Look at me!
I’m an educator who does weird shit because of her depression, anxiety, and ADHD. I’m going to change the world by helping to start a dialogue about mental illness. I’m pretty much the most selfless person in the world.
I’m also completely full of shit.
And there is no better person to tell you that you are full of shit than a teenager. I was reminded of this last Friday. It was during the last class of the day. I heard a couple of kids talking about a boy. It seems this boy dresses all in black, is silent, and sullen. We have all seen this boy in high school, doesn’t matter if you graduated 50 years ago or last year. I jumped in with the advice that they shouldn’t judge the kid. You never know what is going on in someone’s life. He could suffer from mental illness.
“Oh, hell yes, he is totally crazy,” said one of my students.
I used my teacher voice and told the kids, “If you want to talk crazy, then you should know that I’m crazy. I suffer from depression and anxiety. It is a medical problem, not a fashion choice.” Teachable moment done. BAM!
They asked a few more questions. “What was the psych ward like? Are you crazy right now? What do the voices tell you to do? So all those vocabulary words you gave us could have been totally made up?”
I answered, “The psych ward was a good time, met nice people, and they had good food. I am a high school teacher, so I am crazy at all times. The voices tell me to teach you The Great Gatsby. I have made up every vocabulary word so far this semester, I’m surprised you just caught on.”
I have always used humor. I use humor to deal with difficult situations, I use humor to teach, and I use humor to avoid reality. I’m just that fucking funny.
I moved the class back to being on topic. I was satisfied that the kids were now aware that they knew a functioning adult who suffered from mental illness and wasn’t stereotypical. *pat myself on back*
3:30 came along and the Friday bell rung. The kids rolled out and I took a breath. I was getting tired. I was getting too tired. I need to check on that.
One girl hung back. I like this kid. Of course, I like all my students (some just more than others). She is a confident and beautiful young lady. She had called me out a few times in class for being wrong about something, and she was totally right each time. I love that! She is very intelligent. I can imagine that most of the general population must exhaust and/or bore her. She stood in front of my desk until the room emptied.
Her: “I have a problem with you.”
Me: “I have a lot of problems with me too.” (default humor)
Me: “What’s wrong?”
Her: “You made it seem like it is fun. It isn’t fun. I was in the hospital for 6 months and I can assure you that it was not fun.
Me: “Holy Shit! 6 months! I was there for 4 days and it felt like a lifetime.”
Her: “You made it sound like it was a little vacation at the funny farm.”
Me: “I’m so sorry. I guess I use humor to deal with difficult things. I just want people to be more comfortable talking about mental illness.”
Her: “Then stop joking about it and be real. You and I know that this is real. Remember your worst day? Now, imagine going through your worst day while also trying to get through a day of high school. On top of that, you are undiagnosed and not under the care of a doctor.”
I had no reply. I couldn’t wrap my head around what she said. I couldn’t imagine a kid having to go through that much misery. We kept talking for a while. She had been through a lot and was such a strong person. As she left, she told me that she was glad she had found me, even if I was full of shit.
The moral of this story is something very profound. It has something to do with the teacher learning from the student, or you never stop learning, or the student surpassing the teacher who learns a lesson from the teacher’s teacher.
Fuck it, that girl schooled me.