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To the Teacher Who Made My Mental Health a Priority

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Dear Teacher,

How do I even begin to write this letter, when I know the words I put on paper will never truly be enough to thank you for all you have done for me? But I have been thinking quite intensely lately and decided there is a lot I want to say to you, a lot I want you to know. I have to start somewhere, so I will start from the beginning.

Flashback to September 2007, the beginning of my 6th-grade school year. I spent the summer being teased and battling what was the beginning stage of what now seems to be a life-long struggle with depression. It’s safe to say that I was not looking forward to coming to school. I remember walking into your class, third period, in a completely new school, unsure of what to think. I have never been a huge fan of science, but with you, that would quickly change. You took the chance to get to know me — you took interested in my hobbies, and helped me discover my talents. You went so far as to relate the material you taught to your student’s interests. In my case, this was soccer. You went out of your way to make sure learning was fun for me.

In 2008, I started self-harming. You were the only teacher brave enough to bring it up with me; the only teacher to ask if I was OK. You invited me to spend lunches in your classroom during lunch, even when you weren’t my teacher that year. You went out of your way to make sure I was OK, even when I was not your student anymore.

In 2009, when I was diagnosed with anorexia. You were the first person in school to bring it up to me. You were the first to make sure I was getting the help I needed. You were the first to gain my trust because, unlike everyone else, you came to me to talk first instead of my parents or the guidance counselors (I know you probably went to them right afterwards, but it meant the world to me that you came to me first).

In 2010, I graduated from middle school and moved on to high school. This did not stop us from keeping in contact though. You still made it a point to come support me at soccer games, and even when my illness kept me from playing, you supported me in every other way you could.

It is now 2017, and over the years, you have become not only one of my favorite teachers, but also one of my very best friends. You came to visit me in both psychiatric and medical hospitals, you came to visit me in another state for residential treatment for my eating disorder, and you even came to visit me at home when I was doing well. That meant the most to me, because my illnesses made me feel as though people forgot about me when I wasn’t sick. But I knew that you never did.

Many years have passed since I graduated from middle school, but we never lost contact. While we may not talk every day like we did when I had you as my teacher, we do still send each other many text messages and meet up for coffee or library sessions. Over the years, you have become one of the most supportive, most encouraging people in my life and I hope you know how much your friendship means to me.

There are so many more things I have to say, but simply not enough words to say them. So I will simply say this: thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I would not be the person I am today without you in my life.

Getty image via monkeybusinessimages

Originally published: April 16, 2018
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