I was only going to share this link on my facebook page because it struck so many cords and it is so important from so many perspectives, but as I kept reading it and I started sobbing uncontrollably, I thought this article deserved more than just a share. Why are coping mechanisms for mental health and anxiety seen as so negative, it baffles me.
I grew up with a very unstable mental health. I started having eating disorders when I was very young, panic attacks, very morbid thoughts, and an all around constant anxiety. Paired with a very low self-esteem and absolutely no confidence, I struggled daily. And yet I did everything I could to hide it – my big brother is dyspraxic (a diagnosis he only got when he was older), and my little brother suffered from severe social phobia. My mum was fighting their battles as well as her own and I felt like I couldn’t be this other burden when all I wanted was to make her happy.
Obviously, as much as I wanted to pretend like everything was okay, sometimes it didn’t work. I missed class quite a lot – I wrote down the dates in a notebook so they wouldn’t be too close because I didn’t want people to be suspicious, but once every two weeks I told my mum I was feeling unwell and stayed home with her, alone. I looked forward to these moments – as much as I loved growing up with a lot of siblings and my mum was absolutely dedicated to us, time alone with her was very precious. And the anxiety of having to go to class, potentially fail, be mocked and bullied, quieted down a little bit.
I thought I was getting away with it until two of my high school teachers discussed my absences and one of them fell down on me one day. He told me, “We’ve figured out your little game”, and I will never forget the massive panic that rose in me like a balloon, taking all the space in my stomach and lungs and preventing me from breathing.
And today I am very angry.
He made me feel guilty and he made me feel like a failure, when I was struggling daily and still doing everything I could to cope with it alone. I was terrified of telling my mum I wasn’t well. I was terrified of seeing a therapist, as the one I saw at some point when I must have been around 9 told me something I probably misunderstood, and traumatised me.
All my drawings and paintings in arts class were women dying in different ways. One day in creative writing, when I was 14, we had to write about a character having to take a decision and weighing the pros and cons – my character was a woman wanting to kill herself and did it in the end.
And yet NO ONE EVER WARNED ANYONE. No one called my mum in. No one told the school nurse or doctor to see me. Very literally, in the academic world, NO ONE CARED.
On the contrary, I got told off because of the days I couldn’t cope with that anxiety anymore. Never mind that I was always in the top 3 of my class.
All these things I’ve taken with me today, and that’s why it’s so hard for me to work. This article is why I’m hoping that with accommodations, I’ll be able to be successful the way success is to me.
Obviously there are other factors to my communicating issues – but the fact that whenever I tried to talk about my problems at school or with fellow comrades, with whichever tool I could use at the time, it was completely dismissed or ignored, has made me into someone who thinks that my problems aren’t legitimate, worth listening to, and worse, that I’m not worth it.
I hope this article goes far and wide and that the world becomes a place where people and students aren’t seen as numbers anymore – “90% success in this degree”, yay – but as people with their own struggles, legitimate and valid, and that everyone makes the effort to try and make life easier for others.