Demetrius was a freshman in my low-functioning algebra class. On more than one occasion he stood up in my class and started to conduct a grand symphony right from his desk… and other occasions he would sit and crumble his erasers into tiny, tiny pieces and giggle wildly as he rolled them around on his desk. And then there were days that I could put a pre-calc problem down in front of him and he could solve – on his own – like a rock star. Demetrius was diagnosed schizophrenic very early to a mother who was an active drug-addict with 8 other children. Needless to say unless our social worker was involved, he wasn’t medicated.
I had a conversation with Demetrius on a “clear day” once. He came to see me. He said, “I remember in 5th grade when the lights went out.” “Oh yeah”, I said, “Was there a storm?” “No. That’s when I turned to stone.” I honestly wasn’t sure what to say at that point.
Do you remember when the lights went out? When you stopped being you? I’m not schizophrenic… I’m bipolar II. I don’t think I’ve ever had the lights go out for good. But I don’t know really. I don’t know who I am actually. Sometimes it’s even scary. The only time I’m comfortable is in the classroom. I’ve taught for 21 years and that’s the most even and secure I’ve ever felt – in the classroom. If I didn’t have teaching I’d have lost my fight a long time ago.
Have you ever turned to stone? Lights out?
I can’t remember the exact moment when I lost my identity. I just don’t remember having one. I’m turning 48 in a few weeks. I’m determined to discover it finally – or maybe recognize it would be a better.
This past winter was the worst of my life. In November I had the worst hospital stay ever. I nearly lost my teaching job of 20 years. And, I almost lost my best friend… It might now sound that horrible to you, but I’ve always said and believe that we all experience our own hell. I think it may have been mine.
I think it’s time to figure it out. I’m just not going to allow myself to turn back to stone…
not quite ready to do that.