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How My Teacher, Who Is Also Chronically Ill, Taught Me It's OK to Not Be OK

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School. A place where you meet a wide range of fascinating people, have experiences that can shape your future and gain knowledge that can change your life. I was lucky enough to have the most wonderful 14 years in education and it was the place I met my inspiration: the teacher who convinced me it was OK to not be OK.


It was one morning around April/May when I slumped in the drama office chairs waiting for my job list to help with the summer production. I was familiar around the department as I helped out a lot with different events across the school calendar. As I walked into the office I came across a young university student who was doing her placement. It was a time when I wasn’t very good at opening up about how I felt regarding the arthritis pain and my other conditions so I was feeling extremely low. It just so happened a conversation sparked with this university student and little did I know this woman sitting in front of me would be the most inspirational and uplifting woman in my life.

The conversation went from general to the discovery that each of us were struggling with a chronic illness – her with endometriosis and me with juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Suddenly, within seconds of opening up to this woman, it occurred to me I had never been this honest about my feelings in the entire 10 years of living with JIA. Not being able to open up to doctors or family members was heartbreaking, but from this day on I knew I had made the first step on a long road of positivity. Don’t get me wrong, my life wasn’t transformed in our 10-minute conversation, but the minute I left that office that morning, I walked away believing in fate that you meet everybody for a reason.

I wasn’t sure if it was meant to be long-lived, but the ability to open up so confidently made me sure this woman was honest and caring. The perfect qualities for a future teacher. Time went on and each day I felt like I was becoming a stronger person because of this woman. It was very difficult for me to understand that it was OK not to be OK and the first step to getting better was accepting I was not doing well. With her gorgeous mottos and quotes, I was slowly becoming a better version of myself and the days which threw obstacles at me became easier to get through with her wisdom and conversations whenever I needed them.

In return for her care and advice, I fought for a job for her. She would be a complete asset to the education system and it’s safe to say I wasn’t ready to let her leave. To my luck she was offered a job as so many kids had become fond of her way of teaching and personality.

A new year and a new person I was. Faced with new challenges each day proved to be different but I knew with my inspiration behind me I could overcome anything. In life you can never underestimate the power of one person and it was so special to create a connection with another person under the most painful circumstances. I am a stronger person now and thanks to her I guess it’s OK to not be OK.

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Originally published: August 15, 2017
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