I adore TEDTalks. I enjoy the format, straight to the topic sharing by speakers who really do not sugar coat their opinions.
Andrew Solomon, in his TEDTalk “Depression: the secret we share” opens up with the words, “I felt a funeral in my brain and mourners to and fro kept treading, treading ’til I felt that sense was break through.”
After I took a couple of days off from work, what I called my mental health days, and straight into the weekend for four days off in a row, I went back to work on a Monday and had a mini meltdown. In my zombie-like existence, I managed through the day with a plastic smile and softly mechanically kept my distance from students. I strategically planned a quiz so that they’d focus on the assessment, anything else but me. My colleagues rave on the great rapport I have with students, but they don’t know the whole truth.
I went into a depression relapse.
I tried praying silently. It didn’t help. I felt so desperate, so close to tears, yet bottled everything deep down inside. I texted my sister-in-law, and deleted it. She’s a pastor and I know I’d get (lovingly) reprimanded for losing faith. It hurt so much just just to exist. She later said to me, “Of course you had a mini-breakdown! Who wouldn’t after four days off of work?”
When I was feeling better, I sent a text to her and updated her on my mood. I went home and clicked on a Facebook post that featured the above TedTalks.
It helped somewhat. I felt connected, enough that I saved the talk to ‘my favorites’ because I needed to know that I could access it again soon. I don’t want to lose that feeling of connecting to someone who understands. It comforts me for some strange reason I cannot explain. I don’t know who Andrew Solomon is or am I familiar with his work, but it was perfect timing. Could it have been answer to prayer? I won’t dismiss it.
The basic gist is that I don’t feel alone when I hear someone else’s experience with depression. I don’t feel worthless and alone in the midst of so many people. I’m past wanting to hurt myself now, so I at least know I am overcoming this depression. . . however slowly. I am still here.
Truth be told. I do wonder (and worry) that I might affect my students negatively. As I am writing this post, I do recall an instance with one of my students:
“What kind of a mood is she in?” asked Serenity, a lovely Polynesian girl, with long hair twisted atop her head in a tight bun. She peeked into the classroom from the hallway.
“She’s smiling this morning,” answered Gracie, who anxiously looked at the front of the class. She stopped talking as I walked into the other door from the front of the class.
“Good morning, Miss,” said Serenity rather cheerfully.
“Morning girls.” Serenity was now hanging out with Gracie, perusing through a magazine, and smiled at me. “What are you two up to?”
“Nothing!” They both answered. I smiled and walked toward my desk as they exchanged looks. With the sound of the warning bell, teenagers stomped into classes like a stampede.
Later during the 5th period of the day, Gracie balked at finishing the response draft she was editing as I hovered over her shoulder. “I don’t want to to do this anymore!”
“What’s the matter? You’re doing just fine. Remember, writing is a messy process.” I walked over to where her neighbor ransacked through his backpack, looking for his notes.
“I hate writing!”
“Yeah, well. Sometimes we gotta do what we gotta,” I said. “When we practice drafting and revision to communicate more clearly.”
“Miss?” she broached as I circled again toward her desk.
“Nevermind,” Gracie said hesitantly, tapping her pencil and brushing off eraser crumbs from her paper.
“Go ahead,” I urged. “You can ask me whatever you want, right? I’ll always try to be as honest as I can with you, with everyone.”
“I don’t want to ask,” she said quietly, looking to the floor in front of her. “You’ll get mad.”
“Why would I get angry?” Her table mates stopped their movement and braced themselves. Loose leaf folder paper floated from the unkempt binder her neighbor placed on his desk.
“Because you get grumpy at the end of the day,” Gracie said.
“Oh.” I stood dumbfounded, unfazed, expressionless, and felt every eye in the room tuned in to our conversation. I managed a small smile, (but it probably came out as a smirk) and answered cautiously. I turned to face her. “You’ve noticed that huh?”
“Yeah,” she smiled.
“Well, it is the last period of the day.”
“You’re in a way better mood in the morning,” she said. “I’d rather have your class in mornings than in the afternoon.”
“Well that’s how our rotating schedule goes, eh?”
“So it’s not just our class?”
“Nah,” I answered. “I’m the same with every other class.”
She giggled. “Well, you’re way nicer and funnier in the mornings. But you like us best ‘cuz we’re you’re favorite class!”
“I don’t have a favorite class.”
“You like us better than Josiah’s class.”
“You have Josiah in one of your other classes? Then you know his class is not my favorite!” Gracie chuckled and slapped the table. “Aw, Miss….. I can’t wait to tell him you said that! It’s okay if you get grumpy in the afternoons, Miss. We still like you ‘cuz you’re real.”
“Thanks,” I said. “I try to be.”
“You’re still cool,” she continued.
“I’m glad you think so.” I started toward another group. “Get back to work.”
“Awww, Miss,” she whined. “But I like talking to you.”
“I know what you’re trying to do, Gracie. Back to work, please.” Several soft laughs echoed behind me as I conferenced with another group of students.
Kids say the darndest things….. and I know I’m okay, because I at least know it’s all about being real.
At least I keep trying to be.