As more and more people have discussed my student’s suicide, and as more and more of my students have opened up to me today, it’s come to light that this student was having some issues with depression. He was under the care of a doctor and was taking anti-depressants. According to one student (and yes, I realize that I cannot guarantee the validity of these statements) he’d recently switched medications. According to another student, this was not the first time he’d contemplated suicide.
So I have to ask myself, how ironic is it that this has come to light during Mental Health Awareness Month?
That’s what May is, if you didn’t know.
There’s a badge to the right of this text that says I’ll be blogging on May 18th for Post-partum Depression, which, in case you had any trouble figuring it out, falls under the umbrella of Mental Health Awareness.
Mental Health is a passion/pain of mine.
I was diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety disorder during my Junior year in college. This was not, however, the beginning of my road with depression. That began much earlier, in high school. I remember feeling down and sleeping a lot, but trying to be involved in everything so that I didn’t have to dwell on how I felt. As long as I was busy, I didn’t have to think.
And then I went to college. And I loved college. And not in the “drunk every night, skipping class, walk of shame” sense. I loved classes and learning and meeting people. And yes, I probably had my share of nights where I maybe had more to drink than I should have. And then I hit rock bottom.
I’d been rejected by a group of friends. My grades had suffered (Mostly B’s and a C. I can’t help it if I’m a nerd). I’d missed a promotion at work that I just *knew* was meant for me.
So, early in the Spring semester of 2004, I made an appointment at the counseling center on campus and that was the single-most difficult appointment I’ve ever made. I remember boldly telling my mother that I was going to see a counselor and instead of the dismissive comment that I thought I’d receive, I got a “good for you, Miranda. I hope you find the help you need. I love you.”
And then, in the period of time while I was in therapy, I met Dan and he, along with the wonderful counselor at CAPS and the psychiatrist who introduced me to Lexapro, helped me get better. They helped me overcome what was, at that point, the darkest period of my life (until I had a baby and began a battle with Post-partum Depression and Anxiety, which, while related to run-of-the-mill depression and anxiety, carries its own set of issues).
I would not be here had it not been for the people who championed me to get better. Had it not been for the care of my doctors and my new boyfriend and my mother and my friends.
And so I’m left to think of my student. A student who, as best I can tell, had a mother who loved him and a doctor who supported him. And who had friends by the dozens. Friends who would have, at the drop of a hat, done whatever they could to help him through this, even if it was something they didn’t fully understand.
So how did our situations turn out so differently?
How did I get better while he felt that taking his own life was the only solution?
I don’t have the answers. Again. Not having the answers is what makes me depressed in the first place. But there is no simple answer. I’m not even sure there’s a complex answer.
And not having the answers is what made today so difficult. Not being able to stand in front of my students who see the world in black and white and say “This is what happened and this is why it happened” made today the absolute most difficult day of my career thus far. And I know that I have a long way to go in my career. I’m nowhere near the end.
But days like today make me wonder how much I can handle.
And I can’t help but ask myself, knowing what I know about depression, how did I miss the signs? How did I not know that this young man needed help? How? HOW DID I MISS THIS? And I want to shake my fists at Heaven and God and shout about how unfair it is that my students, the students to whom I have dedicated my professional life, how unfair it is that they have to go through this. How unfair it is that they are so young and fragile and they have to learn about the harsh realities of life right NOW.
Today was hard. Really hard. And I find myself asking, if today was so hard, what will tomorrow be like?
Wednesday 12th of May 2010
I'm so sorry you are going through this, Miranda. I can only imagine how hard it is on you...and how you are feeling torn between two identities right now - the strong teacher who is there to support her grieving students and the grieving teacher who needs to process her own emotions. Has anyone for the Counseling Department offered support or come into your classes to help share the burden (not the right word...hope you know what I mean) of the situation? Do you trust those in your counseling office to call on them for extra help? Thinking about you and hoping that you get the time YOU need to deal with this situation.
Wednesday 12th of May 2010
Wow. This is one of those situations where you want to say something, but you don't know what. Life is weird. Who knows what everyone's background was like, but it's somewhere in there that leads some people to come out of the dark, some to just stay there and some to go deeper. Well, at the very least, it's an opportunity to open a pretty important discussion with your students. I'm breathing a big releasing sigh for you.
Tuesday 11th of May 2010
I'm really really sorry. I can't imagine how difficult that would be.