I grew up in a time of secrets. People were expected not just to always put their best foot forward, but keep personal things personal. As a kid you spent a lot of time wondering about something you heard about someone, or someone’s dad, grandma, sibling or other. There were a lot of unspoken things out there. You didn’t for sure know them, but you could feel them. So and so got pregnant, was an alcoholic, was gay, cheated on their spouse, was broke, or god forbid- was seeing a shrink.
A lot of people kept everything that could potentially be embarrassing or looked upon as a weakness in the dark. There were a lot of kids sitting right next to each other in a classroom who were each fighting major, and sometimes the same, battles. However, they were silent warriors who fought in solitude. That was toughness, that was honor. Lots of people would have helped them, but they would never know the battle that was raging, so they couldn’t.
I grew up and became a teacher. One of the greatest things about becoming a teacher is the amount of learning you get to do. Often time it is the students who are the instructors. I’ve learned there is something very different about the generation that came after mine; they have a lot less secrets. They are open, they are transparent. They don’t feel like they have to put on the front of being perfect all the time. Most of them feel very little shame about it, and they are right.
When I first started to realize this, I was taken slightly aback. I couldn’t believe how open kids were about what I would consider to be highly personal things. The types of issues that my generation kept to themselves. One time a girl very candidly shared with the class about how her father was in jail because of drug crimes, and the problems it had created for her family. She also emotionally shared how she was rooting for him to get clean, because she still loved him dearly. It was uncomfortable, but so valuable for others to hear. I have heard students in class talk about their own battles with anxiety, depression, abuse, and addiction. Also, in the past decade, I have seen numerous other young adults post on social media about similar, once suppressed challenges.
To me, they are all teachers. They are all brave. They are all heroes.
Since the days of cavemen, older generations have always been critical of the ones who followed. These days, you don’t have to search very hard to hear and see the words: “crybabies”, “snowflakes”, or the “everyone gets a trophy generation.” What the older people often fail to do is recognize the contributions and qualities that the youth bring, and what can be learned from them. There are many things we can learn from the young, but the biggest might be their willingness to share their imperfections.
When people are open and transparent about their battles, it does a number of important things:
It provides those around them the opportunity to care for them.
It provides the relief from secrecy that is vital to healing.
And most importantly:
It sends a message to others that says, “You are not alone. You are not the only one who fights battles. I’m not perfect either.”
Their openness is unselfish, and it might be the thing that saves another.
Thank you to those young and old that are honest and open. Thank you for helping me grow.
Today, for the second time, I saw a special lady, a mental health therapist. I like her, and plan on seeing her many more times. Thanks to my teachers, I’m not ashamed one bit to say it loudly. No one has batted an eye when I’ve told them I’m going in for an M.R.I., a C-scan, blood tests, and echocardiogram, etc., nor should they bat an eye if I go see a professional about my mental health. If they do, it is a reflection of them, not me.
The last few months have been pretty challenging for me. No, I’m not in danger, and am not looking to hurt myself, but i don’t like the direction I feel I’m heading. I want to nip that feeling in the bud before I might get to a place that I can’t get out of. To quote one of my new favorite philosophers, Tyrion Lannister, “Death is so boring, especially now with so much excitement in the world.”
I’m not writing this to worry you, or to seek attention. I’m writing in hopes that it might spur someone else to get the same kind of help if they feel they might need it. I’m hoping that I might help someone who is feeling reluctant or timid about seeking professional mental health treatment to overcome that trepidation.
I fully plan on returning to a life lived with the joy and enthusiasm of a child playing in a puddle. I just might need some help getting back there. Thank you to all of those open and sharing souls who have lit your lanterns to help guide me in the dark. You are my heroes.