A Letter to My Teacher From an A+ Student With a Mental Illness

Worth Living Ambassador Delicia Raveenthrarajan

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“Delicia is a performing arts student who also takes on the world with her passion in spoken word, motivational speaking, song writing, the arts, musical theatre, and changing the world with strength and kindness. She has become who she is by volunteering, speaking and life changing travels. Delicia simply  states her journey so far: Canada Born. Kenya Bound. Arizona Built. Amazon Braving. Strength Embracing.”

 
Dear High School Teacher:

 
I admire your knowledge and all that you have to offer your students. But I would like to bring something to your attention. I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and can be overwhelmed with panic attacks and episodes of severe anxiety as a result. I would like you to know something else. At the end of last year, I completed the school year with a 95% average as well as attending the school as a performing arts honours student. I am a musician, speaker and performer. I grew up being honest and raw on stage. I travel the world and go on service trips as often as possible for me. I have a lead in this year’s musical. Earlier this year I was awarded with a provincial and federal award from the governor general. I have a wonderful family, beautiful, loving friends and a roof over my head. I have major depressive disorder.  I suffer from a mental illness. It may not make sense to you, sometimes it doesn’t make sense to me. But it is real, it exists and denying it will only make it worse and I would like you to know a few things.

 
Remember when I came and asked you for an extension on my lab report? Remember when you passed me off as irresponsible or thought that my reasoning was just an excuse for “being a teenager?” Well, I had to go to the doctor and the hospital for appointments to address the fog that blurred my mind of any sense of hope for the future and numbed me from any remote sense of emotion. Upon coming home, I went to sleep. For the next three days, I was able to rally up a total of 3 hours of sleep due to my illnesses and this was the first time that my exhaustion allowed me to close my eyes for longer than the slim hour a night that left me hanging on by a thread. I had no energy and physically could not get out of bed. That night, my friends were going to dinner and I stayed home because I was too tired and overwhelmed to take the blanket off of me or turn on the lights. I promise you that I would much rather write a lab report than spend my days driving back and forth from hospital appointments and the darkness of my room.

 

Remember when you got mad at me when I told you that I had to go home. You told me that I was missing class too often and needed to learn to prioritize. I’m on antidepressants. I forgot my meds in the morning and needed to take them before the serotonin deficiency started affecting my mind, body and immune system. It’s not a pleasant feeling. Trust me. I would much rather be copying notes and doing practice math questions. You may think that my medications are happy pills, a short cut, useless, weak or unnecessary, I’ve heard it all. But I can assure you that those statements are anything but the truth.

 
Similar to a diabetic, there is no immediate cure for my mental illness like a “happy pill.” But just like a diabetic takes insulin, I take antidepressants to help me tolerate and live life to the best of my abilities despite the circumstances. It’s not a crutch. It’s not taking the easy way out. It is brave and the farthest thing from weak.

 
Remember when you called me out which led to a panic attack? Remember when you let another student take the test another day because of a fever but refused to give me an extension because you could not physically see what was wrong? Remember when you thought I was faking it because I perform so well in and out of school? Remember when you questioned my need for extra time or a private space to work because I received high marks? Remember how you were confused because I smile all the time?

 
I am not writing this letter to tell you that you are a bad teacher because you are a great teacher.  You are also a human being. There are just some things that I wanted you to know so you are aware of my story behind the endless singing and high grades. I am writing this because I want to help you understand that my illness is a chemical flaw and not a character flaw. I am writing this to help you understand that there is so much more to me.  And most importantly, I am writing this to help you understand that I am a human before I am a student. Therefore, I will put my wellbeing first at all costs.

 

Sincerely,
Your Student with a Story.

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