This morning I finished my favourite book so far this summer.
Finley Hart is a young girl that suffers from Depression and Anxiety. Neither of which are named until much later in the story. The description however of what she goes through, the blue days, the crushing pain that holds her down, that keeps her in bed. These are real struggles of people with depression and anxiety I know because I have them sometimes too. The internal dialogue that Finley has throughout the story was familiar to me and I imagine will be to anyone that has struggled with these same thoughts.
Darkness Finds Darkness
Throughout the story Finley finds herself with thoughts of self doubt, these compound and bring on more negative feelings and eventually crippling fear of failure. You do not need depression or anxiety to have thoughts of failure. I think back to many students I have had, the “I can’t do this”, “This book is too hard it is not my level”, “I don’t have a math brain, my mom told me that” These are really statements that have a self fulfilling prophesy, Darkness finds Darkness. When we do not help students move through these thoughts they are bound to not find hope.
Just be happy…
Just be happy is the mindset Grandma Hart has in the story, fake it till you make it, smile even if you are not happy because at least people will think you are. This is the kind of advice kids who struggle receive all the time. I love so much that in Some Kind of Happiness this idea is called out as wrong and even more destructive. If we do not legitimize our feelings or the feelings of our students we are not addressing the root of the issue and we are far less likely to help, ourselves or our students.
I am sad not broken
We much teach our students it is ok to be sad sometimes. That it is safe to talk about how we feel and express ourselves in a safe way. In the story Finley writes, she creates a land called the Everwood and goes on adventures within. Her anxiety and feelings that come from it are written in her books, she makes lists to help express how she feels. Some students need to read, go on a walk, listen to music. There is not one answer but their should be one goal.
To make our students know they are safe, have the right to be happy and comfortable and that we will always be there for them. There is no shame in depression and anxiety or any other struggles. We need to let our students know that they are not broken.
We are all pieces of the puzzle
A beautiful analogy is used as Finely starts to discover things about herself and her family. Assembling a puzzle and finding the corner piece. I thought a lot about that and how as the new year is starting we need to get to know our students and how they fit into the puzzle. Build relationships and set a culture in the classroom that allows students to know that they are safe to share. That as their teachers we will understand their struggles or at least try to help them in whatever ways we can.