetamine is basically a type of speed it also helps with the tiredness that I feel all the time because of the constant overstimulation of my brain. Overall, I am very very happy with them. They don't change me as a person. They just make me a better version of me.

Negative things about the medication: 
The meds oppress my appetite. Especially during the exam period I would forget to eat way too often. I need to pay more attention to that and set a clock for breakfast, lunch and dinnertime. I have lost over 2 kgs in the past two weeks and I'm guessing it is because of this, and stress. I need to remind myself to eat more often. 
Because dexamphetamine is an upper, you can't take any after 4 pm or else you will get NO sleep during the night. And preferably not after two in the afternoon. When the effect wears off I get a 'rebound': I get a bit dizzy and more tired and distracted than usual, so I have to be careful to plan my exams in the peak of my meds and not in the rebound period. But considering the earlier thing (they mess up your sleep pattern) it is not always possible to do this. With this exam period I did it anyway but my sleep pattern is now seriously messed up because of it.  I will fix that, but l do need to watch out for these things in the future.

Other things I need to work on:
- I seriously need to work on my planning skills. I hope to do so this summer with cognitive behavioural therapy. 
- I need to switch off any internet connection during exam week, where possible. I get way more addicted to it than usual if I'm under stress and need to do things.
- I must not forget to take an evening off sometimes, when possible. 
- I also need to work on my anxiety.

But overall I am really happy I managed to get through this alive.

And now... wait for the results!

In the meantime: PARTY!