Hey a day in my lifers,
Today I realised something awesome. Everything that we go through. Everything that makes us ‘misfits’, ‘unaccepted’ or ‘labelled’ is wrong. It’s everyone else who are the misfits. Misfits of understanding. Through no fault of their own, they aren’t educated because the people who do understand don’t wish to share their knowledge. People are scared of the idea that someone can have something ‘wrong’ with their brain, the thing we use to function. It’s like when you’re in class and there’s some sort of debate between classmates. Well, between classmates and classmate. Singular. The single classmate is arguing for equal racial rights, and the rest are arguing against it. Just because there are more arguing against, doesn’t mean they’re right. My dad grew up in South Africa whilst all the discrimination was going on between the caucasian population and the coloured population, and he was the only one in his class who would defended Nelson Mandella’s campaign. He was mocked for it and called names, but I respect him so much for it; for not getting bullied into following the crowd and the ‘popular opinion’. Just because there was a majority vote didn’t mean it was the right opinion, and my dad recognised that. Another example was Hitler and the way he treated the Jews. Hitler managed to get people on his side because they were scared of him – not because they agreed with what he was saying. So you have to look at mental health and learning disabilities with this objective view. The idea is much the same. Everyone is against talking about mental health, but be the one who stands against it. I advocate this to the people in my boarding house, the people I live with – and I try to encourage positive thinking with regard to these issues and to avoid stigmatising them. We (in the boarding house) have been through a lot because unfortunately and contra to the popular belief, mental health problems are at their most prevalent in boarding schools – because people don’t have the parental support that they need at this tender age. Don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of positives to my experiences at boarding school. BUT I know that with the problems that I’ve had, they do NOT dealt with them in the way that they should/in a way that truly addresses the best interests of sed child. There is an increasing number of kids being forced to leave because of their problems and it’s appalling. Schools think that if the child leaves, the problem leaves, and they get a good reputation for their pastoral care. However. At a school like this people unfortunately think that they are ‘better’ than mental illness. So they ignore it/pretend it doesn’t exist/take the piss out of people who suffer. It’s not everyone. But stereotypically, that’s what people can be like. This is why I feel so strongly about changing it because no-one should feel ‘above’ anything. Granted no-one will understand how we feel unless they have been there. But that doesn’t make them incapable of compassion. Many people only begin to feel this compassion once they experience ‘the low’ themselves. Many of them will at some point in the future; one in four people experience a mental illness within their lifetime so it’s not exactly uncommon!
I can sense a real change in my attitude, though. Instead of despairing/getting mad about the way schools handle these issues, I have taken the better route. I want to help, to change the way schools are run. Put the word ‘mental’ in front of the word ‘health’ and it changes from a normal, everyday word to a word that resides in the shadows, un-addressed. Things are never going to get better if things remain this way.
And this is where I come in. Having had bad experiences with the way my problems have been handled, I am inspired to stop this from happening to anyone else – no-one should grow up through their teens – the most important years of their life – alone, misunderstood and pushed into the shadows. Throughout my life I’ve been the kind of kid who, at the end of every year looks back and has a bunch of unfinished things that I either lost interest in, or simply got distracted from when I found something else to do. This was my ADHD, not my ‘lack of personality’, my ‘lack of interest’, or my ‘laziness’ as some (many) people have phrased it. Since starting my medication, there’s light. I feel excitement again, I notice my heart beat, and I notice what I love to do. I have so craved to have a passion for my whole life. It just seems like everyone has it sussed and has their thing by now; horse-riding, singing, dancing, reading – and I never had anything because I could never hold my interest for long enough to develop a proper passion. But now I can see. The fog has been lifted and I love to write. I love to hear the personal stories of others. I love to receive emails telling me things in confidence, like I am really helping people. I cannot stress enough how fantastic this makes me feel. This is my passion. I’ve found it. Researching, helping, writing, researching more, advising. Using my own experiences to show others that they are never alone.
So I want to do something big over the summer. I have ten days left of school in which I have three exams to complete: one English, one French and one Spanish. After that, I’m all yours. Let me be the advocate for how we’re all feeling. Get in touch I beg you – my email is in the picture above or on my ‘Contact’ page, but for ease-of-access, it’s; ‘ email@example.com ‘. Tell me your story, the way you dealt/deal with things, in as much or as little detail as you like. Anything that I can gather to put into my campaign will do the world of good – and of course no names will be mentioned. For those of you who have already got into contact with me – thank you thank you thank you. The survey has been a huge success – so thank you all for completing it and being so honest. Some of the things I have read are truly heart-breaking and I wish I could do something to help right now (my impulsivity kicking in again – the future is NOW, not later)! However these things take time, and the surveys are anonymous so I cannot do anything to contact you as individuals. But what I can tell you is that I hear you. There is no way anybody can ignore what many of you have entrusted to me, and I can’t let you down. Well, I will do everything within my power to make things better. Bit by bit take on small tasks. Baby steps will go far. So here’s my plan: I’m slowly building up a portfolio step-by-step and over summer I will have all the time in the world to focus on you and to dedicate to this project. I have already been in contact with a few professionals in the field of mental health/learning disabilities to get their opinions and views, because the more evidence I have to show, the more authentic my case will be and the truth will be undeniable. People need to be educated. Be taught. Be aware. They don’t have to be experts. My request is simply that people take the time to even do something as simple as to google it. It doesn’t take a lot of time. It takes no money. It is such a simple concept and yet so few people do it.
I am completely aware of the volume of charities supporting mental health that there are out there. However, having scoured the internet, there does not seem to be any with particular address and link to schools. Everybody wants to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and learning disabilities. The way I see that this can be done is via schooling. If these issues are integrated into the school curriculum – and I know others agree with me through the surveys – then half the problem will be gone. The reasons that people turn to more ‘drastic’ measures is not because they are ‘attention seeking’. They just don’t know who to talk to or why no-one else understands what they feel – therefore creating pain that they can understand and that they can identify. Having ADHD for so long and not being diagnosed has not been easy. I struggle with retention of information – hence teachers yell at me because they think I’m not listening. I struggle to keep my mouth shut and don’t realise when I hurt or bore people by repeating myself – hence people find it draining to be friends with me. I ask continuous questions and talk about myself a lot – hence people think I’m self-centered and irritating. I worry when I don’t get a reply to a text because I automatically think the person has died/don’t care about me – which leads to irrationality and people thinking I’m crazy. And it wouldn’t have gotten to this stage if my school had known what to look for. As things are now, it’s too late to apply for any kind of exam help (extra time etc) because my school refused to support my parents when they told them of my diagnosis, denying that there was anything wrong with me (further evidence of the lack of knowledge/understanding of these issues). Excuse me, who’s the medically qualified person here? THE DOCTOR WHO DIAGNOSED ME – not you! Schools do not know what to look for, they do not actively screen for problems and they do not notice when a student isn’t interacting in the same way as their peers. My teachers have admitted to me that they do not understand the condition of ADHD, and that they would not know what to look for or how to recognise. I think this is appalling, and it’s not just ADHD. Any learning difficulty, any mental health issue will be ignored or unrecognised unless the child gets the diagnosis from someone not linked to their school. The common belief about ADHD is kids who shout and throw things around in class, and to be honest that’s really not what they should be looking for. They should be looking for the distance in the eyes, the inability to retain information, the constant arguments and perhaps even rudeness.
This is just for ADHD, but there are an abundance of other things to look for with regard to different mental problems. Children with anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, reading difficulties and a multitude of other conditions more often than not, go un-noticed in schools. They are made to read aloud in class, and when they ask not to, the class begins to chant ‘READ, READ, READ, what’re you so scared of?’ It’s this insensitivity and lack of consideration, lack of thought to another person that needs to be changed. Nobody means to hurt or ignore these people who struggle. They just don’t give them a second thought. And perhaps they should. Kids feel really alone. And I would know.
So, I implore you to please tell everybody you know and get involved with what I want to do. Fire me an email, tweet me, comment, share the post, do whatever you have to do to help me raise awareness and to help me do something big. Get friends who you know feel strongly about these issues to email me. This blog has become a far bigger part of my life than I could have ever predicted, and I’m now determined to use it for good. It started out as an outlet for myself. But since I’ve had contact from a few of you and reading the heart-breaking stories on my survey, there is no way I’m leaving this without at least trying to create something new, something big, something that can change people’s lives and outlooks. I know I’m leaving school but there are millions of children going through what I did and I can’t let anyone suffer anymore. I’ve had enough. Instead of schools denying that there is anything wrong with children and only caring about whether or not they get 10A* at GCSE, sending them home and hoping the problem will disappear, they have to tackle it head-on. Teach students to be accepting, understanding, let the suffering child know that it’s okay to find life difficult. Not make them scared to tell the staff. We’ve all heard the stories – or perhaps even seen them happen to our friends – people in previous year groups who have had a mental illness and been kicked out of school. The educational institutes want to be just that – educational institutes – they don’t want to have mental illness ‘reducing their ranking in the league tables’. It’s pathetic, and reading the pastoral care website for my school is just appalling because it’s all lies. Goes against everything that they ever did with any of the situations that have gone on here. I understand it’s difficult for them and there is often a lot going on behind closed doors that I don’t know about. But to be honest, I don’t think there’s anything going on. School tells us the problem is being dealt with. Students stop worrying. Then they subtly get rid of the sufferer because the school can’t deal with them. Someone is suffering from chronic depression and wants to kill themselves – and THE SCHOOL say they can’t deal with. Oh, come on. If it’s too much for you then think about the person who is actually suffering. If you send them away they’re still gonna be suffering. Just not under your roof.
I feel passionately about the wrongness of the situation that we currently reside in. Of course I understand not all schools are like this. But, sadly, from the results of my survey, it shows that the vast majority of schools are. And people say they want change but don’t actually do anything. So that’s my job. You just have to support me. The more stats and figures I have to put forward to the public, the more that will be done and the more will be changed for generations-to-come. Every little helps and the change may not be immediate – it’s a long, hard process but I don’t care what it takes. Whether it’s in 2 months, five months, five years. I’m sticking at this so I beg you to stand by me and hand me what you can – in the form of ideas, experiences, opinions – whatever you’ve got, stick them in an email and press send. It may even feel good to get them off your chest and to know that someday your information helped change the system.
Watch this space – things are gonna change around here.
© agirlwithadhd 2015.