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The stress of A Levels..

Discussion in 'Finances, Work, and Disability' started by emmamarie123, Oct 20, 2017.

  1. emmamarie123


    (Sorry this is so long, please skip to the questions if it is too much to read :).)

    Hi everyone,
    I am currently 20 years old and I have been trying to get my a levels for the past couple of years. My health went downhill in my last GCSEs year. The docs think it was a traumatic event (my father being diagnosed with dementia), rather than a virus as I hadn't had any symptoms of one. I was able to sit my GCSEs with self studying and I managed to get pretty good grades- As and Bs.
    At a level my first intention was sixth form but I quickly learnt my body could not cope and also my sixth form tried to force me into signing a form that said I would get 100% attendance due to me having so much time off the year before. Then I attempted college but I had a major panic attack and I didn't think I would ever go back.

    Fast forward a year and I enrolled in the college as I wasn't going to let my anxiety win but unfortunately life happened and I kept fainting was diagnosed with POTS and I was back to square one. This year I am applying for funding to do NISAI. NISAI is a virtual learning environment that helps people who are medically disadvantaged to achieve there'd grades. For me NISAI would be the best option however I have some concerns and I was just wondering whether anyone had any experience with exams and revision?

    How do I cope with memorising information? I find my memory to be worse then before I got my GCSEs so does any one have any tips on memory techniques?

    Has anyone used dragon active speaking before and found it useful?

    Is there anyone has gone through a levels with M.E and just kind of reassure me that it is possible?
    At the moment I'm feeling very low that my body is making me feel incapable.
    Any responses received would be greatly appreciated
    Thank you :):)
  2. IThinkImTurningJapanese

    IThinkImTurningJapanese Moderator

    Hi Emma and welcome to the forum.

    I can't remember where I saw it, but some research has been done into this issue. The results were simple, pain is distracting us such that learning is far more difficult.

    If I remember where I'll post a link, but maybe that will help you get started on finding a solution. ;)
    Tammy likes this.
  3. Mary Poppins

    Mary Poppins 75% Smurf

    Hi Emma and a big welcome.

    I'm so sorry your dad has (early onset?) dementia. That's very difficult.

    What is NISAI?

    Flexibility is key when working within the parameters of a chronic illness.

    I hope you find support and friendship here :thumbsup:
    Tammy and MeSci like this.
  4. emmamarie123


    :confused::confused:Hi thank you for your replies :)

    My dad was diagnosed at 49 with frontle lobe dementia and sadly he passed away this year. Emotionally, I believe my body just couldn’t cope with seeing me lose my father this way.

    Nisai is a ‘virtual learning’ environment. Basically every day you have ‘lessons’ from home with a tutor who is based in Nottingham,England. You are in a class with up to twelve people who all log on from home and can communicate with each other and the tutor with a microphone or just typing. Also if I am too unwell to sit through the lesson it is okay as all lessons are recorded. I am currently awaiting a decision as to whether I can go ahead however I think I will defer now to next September as it is already nearly November and I would have over 60 lessons to watch and catch up on :confused:. I am determined to get my a levels and I have heard really good things about Nisai and they even have a support room for M.E students as they work with many young adults who have chronic illnesses. I did consider doing a distance learning course but this option allows me to not feel as isolated and to have the option to chat with other people who are doing the same course as me.
  5. Richard7

    Richard7 Senior Member


    1) re anxiety I suggest that you look at Hip's thread on anxiety http://forums.phoenixrising.me/inde...nxiety-symptoms-with-three-supplements.18369/

    he has found that about half the people who try this combination of turmeric, flaxseed oil and n-acetyl glucosamine find that it reduces/eliminates their anxiety.

    I found that it got rid of most of my anxiety. He has a long list of things that also helped and I still keep inositol on hand for the very occasional bout of acute anxiety.

    Anxiety is also pretty closely associated with PoTS. I wear a heart rate monitor and find that long periods with a heigh heart rate or palpitations tend to lead to issues with anxiety and PEM.

    I suggest that you try to get the PoTS properly treated. I am having trouble with this myself, but if you have access to a doctor who can help you that is great.

    2) re memory, in theory sorting out your sleep should help. It is in sleep that we consolidate memories. but poor sleep and poor memories are characteristic of ME/CFS.

    3) re dragon naturally speaking (if that is what you mean) voice to text software. I tried it early on and found it a waste of money, I was aware that I was having trouble with my hands but not that I was also having trouble speaking clearly.

    So I went through the calibration several times to no avail and spent quite a bit of time and money making changes to hardware and so on before someone pointed it out.
  6. AdamS

    AdamS Senior Member

    Hi Emma,

    Sorry to hear about your situation. I'm confident that you can complete your A levels, although it may be challenging.

    I also have ME/POTS. This is what allows me to work for longer on my laptop:
    • Laying down while I work. Usually with my head propped up/supported with a large cushion on my bed or sofa with knees bent.

    Why does this work?

    - I think it's because it keeps my heart rate in the 60-80 range meaning that all of my tissues, muscle, brain etc seem to get an adequate supply of oxygen, blood etc. It also means that my back muscles don't fatigue like they usually do when sat at a desk.

    I'm also trying to build on this by following the advice of Dr Klimas and through my own trial & error*:

    1) Get a constant heart rate monitor/Fitbit if possible.
    2) Work out your Anaerobic threshold (220 - 20) x 0.6 in your case...So 120bpm.
    3) Try to work well under this 120bpm limit in your daily activities. (Easier said than done).
    4) If you do hit the limit, listen to your body and make sure you rest until your heart rate comes back down to your resting level (60-65bpm for me). This allows your body to almost reset to baseline.
    5) Work out the maximum amount of time you can be 'up' e.g how long can you walk/stand before your HR starts climbing to 120 ish. This is your rough working limit. If your working limit is 5 minutes, make sure you do 5 minutes down after the 5 mins up time (sitting or laying down) to avoid crashing.
    6) Take your HR every morning to get an idea of fluctuations. For me, if my waking HR is 61-63 I usually function well, but if it hits 67 or higher or I sleep bad, i'm in for a bad day.
    7) Record a diary/chart in excel or similar to get an idea of patterns. Data is key.

    * Don't take this as medical advice, this is just what has/is helping me manage day to day. Thanks
    Scarecrow and Joh like this.
  7. Richard7

    Richard7 Senior Member

    re voice to text

    it just occured to me that android voice to text seems to work, I just used it for the first time today - hit the microphone button instead of a letter when trying to search for something on my phone that I am just working out how to use.

    In the early days I was still doing to much, pushing myself into crashes all the time, so my speech was probably less like speech than a mumble.

    Anyway ther are android note taking apps do you have a phone? that might work, dragon might work too I was using it in 2005-6 and the technology may have improved.
  8. Skycloud

    Skycloud Senior Member

    Hi Emma, I know someone whose GCSE and A level years were disrupted by ME. She's my friends' daughter.

    She finally achieved 2 A levels and an AS level (I think). She went on to university and is now studying for an MA. It took 3 years for her A levels, 1Foundation Year and 3+ years for her undergraduate degree, and she's currently taking a term out at home to rest before finishing her MA dissertation. There was a year out too. She's 26 now.

    I know that she made careful choices about her A level subjects to suit her limitations. What are your subjects?

    Her health varied through all this, and she was largely absent from school for GCSE's and was part time for A levels. I'd say she was probably moderately ill through much of her A levels.

    I hope that gives you some encouragement :)

    If you have any questions about her experience I'll do my best to answer.

    edit for grammar and to try and be clearer
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2017
    MEMum and ladycatlover like this.
  9. JamBob

    JamBob Senior Member

    Hi Emma, I got sick about a decade after I left school so I can't comment on A Levels specifically but I have been studying for a distance learning degree while I've been ill and have had to do several exams a year.

    I found the best way to get things to stick in my memory was using a Flash card system like Anki - it's great for anyone - not just people who are sick.

    Also there is a really good course on Coursera called Learning How to Learn https://www.coursera.org/learn/learning-how-to-learn which gives tips on how to best approach learning for success. I wish I'd had access to these resources when I was at school.

    If you have dysautonomia symptoms from POTS while sitting up then you might find it easier to study lying down.I try to plan to not study on days where I know I will have to do too much standing as my brain won't be able to take anything in.

    Also maybe pick subjects that work to your current strengths. My previous degrees/A levels were essay based and I would find it very hard now to construct a well-argued essay in a limited time frame with my current cognitive deficits. The STEM course I am doing now largely requires right or wrong answers so it's much easier to get good grades.
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2017
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