The road of mental health is one with many twists and turns with no true end. It is about understanding symptoms and diagnoses and treatment plans. It is also the people in your life who help or hinder your progress. It is about recognizing choices and the effect they have on both an individual and the people they love.
Having been diagnosed with major depression and generalized anxiety disorder, (GAD,) with panic attacks, I am well-traveled on the aforementioned road. Last semester, my road went directly through Brookdale, and one particular staff member helped keep me from crashing.
As a journalism major, science classes have always been difficult for me. Regurgitating information and memorization were never my strong suits, and my anatomy class last semester was almost exclusively that. One class might not have been too bad, but having to do anatomy lecture while also doing a lab proved more challenging for me and my mental health than I had anticipated.
By mid-semester, I hit the proverbial wall. I shut down mentally and did not do a single lab assignment for several weeks. With each deadline that passed, I would see my grade drop and drop and drop, until my once strong start to the semester completely disappeared, and I was no longer passing. Having had to drop out from my original college due to physical health issues, I felt my opportunity to create a life for myself once again slipping away.
Thankfully, I was able to move past my old safe and familiar habit of burying my head in the sand until an inevitable disaster, and I reached out for help. My lab professor, who will simply be known as “professor” or “P” in the name of anonymity, stated in their syllabus that labs could be turned in up to a week late with a 10-point deduction each day.
I sent an email explaining the issues I had been dealing with (as well as a note from my therapist,) and asking if they would permit me to go back and do all my missing labs for half credit so that I at least had a chance at passing if I could get mid to high B’s on the remaining practicals, which would be its own challenge. While I was merely praying for a puncher’s chance, “P” ended up being more in my corner than I could have imagined.
My professor informed me that I had six missing labs; two from the last chapters before the practical, and four from the most recent set of chapters. They emailed me to say they would waive the two labs from the previous chapters, as they no longer were relevant to what we were learning now and going to be tested on the next practical. “P” then told me as long as the four missing labs were submitted by the date of our next practical, they would accept them for full credit.
I instantly broke down crying reading the email. For maybe the first time since I went back to school, I felt like I was being seen by a teacher as more than just another name on the roster.
“P” saw me as a real-life person dealing with a real-life struggle who just needed a bit of help. I never could have imagined the levels of empathy and compassion they showed me. It gave me such a renewed sense of hope that I was able to knock out all of my labs within seven days and even found some enjoyment in some of them. I would go on to not miss another lab, pass my final two practicals, and pass the class with the proudest C I had ever earned.
My mental health road has been one filled with bumps, flat tires, and dead batteries– and for a moment, it seemed like I had crashed again. But one act of compassion and leniency from my professor kept me on the road with my wheels spinning and the music blasting. I will always be grateful for what my professor did, and I encourage all professors to see their students as people. People who sometimes need help and who sometimes need a bit of empathy. A little bit of empathy on campus goes a very long way.