Things I Wish My Instructors Knew About My Mental Illnesses

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve realized that these past few weeks have been difficult – sometimes even downright hopeless – for me. While my therapist and I are working on it, my last session with him had largely been to address my daily suicidal feelings and my self-harm thoughts that are triggered by any high stress situation (like having to finish an assignment or being at work). I’ve since realized that school is definitely one the triggers for my feelings of hopelessness and downward spiral into negativity.

I’ve also since realized now that I’ve come up with a list of things that I wish my instructors/Professors knew (I usually call my teachers “instructors” because not everyone who teaches in college is a “professor” by title and to call people “professors” when they don’t have professorship or doctorates, at least to me, is a misnomer) about my mental illnesses.

  • I wish my Algebra and Trigonometry II instructor knew just how powerful his words are – especially the ones that are more negative in tone.
    • I know he’s not addressing me specifically when he says things but hearing him say things like, “Have you guys forgotten everything you’ve learned in high school?” or “Come on guys. No one knows what they’ve learned in Geometry?” really triggers my anxiety because first of all, I feel the overwhelming need for him to know that I was rubbish at math back in high school (I didn’t know I have ADHD and also problems understanding math when not explained to me in a step-by-step way) while secondly, I felt that it was an unfair assessment of I who had not been in high school since 2005. It also triggers my anxiety because it makes me feel like I’ve somehow failed; that I’m somehow just not smart enough to even remember what I learned in high school. In retrospect, how can I remember something that I wasn’t even able to fully comprehend back then? I know I shouldn’t feel so bad about what he said but I can’t help it.
    • I wish my math instructor also understood that whenever he says, “Well, you can do your homework until Question 30 but the A+ students will do Questions 31-34 too”, my anxiety-riddled brain interprets that as “You’re stupid unless you do Questions 31-34 as well… Oh but I know you won’t, because you’re stupid and lazy…”.
    • I wish he knew just how much his speed and flighty nature affects my anxiety in class. I am somewhat convinced that my instructor has ADHD in some way or form. He goes from topic to topic, then back to the original topic, then forward to a different sub section, then back to the original topic etc – and this all happens within an hour of class. He is difficult to follow and in my heightened anxious state which had been triggered by any previous comments he’s made, usually send me to a high stress situation that prompts me to feel hopeless and overwhelmed.
    • Though I understand that he’s trying to make sure that all the other students, who may not be as motivated, are working hard, I wish he understood that due to my anxiety disorder, it would make me feel like I’m not working hard enough.
  • I wish my Architectural Presentation instructor knew just how much I struggle to finish my work when my classmates are talking and would address this in class a lot more often.
    • Yes, I know we’re all supposed to be adults. Yes, I know that as an adult, I should be able to just tell my classmates that they’re being disruptive myself, instead of having to rely on another adult to do it for me. However, I do have social anxiety as well as generalized anxiety disorder, which means that it makes me less likely to want to engage my classmates – especially in situations where I’d feel threatened. She did tell my classmates to keep their chatter to a minimum while we worked but her “advice” goes by the wayside soon enough and aside from plugging my ears with my earphones, I felt helpless. I also wish that I am not so “cowardly”- but that’s another topic for another time.
    • I wish she also knew how much I appreciate her wry sense of humor. It has allowed me to laugh at some of things she has said because I realize that I get what she’s getting at. Getting a joke often makes me feel included and thus, gives me a sense of belonging to the group. This is important to me as I often feel like I don’t belong.
  • I wish my Color and Design instructor knew just how much she’s doing for me with her kindness and her encouragement.
    • I was late for her class one day because I had to attend an on-call therapy session with the on-call clinician at the Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS) center. I had explained my lateness to her afterwards at the end of class and told her that I had to go in to manage a potential crisis (in which I was contemplating self harm again). She was somewhat alarmed (I guess I would be to if someone made me privy to such a sensitive information) and had asked me if she needed to keep my X-acto knife safe from my reach for the weekend. I wish she knew just how much care she showed me with that 5 minute conversation we had. She showed me that there is at least one person out there who cares that I wanted to cut myself and that there is at least one person out there who doesn’t want me to harm myself.
    • My ADHD and depression addled brain had also mixed up due dates for a written report. I felt exceedingly embarrassed and profusely apologized while explaining that this was not a normal occurrence for me (as I never forget assignments) but she assured me that it wasn’t the end of the world and that I should email it to her by the end of the day. She had also written me an email after receiving my submission. Her words exactly: “I am glad you are taking care of yourself. That is important. And giving yourself a little break seems to be just what you need right now. It is not the end of the world.” I wish she knew how much I needed to hear that and how much it meant to me that she said that. Sometimes it’s hard for me to accept some simple truths and I was glad that she pointed them out to me.
  • I wish my Speech and Communication instructor realize just how much he inspires me.
    • I’ve not felt much as I’ve suppressed most of my emotions and so motivation and inspiration are also two things that have not made much appearance in my life lately. However, after meeting my Speech instructor, I realized just how much I could accomplish and just from his mannerism and what he taught in our first class, I realized that I could in turn, inspire others to success. It made me want to go back to teaching and to look into getting a tutoring job to achieve that goal.
    • I also wish that he knew just how important it was that he had allowed me to speak about the impact of depression in my life in my last speech. By allowing me to speak on such a sensitive issue, he also gave me the opportunity to touch others and to spread some awareness – two things that are important to me. He had also actually helped me form some of my thoughts and ideas by asking me directed questions that really sparked the creative juices in my mind.
    • (I think somehow, my Speech instructor understands just how hard a class on speaking in public can be for me and so I hear a lot of encouraging comments from him and I often get a pat on the back for a job well done. He’s good at fitting his responses to the type of personality he encounters, that’s for sure! I wish I could be as flexible and savvy!)

So there you go. Some of the things that I wish my instructors knew, both the positive and the negatives. I do owe my instructors a lot for their guidance and help so far in the program. Every little interaction I have with them, be it positive or negative, holds great power in shaping who I am and who I will become.

Just like how my therapist helps me emotionally, my instructors are supplementing what I’m learning with my therapist and all together, they’re supporting the me in recovery. I’d like to think that I am growing into a newer version of me; one who is more confident, emotionally stable with concern for others as well as myself and one who is no longer afraid of the past and will forge headlong into the future!

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