Let’s stop faking it

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FullSizeRender-1I might not “look depressed.” I might seem exhausted or complain about always being tired to those who know me personally. Sometimes I’m unusually irritable. I have a tough time responding to affection, concern or compliments. Frequently I turn down activities I used to really enjoy. My eating habits are fairly abnormal. I might need more from you that you can give. I have bad days and “better” days.

These are just a few of the things I feel daily but just recently began to become vocal about. It’s time for me to #stopfakingit, because let’s face it, that doesn’t help anyone nor does it role model for today’s youth and my own kids. As adults, we have to stop looking at mental health as a weakness and starting valuing it just as much if not more than our physical health.

There are a couple people in my life I’d like thank for helping me make progress in this area.

Family Friend – Bryn McMahon (@Bryn_McMahon)

Bryn recently spoke out on her attempted suicide after 5 years. She was a 15 year-old high school student in NE Philadelphia before her mental health issues became too much for her to bear. She faked it. She is lucky to be here with us today. Now, a paraplegic with a powerful story, she has started speaking out around the country to students in middle school and high schools, as well as parent forums on the signs, the thoughts and what she wished she would have done instead of faking it.

Friend and PLN Met on Twitter – Nicholas Provenzano (@thenerdyteacher)

Nick is Michigan educator, a Dad and husband I have known for years on Twitter and learned a great deal from since 2011. I’ve Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 9.30.30 AMhad the chance to get together personally with him, but didn’t feel close to him until he went public with his own struggles with depression about a year ago with A Post I Can’t Seem To Title, So I’ll Tell You It’s About Depression. After reading Nick’s post, I reached out to him over a DM just to say thank you for taking me off my island. When I read the words, I felt human. I felt like as bad as I thought I had it, there were other people. I didn’t have to fake it. His reference to the “dark friend” hit home for me. Now matter how much really cool stuff you get to do or accolades you receive, you have this wet blanket that just shows up and forces you to retreat.

In the following TedTalk, I reflect openly for the first time on my own #10Assumptions while growing up. One of these assumptions focused mental health, as well as nine others things I was dead wrong about growing up. I chose to assume and to listen to someone else rather than go out and dissect the world myself and with the help of others. The full preso can be found here.

Mental health is one of those things in life that just doesn’t get talked about enough until someone ends their life and a family is destroyed. I’ve been told verbally throughout my life and by example that I need to “be tough” and “grit and bear it.” Sometimes this is true and we need to persevere. Sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to seek help. As an educator who has always worked as if I had to be this perfect person, the “pressure cooker” we have created across the field is inevitably contributes to decreasing teacher morale is nothing less than dangerous. We have to take care of each other. We have to stop faking it and be honest. We have to believe in relationships across the board, not just on retreats and special outings. It has to be the common thread that gives us permission to reach out without embarrassment when all we feel like doing is giving up. Your story isn’t over.

My name is Joe. I’m a dad, husband and educator. I suffer from depression every damn day. I’m not going to sweep it under the rug from my family and friends anymore. I, along with my friend Nick Provenzano fully support Project Semicolon, and are teaming up to encourage our PLN friends across the education space whether students, parents, educators, leaders, policymakers to come together for support.

We’ve all got a lot of ass to kick to get our educational system to the place where we can be proud of its direction before retirement. I’m stubbornly optimistic we can change the current culture. I’m just going to focus on taking my meds, getting good exercise, forcing myself to sleep, finding a balance and loving those around me a little more. I’m going to stop faking it. I want other educators who are suffering (and I could only name 10 right now but there’s many more) to be ok with not faking it anymore either. I’m here to pay it forward and do for you what Nick did for me. If I see you at a conference or an edcamp or on Voxer, I WILL talk to you about it. I WILL make the time. You are NOT bothering me. You ARE that important to yourself, to your family, to me and to the field. We need to take good care of each other.

#semicolonEDU

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My new semi colon. Green for Bryn.
HOW IT WORKS
In the words of Nick Provenzano… I want people to ask us about this punctuation mark on our wrists so we can share our story. The more people know about mental health issues, the more we can get rid of the stigma. The more we get rid of that stigma, the more people will feel comfortable sharing their stories. We need students to feel comfortable sharing these feelings with their teachers and we need teachers to better understand mental health so they can support these students and their colleagues.  It is not a fun conversation, but it is one we need to have if we want to help people and possibly save lives. There is something all of you can do to show your support.

I would love to see pictures across the Internet from all of my PLN on Tuesday July 14th with a

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Nick’s new semi colon

Semicolon drawn (or tattooed if you are up to it) on your body to show support for all of the educators dealing with mental health issues. Use the tag #semicolonEDU to show your support on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Let’s show the world that we can come together and fight mental health stigmas by showing our support for one another. I know we can do it. Read Nick’s full #semicolonEDU post here. 

Thanks for giving me the courage to get these 887 words out.
Special thanks to Jason Bodnar (@EagleLeadLearnr) for providing a forum for me to voice what I wrote above. Here’s his latest podcast episode of Principally Speaking.


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