All we need to do is listen.I could tell this was going to be a kid I'd remember for a long time. Her 11-year-old smile could light up the room. Her enthusiasm for learning and passion for life was contagious.
She had me fooled.
She had us all fooled.
I can hear it like it was yesterday. Her eyes tearing up, struggling to get the words out, shaking...
"Mr. Storm I have depression."
I had so many questions that I knew I didn't have answers too. I wanted to help but didn't know how. I wanted her to feel better but didn't know what to do. All I knew that I could do was listen.
I spent the rest of that year listening and learning.
Time went on as it does in middle school, as it does in life. She moved on to 7th grade and eventually 8th grade. I would occasionally see her in the hallway or she would stop in my room to say hello. That smile still there brightening up the room, but the hurt still remaining in her eyes.
Time moved on and she was off to the high school. The chairs in my room filled with more kids, each with different needs, each with different strengths, each with different smiles. New kids filling my heart, and the old ones moving to the side to make space for the new ones there.
I would often wonder what happened to her. Students would visit from the high school and I would ask about former students. I would hear sad stories, happy stories, and everything in between.
Time continued to move on and the teaching didn't stop. The world was changing. Social media was beginning and it became a part of all of our lives. Former students began to connect and it opened my heart again to all of those kids.
A notification came through from that kid from many years ago and I smiled remembering her. I accepted and looked at her profile picture. That same 11-year-old smile was there, and so was the hurt.
Years would go by and I wouldn't have any face to face interaction with this kid. Until this year.
My classes were beginning a research project based on student interests and passions. I decided to reach out to former students on Facebook and arrange for them to come into our class to speak about their passions and their journeys. The response was overwhelming and I was humbled. I was surprised when she reached out to talk with my class.
She arrived at my classroom door and when I opened it, she smiled. There it was. That 11-year-old smile. There was still hurt in her eyes, but they had a new sparkle to them.
She went on to tell my class about her journey- through middle school and high school, her battle with drugs and her fight with depression. There were moments that I fought back tears, and I wasn't alone. My students did the same. Her story continued to how she had managed to survive and was in college now, holding a 3.87 GPA and looking to graduate as a social worker and wanted to help others facing similar problems like hers. When she finished her story a student of mine walked over to her and hugged her. My class was speechless.
She stayed into my prep period to talk and shared more of her story. She shared that she had taken a train from Maryland to Pennsylvania to talk with my students. When I asked her why she had done that, her response was, "I saw your post and knew I could help your students. I wanted to share my story. Plus, if my favorite teacher of all time is asking for help, I couldn't say no".
We talked for an hour. I walked her to the door and she turned and gave me a hug and thanked me. Before she walked out, she turned and said, " I look forward to talking with your classes next year."
I can't wait to listen to more of her story.
You can read more about Teen and Adolescent Depression here.