PTSD and Exams

I had my first exam today. It was in a subject that I was completely comfortable with, I knew the stuff inside out, and I write good exams even at the worst of times. Well, today was the worst of times.

I’m taking my papers extramurally, which means that I study at home. It also means that my exams are not at my home university, but at the site closest to me. It happens to be just a few minutes drive from where I live. It’s a church building, relatively new, very airy, warm and comfortable.

It is the home of the church my family attended during my adolescence. The place my abuser used to go and show everyone our perfect family and her personal wonderful relationship with god.

Many people in that church, including some of the pastoral team, knew about the abuse. There were even a couple of incidents of assault during church services. So these people knew what was happening to us, and they let it happen.

Sunday church services were always difficult for me. I had to pretend that all was well in the world, and be a good little Christian girl, otherwise there would be trouble when I got home. So I pretended with every ounce of my energy, and I was pretty good at it. But it was hard.

Church was her place to show off how holy she was, how close she was to god. She would sing in the worship team. When she wasn’t on the singing roster, she would dance at the back of the church with flags, while singing in tongues. If people came up the front for prayer she would be there, praying in tongues. Even if she believed it all, it felt like a hell of a performance for a woman who would have been screaming at us in the moments before leaving for church.

Sitting in the church, it all came rushing back. Not just the stuff associated with the church, but waves of memories of all sorts. They crashed over me and I struggled to hold back tears and terror. That was her place, the place she ‘belonged’, and those ties tugged at the corners of my mind.

I tried to block it out and concentrate on my exam. I succeeded to an extent, but every time I finished a train of thought, the memories would come back and try to take me away. I ended up writing a decent exam, I think, but it could have been so much better.

I have to go back there tomorrow. It’s too late to change my exam venue to somewhere else. I really didn’t think it would be a problem, but it turns out that it really is. My exams next semester will have to be in the city, but it’s only twenty minutes drive. It’s worth it to hold on to my sanity.


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