School phobia: 'against this visceral fear I fought'

At the age of 14, Jennifer developed a school phobia to the point that she couldn't leave the house. Despite the repeated crises, the suffering and the failures, the young teenager fought day after day. A fight that she still leads today. She shared her story with us to lift the veil on this disorder and help those who suffer in silence. Testimony.

  School phobia:"contre cette peur viscérale je me suis battue"

Going to school, sitting in class with your peers and listening to lessons throughout the day, for some it is simply impossible. It has nothing to do with a whim of a child or adolescent no, it is rather a ' indescribable fear' and even 'visceral' . Jennifer describes this state with these words, because this is what she felt for a long time and still today. Like other children, she suffers from what is called school phobia . In France, of the 12 million students in school, it is estimated that between 1% and 5% of young people are affected by this phenomenon . School phobia can manifest itself at any age. The causes are multiple and the symptoms can be different from one person to another. Jennifer knows that better than anyone.

When she had just started third class at college, a toxic relationship with a boy gradually plunged her into psychological distress. It is from there that school phobia and his agoraphobia have been triggered. 'At the beginning, everything was going very well, like a first love story, but very quickly it got complicated and it became harmful. I isolated myself, I lost confidence in myself and I sank into a deep malaise ', she confides to us. This change, his entourage noticed it and let him know. 'I was asked what was wrong with me, I was questioned, I was doing badly and I didn't want people to have that look on me. The gaze of the other manifested itself at school, and little by little I refused that. I was in a small college, it was friends that I had known since kindergarten. The gaze of others blocked me. And the more I was hurt by that look, the more my crises intensified.'

A daily life of suffering

For Jennifer, the seizures initially only occurred at school. 'I had panic attacks, anxiety attacks, tetany, unstoppable crying attacks, and also malaise. I came to class for a few hours, I was not well, I went to the infirmary and my parents had to pick me up.' It was his daily life and she says it herself, she had no choice but to go to school, she was only 14 years old. The seizures then occurred at home, in the evening the day before class, on Sunday evening and then as soon as she woke up. 'Some mornings I couldn't even get up, walk, I fell. These were quite violent crises. I sometimes begged my mother not to go, and I promised her to go back the next day while knowing that the next day it was even harder' , she recalls.

His crises and his sufferings Jennifer did not understand them , as are his relatives. 'I had comments from children, but also from adults and sometimes even from parents of students, such as 'she thought school was an option', or 'if it 'was my daughter, she wouldn't have a choice, her parents are too lax'. Whereas before that, I had always been a serious student, with average grades. I had friends, I was well at school, but when you start saying to yourself 'I'm not doing well at school', 'I can't go there', you gradually drown. I didn't recognize myself, I was completely lost. ' This situation lasted for many months. Jennifer no longer spoke to anyone. Her friends had moved away from her because no one at school or outside had explained to them what school phobia was. In November, the young girl no longer spent a full day at college and from January she was descolarisée .

The time of unschooling

At that time, Jennifer had no taste for anything anymore , she sank into a depression . She had to take medication, based on antidepressants and anxiolytics to calm her anxieties and fears. It only lasted a while. On the advice of her parents and her mother in particular, who is a psychologist, Jennifer began to follow a therapy . She also recovered study from home to validate your year , and she was able to benefit from the support of her teachers and her college principal. 'I was incredibly lucky, it must be said, I had a principal who was there and who never let me down. When I was out of school, she photocopied my lessons for me, she asked teachers to make me handouts. I validated my third year but I did not manage to pass the patent. I was still able to pass in second. When I left college, my parents and I hoped when even that it was going to be better, in a new establishment, but that did not change anything.

The first months of his second year, Jennifer was not going to class at all , she couldn't do it, it had become too much for her. So a solution had to be found: l' distance learning thanks to the CNED . “I was able to obtain a CNED for medical reasons, my mother had done all the steps including the MDPH file. I was recognized as 80% disabled. I was able to follow 4 main subjects, mathematics, French, physics chemistry and health. The other subjects, English, Spanish and history geography, were abandoned for more months. I had to take control of it, fight and stop my treatments.' And that's what she did.

A struggle to study

Jennifer studied at her own pace, most of the time alone in her room. Most of the work, she did. Thanks to her efforts and her determination, she was able to pass first, in science, it was her choice because she wanted to do medicine. For this, she had to increase her hours of attendance at school. 'I had 7 hours of face-to-face lessons with the rest of the class per week. Which is the equivalent of a day in all. I took science subjects at school, and from home English, Spanish and geo-history at the CNED. For French lessons, it was a brilliant teacher who offered to teach me, one on one, she took me a few hours to prepare for my French baccalaureate.' Exams that she managed to pass. Jennifer continued her education in terminal, without ever giving up. Unfortunately, his baccalaureate failure was a sledgehammer additional for the young teenager.

'I had fought for 3 years in high school to come back, to do the best I could, and then with that failure I really wondered if I had a place in school. I had to give up. idea of ​​going into medicine Because personally, some manage to do it, with my school phobia it was not possible to imagine myself in amphitheaters crowded with students. It's been double jeopardy for me ' , she explains. In this new ordeal, Jennifer was able to bounce back. She tried not without difficulty to enroll in the STMG sector to retake the baccalaureate and moving towards business studies. But due to lack of space in her local high school, she was assigned to another school, where she only stayed for a few hours. 'I did a matinee and I said to myself that I would never set foot there again. I was out of place, my phobia came back in my face, I had obnoxious teachers who didn't didn't understand or at least they weren't trying to understand me. It was like a step back.' So as she always has, the young girl started a new fight . After multiple calls and letters to the rectorate and teachers, and the resignation of a student who had found training elsewhere, she was able to obtain a place in a STMG class in her local high school . The alone , which was agreed, was that she take over a classic school curriculum, without adjustment in the timetable . “There were always a few absences, anxiety attacks that appeared but I overcame myself. It was difficult but at the same time it was a first click. I still had my anxieties, my phobia was still there, but on the other hand I knew that in the morning I got up to take my baccalaureate. A perseverance that ended up paying off, since she obtained her precious diploma. A victory which has also been a source of pride for Jennifer after all the progress has been made.

Getting over the phobia

Today, at 21, Jennifer is more blooming in what she does. She passed her BTS with flying colors. A choice of training which was not so easy to take for the young woman but which opened up new perspectives for the future . 'When I arrived at the Billières school in Toulouse, I was interviewed, I was asked to introduce myself, I simply said that I was a phobic student, and they did not stopped at that, they asked me to introduce myself as Jennifer. It was a second click for me. And I said to myself 'Jennifer don't stop at school, it's over' . I also thought that I was not strong enough yet to do a work-study program, but there again the school believed in me. Now I do customer negotiation, it is possible even with a school phobia.'

The fight is far from over for Jennifer. Some fears are still very present. 'I'm still stressed when I'm in a crowd but it's no longer a fear. Regarding school phobia, I still have traces. For example, when I go to the blackboard in front of everyone I shake from head to toe. foot, I never sit with my back to someone or avoid someone. I also always stay next to a door if I need to get out' , she explains. But she succeeded in her own way in rebounding from her phobia and moving forward. 'We always say 'we leave with luck or not'. While you can leave with luck, lose it along the way, and get it back afterwards, that doesn't mean anything!' To those who suffer in silence , who have afraid to go to school , Jennifer advises them above all to verbalize their fears and talk about them with someone they trust. 'We must also accept the hand that is extended to us. We must not hesitate either to register for support groups on Facebook on school phobia, or go to associations.' Don't be left alone, because you are not!