an open letter to primary school

trigger warning: depression, anxiety, eating disorders

dear primary school

dear age five to twelve

dear risidale and emmarentia and everything in between


primary school, you were not fun. In grade one my shoes got stolen and I wanted to cry but I thought I’d be yelled at if I did. So I didn’t. When I was eight I started noticing that I was detached from everyone else in the class. I used to sit and box them all, and tried desperately to squeeze into a box, and I never could. In grade four, I learned about depression, and I had a teacher who was phenomenal at the time – Ms V. She cried a lot and had body image issues and skipped a lot of school days. I remember thinking that I understood what she was going through, that we could be friends because we were going through the same thing, I thought. I didn’t say anything though. She was a teacher. I was nine. I was a girl who could spell anything, except library. I When I was ten I started resenting the fact that I was black more than I had previously. I got teased and made fun of because I was darker than the other girls. Then, I learned about depression from a much harsher teacher: experience. I started feeling things I couldn’t understand – like not wanting to come to school. I loved learning, but I didn’t feel anything except lethargy. I know- “at age ten? really?” Yes really, I was in grade six at the time. In grade seven I started to resent my intelligence, tried to join any and every group that would have me, gave my homework away, cried more than I thought I could, and then got told to “see someone”. My dad got mad when he found out that he had a crazy daughter. My mom got – I don’t really know how she felt – when she discovered that her once shining girl who was supposed to be a prodigy spent the better parts of her day crying, lying or intentionally hurting herself to “feel anything that didn’t mean I was nothing” (quote from grade seven diary). I saw my marks plummet and my opinion of myself recede into nothing – I went for three days, that I remember clearly, convinced that it was’;t my fault I didn’t have friends like the other girls, it was just because people couldn’t see me. When I was eleven teachers started thinking it was smart to talk the eating disorders section of the Life Orientation textbook rather than teach it, leaving me, and possibly (probably) others trying to tell people that I needed help, that I identified with Mary who struggles to eat in front of people but binges at night, that I related to Sue who never ate and was convinced that she was fat and would not fit through doors despite her flat chest and sharp bones, that I was Shalom who had such a strange relationship with something that shouldn’t have a hold over me the way it did. Does. Do disorders go away?


Dear Primary School,

You taught me that things are not always kind. And that honesty can get you into trouble. And that people won’t always appreciate your intelligence.

You taught me how to sit alone and how to think. You taught me how to speak to adults. You taught me how to make people listen. You taught me how different people are. Thank you.

Thanks. I wouldn’t be where I am today without you. It’s not a wonderful place, but it’s where I am and things are happening and things are possible so thank you.


these things about me are not pretty or lovely or a wonder to behold. they are parts of me that have, for so long, attacked me from the inside. secrets that i’ve had to keep alone and i won’t anymore.

these parts of me are not easy to love, but i’m going to try anyway. and maybe you will too. but the truth is that whether you do or you don’t, it’s beyond my control and i’m going to have to let things like that go.

love and light
Shalom

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