He never cried for help until he wrote a poem that no one heard. How can kids like him get the help they need?
During my time in seventh grade English class I was exposed to various literary works. One particular subject that would serve as a mirror into my life was poetry. We learned the simplicity of a haiku and the fun you could have putting random words together that rhymed. Creative writing was a form of expression that inspired me to manifest the thoughts and feelings I had never shared before. This resulted in a creation that conveyed the currents running through my life.
Here is a copy of that work:
The doorway of darkness
Leads to a place I don’t want to go that is sometimes the place I want to go
The gateway of hell
Is opening an inch more day by day.
Why? I ask. Why do you push me away when you yourself know you love me.
Why dad do you squander our money day by day?
Why when I come to hug you move away?
Why do you talk to my brother more then you talk to me?
Why do you sell our stuff with out asking?
Why don’t you do things more with your heart then with your brain?
Do you know when you hurt yourself you hurt me?
Do you know I’m slipping away from you day by day?
Now I say.
I am your candle melting away when everyday you reject me.
Now you may think these words would have raised a red flag or at least result in a one-on-one conversation with the teacher. I mean when a student writes about a doorway of darkness as a place he wants to go you may want to ask the follow up question.
Where does this doorway lead?
Instead of creating a parent teacher meeting it resulted in an “A” grade accompanied with the comment, “Your work is special. Don’t stop writing.” Now before you get agitated by the clueless educator I would like to first give you context that created the environment that resulted in my cries going unheard.
Growing up I was blessed to have grandparents who would take care of me periodically and taught me values like respect, honesty, kindness and hard work. These values would serve me well as I grew up to be a good student whom teachers viewed as a model for others to follow. Socially I had a group of friends that were also good students. Everything seemed to infer that I was a well adjusted and “normal” seventh grader. Whatever normal means. My success academically and socially would serve as a cloak of invisibility that covered the issues happening back home.
These issues included growing up with parents who dropped out of high school and had me as a young couple. This wouldn’t have been a problem if it wasn’t for my father’s drug abuse that started with smoking weed until it grew into a dangerous addiction with stronger narcotics that caused him to become more unstable. His illegal activity would ultimately lead to prison time, broken relationships and abusive behavior toward my family and I.
For the majority of my life whenever I’d share this story I’d normally get this response.
“Really? I never thought you had parents like that. I thought you grew up with normal, ordinary parents.”
I never fail to surprise people because what I present is an image that doesn’t fit the archetype of what a kid with a broken home should look like. Instead of getting “A’s and B’s” I should have been failing my classes. I should have been acting out in class instead of being the example for other students. I should have been sucked into the life of drugs like my father since the opportunity was always a few steps away. Sadly because I didn’t fit the stereotype I never got the emotional help I needed.
This is why my poetry never raised any red flags. This is why I don’t blame the teacher for not following up with me. I didn’t show any signs other then a writing a poem with a dark theme.
The trouble with providing support for kids dealing with depression, anxiety, bullying and other issues is that we as a society have preconceived notions of what a person should look like when they have these issues. If you are told to describe someone dealing with depression how would you portray them? What would their upbringing be like? Are there signs you can read that would draw red flags?
During my education focusing on mental health you learn that there are many studies that pinpoint important signs that adults should look out for when in charge of children. Some of these warning signs include lack of appetite, increased appetite, not enough sleep, too much sleep and thoughts of suicide. This is just a tip of the iceberg when comes to identifying someone dealing with depression and as you can see the warning signs can be polar opposites.
So what does this mean?
This means that as adults who interact with children we need to be vigilant and aware of our kids especially for those who may not show signs of concern. These are the children that will most likely fall through the cracks because everyone thinks they’re fine. These are the children that may be trying to figure it out on their own. These are the children we need to not only know by name but what’s behind it. These are the children that may be crying out for help without anyone there to hear them.
Will you hear them?
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