While depression is a life-long battle, there are bright moments. The moments that make you question what reason there was to give up; moments that make you glad for past sadnesses, so the bright spots seem ever brighter. I didn’t have those any of those moments until I was 18.
Prior, I had the polar opposite in spades. I was not well-liked. I was something of a town monster, since I drew comics indoors during recess and couldn’t understand the Hebrew terminology of a Jewish setting. Also I had minimal grooming habits which didn’t do me any favors. But I persevered throughout, and found myself past Eighth and Ninth grades and waltzing into Tenth.
To this day, that year is my second hell.
First, they were working on a new building for the nursery and elementary school. The whole dynamic of my alma mater is that you can start in nursery and end after high school or continue into further Hebrew studies. I got the heck out when June of Twelfth Grade rolled around. The building of the schools meant that students from the higher grades had to be the bigger men and move from their classrooms to new areas.
Some were moved to nicer areas in the building; others to nicer areas out of town. My class never had such luxuries. In fact, our first location was my own Synagogue. I was in heaven; I walked home sometimes. Of course, the class was too loud, so another class complained and we were moved. Then their Rabbi took his class out of my Synagogue shortly after because they didn’t like it. Fun fact: Unlike this fact, he was not fun. I took him the following semester; he was a nightmare. But when I saw him again a few years later, I told him how I felt and he apologized. I felt validated.
We were moved to a trailer on campus. Interestingly, being moved to a trailer on campus does not make a person feel very good. They feel like the scenery visible from the windows: like garbage. And I mentioned how I already didn’t groom (other than sad baths or being forced to cut my nails once a month). But as bad as I looked outside, I felt worse inside.
I didn’t take the changes well. I did enjoy drawing in the trailer more than our old class, but I also preferred constant supervision from a teacher with 25 students in September than one with 11 by January. The next year, he wasn’t a teacher, and he had less respect from the class than I did. Wow. I got sad from writing that. As nice as he was, trying to engage the students, he only confused them and drove them off. So it’s no surprise that when I broke down, he wasn’t really involved.
The breakdown. I broke down from a result of impossible communication on my end. I didn’t like sports, they thought my comics were pornography. I hated the Hebrew and English spliced into a single sentence, they thought that good, healthy bochurim could use a bissel bilinguistic skills. This caused a riff and, admittedly, I could have been better during interactions. I exaggerated situations and burst into unwarranted anger, but they didn’t stop… laughing, I hated their laughter.
They laughed at how I acted. How I spoke. My interests. One kid got a custodian to point and laugh (he didn’t know why, but he did). When I was at my wit’s end, one kid called me his friend, but I just walked away. I figured he would just laugh. My best friend came over, but I only sat in my dark room in the fetal position. He played video games in another room with my brother and his friends.
That was the night of no sleep. I never had a sleepless night before, and I didn’t want one then. I was fully awake. No subconsciousness sneaking up; no Sandman to bring me a dream. I didn’t breakdown in public with a flow of unleashed agony, but with a whimper through the night. My mother let me stay home, but after an hour of tossing and turning, I actually went.
When I walked into the cubby room, I was approached with soft language and human emotions, the kind unprecedented until age eighteen. I had no clue what had happened, but I was glad it did. Later I found out my parents spoke to the faculty who spoke to the class. I have no idea what they said; certainly more than “no bullying or you’re suspended;” because students in high school can fake cruelty, but I don’t think they could fake kindness. Not that kindness.
Even in my lousy 11th grade I was able to push on from there, because I had the other students now to support me. And I’m glad they were, because 12th grade was my best year of high school. Sometimes all it takes is a great parent or two and a sleepless night.
Benjy A. was last seen as a teen in 2011 and he never looked back. While he does not follow the strict regimen of his alma mater, he may have cut off ties with many classmates, but he never cut off the strings of his undershirt. His biggest aspiration at the moment is getting those damn kids off of his yard.