Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Most Miserable Midterm... all the time, God is good


I went through my test one last time before going to hand it in to the lady at the front desk of the Offices of Special Services.

"... I was only informed right before I took the test," I said.
"that must have heightened your anxiety," she said.

I flipped open my test in front of her to reveal the first page -- tear stained, covered with scratches and extensive marks of frustration, wrinkled, and a stream of numbers from 1 to 63 where I got stuck on 63 and wrote it out 12 times.

"Yeah."
Maybe a little....

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With SPD and ADHD, preparations for a test go way beyond simply studying.

Studying just insures that the knowledge might be somewhere in my head - but there are extensive mental preparations I take to best optimize my chance of having the test represent my knowledge. This includes testing at the Office of Special Services where it's completely silent and I get extra time to process my thoughts and go through my brain-catalogue.

Here are a few other things I do to prepare for a test:
  • Get a solid 8-9 hours of sleep before. That means, never ever partake in late night studying. I'll normally stop studying by either 1 PM or 6 PM the previous day. There's a point when I'm simply no longer productive.

  • Schedule the test when my meds are at their peak. For me, that's between 10:30 and 12:30.

  • Eat super super well. That means a substantial breakfast and a packed lunch to snack on just before I head in. Protein foods are a must. Today, my secondary food with protein was also a comfort food - Brown Cow Maple Cream Top. I also consumed curried red lentil soup, herb salad, rye crackers, carrots, and tomatoes.

  • Walk through the day in my head multiple times. No surprises. I'm prepared.

  • Feel confident in the material. Enter the test feeling like I've got what I need to know in my brain.

  • Get rid of all anxiety.

  • Go for a walk around campus before the test.

  • Wear the right, comfortable clothes.

  • Pray. Pray. Pray. For peace, wisdom, strength, endurance --- and focus.
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Today I had two midterms to take. One in economics and one in logic. I wasn't worried about either.

Logic comes to me pretty quickly. I see. I get it. I duplicate the procedures and the get the right answer.

With economics? Well, let's just say on the last exam, over 1/3 of the class got a C or less. As he handed back our papers, he said it was very very rare that someone got 100% on that exam but one student had this class. He handed me my paper and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the student he was referring to was me. Good start for the quarter.

I walked into the Office of Special Services, prepared to take my test.

"Are you Margaret?" a woman I was less familiar with asked me.
"Yes..." I said.
"Margaret, unless you can get documentation you won't be able to type your test," she said.
"Wait.. today?" I asked.

I've been typing my tests at this school since the first quarter and I could write an extensive story on how this came to be.

"No. You'll have to handwrite it."
I was only told minutes before the test.

Now, this doesn't seem like a huge deal to most folks but to me, it changed everything. This changed not only my capability of communicating my knowledge to the professor but also my mental state.

Mental state. Sane? Ha!
I went from steady on solid ground to shaky anxiety.
Good bye schedule. Good bye predictability.
On a lot of days, changes in schedule is fine, but on this one, I had been doing everything to avoid complications...

For my first test (which I had intended to handwrite from the start) wasn't there so I had to travel the campus to get it from my teacher who took forever to get it to me as he talked to another professor in the class while the rest of my class took the test. Then I had to walk back hand them the test and take it. Nothing big - but for me, a girl who loves schedules and knowing what to expect, this was just another wave knocking my boat off course.
"Strong Craving for Order, Routine: [Folks] with SPD challenges often crave order and routine. Since they cannot make appropriate sense of things, predictability seems to help keep them calm." Here.

To get "centered" again, I sharpened my pencils.
All of them.
Manually.

Then I took the first test in logic.

And it went fine... I guess.

Then came the Econ test right after.

The charts and graphs came easy. I love making those. Makes sense.

But, in flipping through the test, I felt overwhelmed as I realized the amount I would have to write. Essay question after essay question.

So, what is the big deal with me and hand writing? I'm 20. I should be able to handle a simple change in the way I communicate.
Why was I typing in the first place? Three things. First, SPD. There is a very likely possible connection between that and my fine motor skills - like writing with a pen or pencil. Second, I was never taught how to hold a pencil correctly. Third, I was never taught cursive.

Now, with typing, I can express myself almost as fluently as talking. I can write nearly as fast as I talk. This means, in taking a test, when I type, I can actually express the knowledge in my brain to the professor. I can actually let him know what I'm thinking and what I'm capable of doing.
But, being 20, I should be able to be flexible. I am working on that, really am, but for me, this was major. In that one moment of time, things changed. To put it into perspective for you normal folks... say you had a huge midterm and the teacher showed up at your house at 6 AM the day of the test and handed you a dull orange crayon and asked you to do the test there and then on your doorstep. It would be disorienting. Not what you had planned. Not what you were prepared for.
I grabbed my biggest pencil and pounded it into the paper with frustration.
I looked out the window, trying to hold it together, but before I knew it I was crying. I'm not one to cry that often. Can't even remember the last time I cried. This is embarrassing. It's just a test. Tests don't phase me. They don't bother me. But that one curve ball...

I was overwhelmed to the point of feeling hopeless. My routine was gone. Something majorly unexpected had happened. My mind was obsessed with the change in routine and wouldn't move on.
But, luckily, I've got a good and mighty God who can do good and mighty things.
See, right before the test, I had sent a text out to a few amazing Christian friends to pray for me and the test. I hadn't really known why - I felt good about the upcoming the test - but I felt like I should. I wanted this test covered in prayer. Why this test above all others? I felt more confident in how I would do then I had in a while. I felt capable. Why, of all times, did I feel the need to ask for prayer?

Definitely a God thing.

Message Sent Out: I've got two midterms in 50 minutes and would love it if you would pray for me. Likewise, if you've got any prayer requests, let me know. - Magi-

Messages Received:
Eric: of course magi. I would like prayer for humility. Good luck magi! I know you ll do great.Christian: Maggie! What a pleasant surprise! I'll absolutely pray for you.Jenny: I will pray indeed!Nicole: Yes! Of course i will :) let me know how they go and i would just love some prayer in time management... :) thank you!Austin: Definitely magi. Good luck! You'll do great!Sarah: I now you'll be amazing! Praying for you.
What amazing, encouraging friends I've got!
Anyways, God heard and God was there. God is always there, I know, but he made his presence known.

At the peak of my overwhelment (I know that's not a word), I remembered a phrase my Grandma Dorothy has written EVERYWHERE.

"Are you forgetting the power of the Lord?"
She has it written in cross stitch on her wall, on the front page of her Bible, the last page, the second to the last. I saw her yesterday and it stuck with me.

I also remembered a chapter Eric had sent me the day before, Psalm 150. It talks about praising God. A lot.

God is more powerful than SPD or ADHD.

Another verse that came to mind was Philippians 4:6-7.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

And I got some peace.

Now, I can't say the test went amazing -- but there was a turn around point after I gave it to God.

I am grateful for my friends' prayers.
I am grateful for my friends.

I got the test completed. I could not have done it relying on my own strength. I was too overwhelmed, stressed, and frustrated.

It was humbling. When I think I can do something on my own, with my own strength, God comes and says, "Nope! You gotta rely on me!" I thought I had this test down. Well, guess I didn't. Glad I relied on God before it was too late...

Anyways, that's the story of the most miserable test I took and how it turned into a teachable moment.

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