Taking a full year off while preparing for the A levels would be unimaginable for most students (and their parents).

But it was necessary for the mental health of 20-year-old Megan Chan, a former Yishun Innova Junior College student, who received her results with the rest of her cohort last month.

“I think I was a bit of a perfectionist, wanting everything to be well, and school, with all the pressure of exams, provided a situation that was not ideal,” said Ms Chan, who suffered from anxiety and panic attacks.

“With the heightened anxiety, listening and understanding whatever was being taught was even harder, so it really affected my studies,” she said.

With the support of her school and parents, Ms Chan decided to take the year off after her first year of junior college, spending the time reading and working on her physical and emotional health.

“I just felt lost and without direction, but being able to have the control and independence to plan my days was really good for me,” she said.

“I used to dread waking up early for school but during that gap year, I slept at 10pm and woke up at 6am because I enjoyed the routine,” she added.

“I really appreciated that I had the choice to make my life how I wanted it to be and that I could live in the reality I was creating for myself.”

After a year of taking care of herself, Ms Chan, who has been working part-time at a child support centre while awaiting her results, decided to return to finish her A levels. She wanted to prove to herself that she could achieve what she had set out to do, and because she wanted to make her parents proud.

On Friday afternoon, Ms Chan received 80 out of a possible 90 rank points, a result she said her family and her are happy with.

When asked what she would say to somebody in a similar predicament as hers, Ms Chan said: “Nobody’s struggle is the same but I think they should recognise that having this condition is not a choice, and that you should hold on to the belief that there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

She plans to pursue either social sciences or business-related studies at university.

Text: Ng Wei Kai/The Straits Times