The Unfair Way My Teacher Responded When I Opened Up About My Anxiety and Depression
It was not the first time someone turned their back on me when I said I had depression. Still, it had a great impact in my life and sometimes it’s hard to accept it as true, especially because this situation was caused by a person that I used to admire: my English teacher.
I’m a senior in college and I like to think of myself as an adult. In this perspective, I try to deal with my problems in a practical manner and without shame whenever is possible. Even though I find it very hard to speak openly about my struggle with anxiety and depression, I decided to give it a shot and tell my teacher. Due to the high number of students in the same situation as myself, I naively believed that by being honest about why I missed most classes in the semester, I would receive some help or at least some kind of empathy on her part. This, however, does not mean I wanted to take advantage of it and be cleared of my faults and responsibilities in my studies. On the contrary, all I wanted and needed was a motivation to not give up, by knowing she was on my side.
“Depression?! Everyone has it these days. Just don’t be depressed,” she said.
The moment I heard that, I thought she was kidding. I wasn’t expecting a person of such intelligence, who occupies a position of importance in one of the best universities in the country, to also be possessed by such ignorance. I felt like crying and felt I could not trust anyone. I was afraid the help I so much hoped for and needed would never come. I wonder if she would say the same if it was a physical illness.
I kept telling her about my difficulties as if by doing it she would believe me. So, I told her about my difficulty in concentration and that, often during classes, I could not keep up with what was going on and so I would often prefer to stay quiet, afraid of being judged by her or mocked by my classmates, as it had happened before. I also told her I had been diagnosed and received treatment with specific drugs and therapy years before and I was thinking about seeking help in that way again. Instead, she tried to convince me I was making everything up and was depressed because I wanted to be.
“You are too young to do these things. These drugs won’t help you. You need to forget about it!” She said making me feel defeated.
What does age have to do with it? She was wrong in the same way I was by starting that conversation with her. Suddenly everything I lived with day by day — the sleepiness, the fatigue, the guilt, the feelings of worthlessness and helplessness, the loss of interest and pleasure — were just in my mind. I was fine. I just had to want to be fine.
Under those circumstances, I can say it left me weakened for a long period and all I felt was anger and the will to leave everything behind. However, the support of family and friends helped me get through it in a way that I understood the support I needed should come from myself and not from others. So, maybe I have to thank her for being unprepared and hard on me, unintentionally, or I would never realize my disability is an important matter and I should care about myself more.
In the long run, the acknowledgment of mental illness remains important and indispensable for educators and people who work with young people, mainly in educational institutes. It is already so difficult to open up and ask for help, so if you are a teacher or a person who others may come to ask for help you should, at least, try to be empathetic by encouraging the person to talk and not hold it just to themselves. Understanding is hard for those who have never lived it personally, but respect is fundamental and, if you think you are not able to help, just let someone else who really can do it. Just please, don’t try to convince someone your truth is absolute and the only one. Many lives can be saved by providing everyone’s right to hope.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Thinkstock photo via Jetta Productions