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March Madness: Alone

Joined: 9/2/2013
Posts: 8
The shrill sounds of screaming pierce my ears as panic escapes from my student's mouth. She screeches and screeches until suddenly the shouting ceases and turns into cackling and pure, sadistic laughter which bursts out from within her. By now, she has hopped out of her seat and is rocking in an unsteady motion. Her eyes bulge out from her head and appear hollow and distant. Just as quickly, as the episode starts, it stops. Stricken, I run to her and ask her what is wrong. “I had a vision that Lady Gaga will have a baby in 2020,” she prophesizes so matter of fact. The rest of the class snickers under their breaths while sharing smirks of amusement with one another. My boy with autism covers his ears and curses her for the disturbance. My lesson, now, is clearly in shambles and has little hope of being resurrected. Is this a class prank that my students constructed to get me off task in order to shift the attention from learning to utter pandemonium? No, this is mental illness.
I am a special education teacher at a high school. That girl has schizophrenia and autism. The rest of that class have a variety of disabilities ranging from mild intellectual disabilities to hearing impairments and autism. However, that one particular girl stands out the most. She mutters to herself, cries out in terror, kicks the air as she battles imaginary demons, and spouts off bizarre facts. Wherever she goes, she is sure to blaze a trail of a certain stigma – which she is crazy and everyone should stay away. Her mumblings and off-the wall antics often beset a chorus of laughter from ignorant and unassuming people. Meanwhile, society has taught to accept people with disabilities and treat them with dignity and respect. No one should be laughing and making fun of someone's misfortunes.
Yet, often mental illness is looked down upon. Parents hustle their children away from the man talking to himself in the park, and young adults avoid the teenager who cuts herself. Are we afraid that whatever they have, we will get if we come too closely? On the other hand, passersby are quick to hold the door open for a man in a wheelchair. No one laughs at the little girl with cancer. Only an evil person would tauntingly wave an object in front of a blind person. A certain stigma is often not attached to physical disabilities as it is to mental illnesses. A person with a brace or a walker or a hearing aid can be included or be a friend. But the person with depression, ADHD, or bi-polar disorder is a nuisance or a hassle and is best to just be excluded from the rest of the “normal” people.
Sadly, these individuals suffer from a real illness just like leukemia or Parkinson's disease. They do not want to feel as if they should hide from society because they are too ashamed of their illness. They want to be listened to and talked to. Most importantly, they want people to understand them.
My student shuffles out of class amid the throngs of people flooding the hallways. She absentmindedly sways back and forth and utters about her most recent vision. She draws a few stares and perplexed looks, but, other than that, no one pays her much attention. She has no one with whom to laugh or share stories from class. She is alone with her thoughts. Then, there, among it all, another girl stops, says her name, and smiles. My student smiles back.
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Comment by thiegsr

Joined: 11/6/2008
Posts: 702
On behalf of the entire editorial board, I would like to congratulate you for your “Alone” March Madness / Mental Health essay being selected as our first place adult essay winner.

Be proud of your accomplishment and be proud of yourself for having the bravery to share your story.

We will be contacting you via your registration email to give you details about your prizes.

Thanks for adding your voice to our mission “Changing the World . . . One Story at a Time."

Rebecca Thiegs Co-Founder and Education Consultant
Posted: Monday, April 7, 2014 4:26:32 PM
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