The Grades I Got When I Was Mentally Ill are Not a Reflection of My Intelligence

Greta María Ásgeirsdóttir.jpg

There’s always a reason behind our grades, and the fact that we even passed our GCSES or A-levels alone is amazing, and if you didn’t, that’s ok too. Our grades are not a true reflection of our intelligence.

Words by Selena Arroyo

Image by Greta María Ásgeirsdóttir

* Trigger Warning: This article contains discussions on severe mental health issues and suicide *

Throughout my whole life I’ve been the smart kid. From elementary to junior high I was always at the top of my class; in high school, all of my classes were either Honours or AP (advanced placement). However, this thing called depression and anxiety came into my life and since then it has taken its toll.

 I tried therapy but at the time, I genuinely didn’t know what was wrong with me. I would attend, cry and leave. I wouldn’t even talk to the therapist sometimes. I soon stopped going and started taking Prozac and quickly went from 20 mg to 80-100mg. I was a mess, I assumed anti-depressants were supposed to make you happy, but instead they made me numb. To this day, I find it difficult to be happy, I’m either sad or content, but never truly happy.

Not only did I fuck up the only good friendships I had, I also distanced myself from my family and my grades suffered too. I still graduated above a 3.0 (for UK, it’s equivalent to 2:1) but it wasn’t my best work. I would attend classes and the Prozac literally blocked my thinking, I couldn’t understand the simplest terms.  My memory also suffered and it endured years of damage including forgetting how to memorise things and losing most of my childhood memories. It wasn’t until my MBA, where I re-learned how to memorise things for exams; for my Bachelor’s however, I struggled.

I was a mess, I assumed anti-depressants were supposed to make you happy, but instead they made me numb.

 During studying my Bachelor’s degree loneliness and late night anxiety hit me like a bitch. I was .05 away from getting a 2:1, but instead I ended up with a high 2:2, which again is not a reflection of what I’m capable of achieving. For my MBA, I ended up with a 2:1, so I redeemed myself but still felt I could have done better. When the parents I babysit for or the people who interview me find out I’m not an A student, they’re shocked.  They quickly dismiss it and assume it was because I probably “partied too much in high school” however, I wouldn’t call being depressed and socially anxious for most of my teens and early 20’s “ partying”. It was more like almost a decade of losing my mind, self-harming, body issues, depression, anxiety, isolation and finding different ways to kill myself without making it look like a suicide.

The goal of this article isn’t to receive pity, I despise that. This article is directed at those who get down in the dumps because of the low grades they receive and didn’t expect because of their mental illness. There are people out there with severe learning disabilities, a range of mental health issues, and even some who just couldn’t bring themselves to strive for those A grades and so received C’s instead. There’s always a reason behind our grades, and the fact that we even passed our GCSES or A-levels alone is amazing, and if you didn’t, that’s ok too. Our grades are not a true reflection of our intelligence. You are enough.