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  • Writer's pictureJulie Love


From the Archive: April 2018

There’s negative feedback, and then there’s negative feedback. Like the recent evaluation which said I was ruining the nation, ending with “We need to build stronger people – not weaker ones.”

Of course I disagree. Not with the need to build stronger people, but with the idea that the presentation about Trauma does anything but. I think teaching children to have the mental flexibility to consider others’ perspectives, and to treat with compassion those who have been through trauma, or who struggle with any burden that they themselves are fortunate enough to avoid, makes for stronger individuals, and a stronger society. I think teasing and belittling those who are different indicates insecurity and weakness.

Oh, you think that’s not what the writer meant? You think they were referring to the people struggling with trauma or other mental health issues as the weak ones, needing to be toughened up? Well, that makes no sense. How on earth can you look at a person who goes through life carrying an overwhelming additional burden, yet still perseveres day after day, as anything but strong? They’re certainly a hell of a lot stronger than the people who taunt them!

Life is like a hike up a mountain. Some people are fortunate enough to be healthy, well-fed, and decked out with all the latest gear, and while it might be steep at times, it’s never a question whether they’ll be able to make it. Other people are visibly challenged – they’re on crutches, or wheezing with asthma, or barefoot with increasingly blistered feet. And then there’s the people who, unbeknownst to most of the rest, are carrying a backpack full of bricks. Every step is a struggle, made all the worse by their unencumbered peers who keep saying, “Why are you so slow? What’s wrong with you? This is easy!”

That’s what it’s like trying to function with a mental illness. Everything takes more effort. ADD – try going to a class, but you might be later quizzed on any detail in the room, so you have to pay attention to everything. Anxiety – imagine you lost something vitally important, with dire consequences, but you’re supposed to just ignore that concern and function like everyone else. Depression – it’s like having the flu, and a toothache, and exhaustion, plus everyone around you starts every sentence with, “You’re completely incompetent and worthless,” yet you’re expected to learn.

The very organ struggling to heal from these illnesses is the one the teachers want to be educating. They need to lighten up on it. Not because these children are weak, and need to be treated as fragile. But because they are already carrying more than you can imagine. Handing them more bricks, and then telling them to hike as fast at the rest, is just mean.

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