A note to my student and to the world,
This morning things were difficult, this afternoon things got worse but fortunately the story ends with me being able to calm & resume rational thought. It’s been difficult to write this but I realise the importance of this exercise for both myself and other people.
My brain overthinks a lot. My thoughts can escalate in seconds and occasionally I can find myself in considerable amounts of distress.
What bought this on? I know I was triggered by something yesterday. I honestly have no idea what it was, but I felt a shift and temporarily disassociated. Knowing what I do about trauma and how my own trauma has affected me, this is a frequent occurrence. One thing I do know is a problem for me is that I feel connected to everything and constantly seek for my life to have meaning. This can lead me to occasionally feeling that life will never live up to my expectations and standards that I have set myself.
This afternoon my brain began catastrophizing quickly. I go from struggling to pick out one particular thought amongst the chaotic hundreds, to feeling like all my insecurities magnify and mould into one singular narrative. Deep sadness and distress follow. I’m always reminded of this from the brilliant Brene brown during these periods;
‘If you look to the world for evidence that you’re not good enough, you will see it everywhere.’
It is indeed true that everywhere I looked during this period, I found that evidence.
Some of you may ask ‘But he works in this field, surely he knows how to stop this?’.
Sadly stopping this is immensely difficult, managing it becomes the reality and best way forward. Fortunately my work means that I am able to be resourced. For instance I have a safety plan for when these things happen. I follow distraction techniques, establish reasons for living and have people to call should I need it. I’ve followed it a few times before knowing that these periods will pass and I will be able to see the hope again.
For more on how to make a safety plan follow this link;
If I’m being honest It was at the point of having to call someone this afternoon. I was on my way out of work and about to go and finish a writing project. Walking through the streets was pretty bleak. I felt empty and was struggling to establish reasons for living. One of my reasons for living within my safety plan and now I am back to rational thinking, the main reason I do what I do is for young people, my students, my players, my colleagues, my community, my profession. It was at this moment where I bumped into one of my uni students. He asked if I was free to go for coffee. I obliged and we began speaking about all the plans for next year and the many projects we had in the pipeline. It was in this conversation where my rational thought came back. Sitting in front of me was one of my reasons not only for living but for living well, which in turn would help others to also live well. He asked me about what I was doing this afternoon and also sent me an email to check in with me in the past half hour. He clearly knew I was struggling and reached out. He did what I have been asking them to do and seen them do for one another all year, but instead he did that for me.
Wether it be students from my previous schools or my university students, I’ve always said that I think I need my students way more than they need me. Today this was particularly true.
The fact is that I am well and healthy most of the time. I’m not mentally ill, I’m not in need of acute treatment. I just needed someone to help me find the hope at that moment when the distress became intolerable. I’m not equating my experience to anyone else’s nor am I downplaying their level of need. I am just simply stating that I am one of many people who can and have, found themselves in a place where hope and rational thought were not within my grasp.
The need to find meaning is mostly useful, hence why I write this blog. The problem is that I often see it as my purpose and refuse to settle for anything else. This can make me particularly vulnerable but it’s mostly a good thing as it drives me to use my experience to help other people. I am currently working with a trust on a suicide prevention and mental health strategy. It is here that even my worst experiences can be useful. Along with education and cake, it’s what I am most passionate about. I am determined to help as many people as possible to thrive and be well.
My students are exceptional human beings and I cannot thank one particular one enough for what he did today.
I’m quite fearful of publishing this piece. I know that people may look at this as self-indulgent, unprofessional for me to thank my student in this way or even a cry for help. I am fearful of judgement but even more fearful that ideation or distress will continue to be misunderstood. I hope in some way this piece may be helpful. I can’t and don’t want to predict what may have happened today, but what I do know is that someone helped me in a time of need. My hope is that you may be able to do the same for someone else one day.