With R U OK Day tomorrow I felt I needed to share a story because for a long time I was not ok. I actually still struggle with being ok.
A lot of my hurt and sadness I project into anger. I couldn't tell you how I do this automatically but I'm pretty sure it is a defense mechanism. Then again I'm no psychologist so what would I know?
During my struggle in my teenage years there were very few people I would open up and talk to.
It's funny, how when you're in the moment you cannot see the things people are doing to try and help you. It's not until many years down the track do you realise how much those people cared for you.
I was a pretty good student. I had a smart mouth, but I always had my work done and pulled good grades with little effort. I was introverted but chatty like any teenage girl was. Teachers usually had a laugh and rolled their eyes at me. They also often attempted to "catch me out" for not paying attention by calling on me and it was rare I wouldn't somehow fake up some answer that passed.
I often wonder how much high school teachers notice. I am certain they hear all the gossip, just as I'm certain they tune out to a lot of it because they'd rather not know.
I had a teacher once that caught me off guard.
Teachers tend to come in, teach the lesson, and move on to the next class. Not for a lack of caring I don't think, but because there is always bound to be a student in each class with "an issue".
On this particular day we entered the class, he put up the work on the overhead we needed to copy into our books and explained what it was then he came over to my desk as I began to write and quietly asked me to go outside.
A few minutes passed and then he joined me outside and he said "Miss Pink, Are you ok?"
I so desperately in that moment wanted to spill everything. To have an adult take care of all that was swirling inside of my head, but I had had years of covering it up. I put on a dazzling smile and said something about being tired from working on an assignment the night before.
He dropped it but had brought a copy of the work out for me and told me to work outside of the class for the day.
To this day I do not know what made him pull me out of class to ask this question. I had had him as a teacher in previous years and had never seen him pull a kid out of class unless they were being really naughty. I wasn't crying in class or particularly sullen. I actually distincly remember thinking "What have I done?" and trying to prepare my mind to come up with an excuse for whatever it might have been.
Over the rest of the school year there were little things this teacher did, like he would sometimes tell me to go work just outside the class in the sun and set me up with my own work just like that day and each time I would fret about how I am appearing to those around me and find that no, I looked as normal as ever. Or there were days when I couldn't pay attention and I wouldn't be called on (versus the days I was too busy chatting or doing the wrong thing and then I'd be called on every ten minutes). And looking back I wonder, Did he know? Could he see through my exterior?
I didn't get help then. I couldn't bring myself to ask for it when I needed to the most, and it wasn't for a few more years yet until I was able to make myself talk to my GP.
My biggest regret is not having said "No I'm not ok" that day. But then I wonder what would a teacher do? Talk to my parents? Leave it to them to help me? That wasn't what I needed, and it wouldn't have helped. Still I regret not having asked for help.
If you're not ok, if you suspect your teenager isn't ok please don't ignore it.
If you don't want to talk to your parents, or your child doesn't want to talk to you then suggest a third party.
The Kids Helpline is a free councelling service for young Australian's aged 5 -25 years. You can choose what information you share so the call can be completely anonymous. You can contact one of their trained councellors on 1800 55 1800.
And don't be afriad to ask "R U OK?"
Even if you have to ask it more than once.