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To the Professors Who Acknowledged My Worth

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To my professors,

Thank you. You have absolutely no idea why, but thank you.

You have absolutely no idea how scared my parents and I were about me signing a lease or registering for classes, but thanks to you I’m doing a lot better in school than I could have imagined a few months ago. I can’t pretend at least some of the credit doesn’t go to you.

You have no idea how hard it was for me to get out of bed last semester. You have no idea how hard it was for me to go to class last semester. You have no idea that when I was in class I had panic attacks almost every other day. You just don’t have any idea. So, I wanted to say thank you.

To my Heretics, Militants and Rebels in the Islamic World Professor, who, when I was terrified that I had written a terrible paper on a medieval Shia sect, read it over and told me it was well done. You told me what I needed to change and gave me a passing grade with comments about how well I had written the paper. Even though I felt like a bumbling idiot in your office hours, you made sure I left confident. Later, after my first exam, you wrote comments on what I had gotten right and wrong. When I had passed, you commented with a job well done. Thank you.

To my Gender and Religion Professor, I sent my first draft in two weeks early, which is unusual for me, but again I was so afraid of failing I needed reassurance. You were happy to help and sent back real comments and critiques, and I added them into my paper. When I got my paper back you left a paragraph of comments with an overall positive message. The one that stands out for me was that I had set the tone for the rest of my comparative papers. You don’t know this, but I cried. Thank you.

To my Women in the 19th Century Professor, your class is remarkable. I have never felt more excited to walk into a classroom in my life, and I tell my therapist about it a lot when we talk about possible classroom exposure therapies. You have created an environment where people feel comfortable asking questions, even if they aren’t important to the lecture. You seem so genuinely excited to teach and share this information with us. Thank you.

To my Women in Literature Professor, you’re probably the only one on this list who has the vaguest of ideas about what I went through last semester. We were reading “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” and even though I enjoyed the novel, the idea of listening to my classmates talk about life in a psych ward made my stomach turn. I had no idea what to contribute in the discussion, which didn’t intertwine with my own experiences and terrified me. I didn’t want to tell a room full of strangers, some of which I openly disagreed with, about what my week in a behavioral health center was like and how mental health treatment has changed so much.

When I came to you to tell you this, my voice shook a little.

You said, “You don’t have to come to class. Your absences are excused. I’ll let you know when we’re done discussing it.”

It was over. I didn’t have to dread my grade, my classmates or discussion. Thank you.

These things by themselves feel small, but the reality is I spent months telling myself I was not good enough and that I wasn’t worthy of even the smallest act of kindness. Even though I’m in a much better place, on much better medication, have a solid therapy schedule and a great support system, it’s hard to shake those thoughts.

Yet, four people who have no reason to acknowledge my worth, did. Four people who had no reason to tell me I’m doing a good job, have told me so. They are small things that these people probably didn’t even think about, but they meant the world to me. To me, they mean I can move past my diagnosis and my hospitalization. It means I can graduate without all this weight on my shoulders. It means even though I might not believe it yet, I am good enough.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

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Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: November 18, 2016
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