the quiet one… the loud one
the picker… the tapper
the distracted… the focused
the respectful… the belligerent
the rule follower… rule breaker
the meticulous risk taker!
There are so many ways I have heard this elephant described. I could probably add 100 more terms and phrases to this list without hesitation. It is usually followed up with…
he doesn’t look like anything is bothering him
he just checks out
he wouldn’t have to ask so many questions if he just paid attention
he just won’t let it go
and my favorite… how does he continue to earn poor grades when he is so bright? Twice Exceptional? But if I’m being honest the statement is more like… this is what gifted looks like? #truth
How do you describe mental illness? How do you view the elephant in the room? I know an elephant. I have raised an elephant who is best friend’s with my incredible son. My son met his elephant at the age of 8. Prior to this friendship, my son was a compliant rule follower… a straight A student… a role model for others. Yes, they are separate… their own. My son. Mental Illness.
Then the day came. The meeting. The joint kinship. The one that introduced my son to distractions, rule breaking, meticulousness ways, perfection, and repeated behaviors to sooth and calm his new friend the elephant.
I saw the changes.
I saw the elephant!
My gut knew from an early age that the tendencies were there… the kinship… the illness. They were one with their own identities. Our family walked on eggshells of anxiety… we reassured to the point of exhaustion, we centered our lives around the elephant in the room without saying a word. We started to speak it’s language. We fed it. We calmed it and tucked it in at night. We were literally raising an elephant alongside our beautiful son…
the elephant in our room…
We faced it head on. Therapy 5-7 days a week. We exposed ourselves and our son to his anxiety. Yet, the whack-a-mole effect of OCD did not go away. It simply became a part of our existence. Yes, our existence.
This is what we as educators need to understand… the elephant is NOT GOING AWAY!
Need I mention that I have a background in Special Education. An emphasis in Emotional Support. A Masters Degree in MOM… yet listening to fellow colleagues struggle with the elephant in the room leaves me… speechless.
So where do we go from here?
Let’s start by acknowledging that mental illness is a part of OUR lives. NOT just a child’s life… OUR LIVES! We are in this together. We must educate ourselves. We must find a way to understand a child’s way… their being in order to educate them to the best of THEIR ability! To bring out their best… to let their light shine so bright that it puts their elephant in their shadow (in place of just the opposite.) They deserve it!
Have you ever tried to walk in their shoes?
My son is now 15. He battles mental illness better than many adults I have come into contact with in my lifetime. He has strength. He has courage. He has empathy. He has GRIT.
He said to me, “Mom, tell my story… it will help other kids.”
Yes, Trent, I will.