It’s Bell Let’s Talk Day today, which tries to bring awareness to issues of mental illness in Canada – a very noble effort, one that is obviously close to my heart.
I spent the last year and a half in relative emotional squander due to the fact that no one “talked,” no one asked how I was doing or invited me into (or even showed me a glimpse of) a safe and supportive environment. The type of environment in which you feel comfortable being vulnerable, sharing your issues and fears, breaking down and make mistakes = this type of place was missing from my world.
In my personal life, this has changed with my wife’s recommitment to our bubble and her bringing my parents into the fold with her Letter. There is still great work to be done to bring warmth and comfort and trust back to the bubble, back into my personal world, but there is movement, there are steps, one foot after the other. I wish there were more people in, more people searching for answers, more who could bring comfort to this world in times of need (even with soup or cookies), but “we shall get there some day.”
Professionally, which does have the habit of becoming personal (in fact, I wouldn’t separate the two as personal and professional, but more like work and home, because – and this could just be the nature of the job of being a teacher – I am just as personally invested, just as personally represented in my job as I am in my relationships), this still isn’t the case. Today, I had the chance to visit my old school, where I was brought into the teaching profession. It didn’t feel exciting or joyfully nostalgic; it actually was a little melancholy. My first department head and I talked openly about the eating disorder, with her not just listening and cognitively coaching, but actually caring and contributing (not wisdom or advice, but being a part of the conversation as opposed to being there for it). My first mentor, with whom I had lunch, seemed to falter a little at the beginning, saying that “I know something is up, but I won’t pry,” leading me to believe she was like the others, not willing to cross an imaginary line to save a falling friend. Her true colours, her true nature and the nature of our relationship was revealed an hour later though when she hugged me and explained that she can’t tell if I’m hurting from where she is, but that if I need her, just text message a bat-signal and she’ll be there in an instant. This was not a “hi, how are you doing” situation where the question is asked but the answer is moot. This was not her saying this because that’s just what you say to people. She loves and is willing to cross that line, saying it in not so many words. She cares and there was something in her voice, in her speech, in her face that revealed this. She made me feel safe and supported, like I could talk. A feeling I haven’t felt in close to two and a half years where I work now, even with as many hints as I drop to Work Friend to make her cross the line, have the conversation, pry so that talking can happen. The words were the same as many before her, but the caring that had been missing in others was so blatantly evident in her at that moment – I trust it, she made me trust it; I didn’t have to make a leap of faith, she made me feel like I could jump and that she would catch me.
I want to be back there, because it feels like my house with knots in it that make you laugh and cracks that make you smile and remember. I don’t think this was nostalgia, although I’m sure there are problematic things about that house that I’m ignoring right now. However, I think these are the imperfections I am willing to live with – the piles of clothes on the floor, if you will – because I love. I love and therefore the small imperfections are not flaws, they are reminders that I love. If I were not to move schools, if I wanted to stay somewhere and live out my days looking up, I could call that place home.