In Life

I was casually diagnosed at risk for suicide or ready to snap and kill someone

(I don’t know what made me think of writing about this today, but it popped in my head as I was reviewing my life, as I often do.)

…but when I was a tween around 13 or so, I was casually diagnosed by a teacher as a possible future killer (ready to snap) or at risk for suicide.

You’re reading this thinking: Are you effing kidding me?

..and if you have met me in real life, you might be even more shocked and in disbelief that someone thought that.

Even I am reading that thinking: Wow.. that’s kind of unbelievable.

I’m telling you this because sometimes we can make snap judgments (our human nature is to quickly size someone up in 15 seconds – 10 minutes), and although that teacher had good intentions it has made an everlasting impression on me in the realization that I came off even more awkward than I had imagined.

Snap judgements can sometimes save lives, but we have to be careful that we get the whole picture first.

Of course, NO ONE told me this at the time.

I found out only because my academic rivals in class told me at the end of our school year that our homeroom teacher told them to “look out for me” and for signs of a breakdown on the rise.

Ironically, that teacher was the one who mentally snapped at the end, having to take a sabbatical from the stress of teaching…. and she thought I was the crazy one!


I was obviously shocked and surprised, even a little ashamed that someone could even think that.

When I asked what her reasons were, they told me that she thought it was just REALLY strange that I was always so quiet in class, I preferred to read.

She found it uncomfortable that I was alone a lot of the time in class even when we had ‘free time’ to socialize, even though the girls in my class were nasty pieces of work back then.

making-new-friends-paper-quotes

Finally, she thought it was the oddest thing that I only hung out with two guys in the class — those two guys who were my academic rivals, and that I had no clear girl friends in the class.

These poor guys tried to tell her that I was just…. different.

I wasn’t like the other girls in the class who were obsessed with pop stars, celebrities, boys, makeup, drinking before I was legal, sex, and what have you.

I had other interests which included reading, and I wasn’t interested in socializing with girls in the class who were bullies anyway.

Think: Mean Girls, and you pretty much have the toxic, nasty environment I was facing each day in school.

What she failed to take into account in all of this was the following:

  • I was bullied pretty much all throughout elementary (pick any reason for this)
  • I’m partly an introvert, believe it or not which was made worse by bullying
  • I’m a bit shy; even now, speaking to others I don’t know secretly terrifies me
  • I’m also a bit self-conscious due to having been bullied
  • I didn’t think like, or enjoy the same things as other kids, which makes fitting in hard
  • My friends were all in the other class together (we had split classes)
  • I was an overachiever (still kinda am)
  • I really liked to think, which requires silence

Without even pulling me aside to gently ask me if I was happy in her class, she made a snap judgement and proclaimed me to be a possible future serial killer or at risk for suicide.

Then she told 2 people who seemed to be the closet thing to a friend I had in class, and proceeded to make them wary of me.

They tiptoed around me on eggshells the rest of the year, but I thought they were doing that because I was beating them in subjects and they didn’t want to give me an edge.

I mean.. REALLY?

I told my mother when I found out, but by that time I was just amused at the whole thing, as was she.

My mother looked at me, wrinkled her forehead and indignantly said: YOU? A POSSIBLE KILLER? AND SUICIDAL?

She couldn’t believe it because I couldn’t even stand to watch her kill a live chicken, and I was always trying to make friends with the animals outdoors by coaxing squirrels towards me with nuts.

(I was really into fantasy fiction like Eddings at the time, with a bit of a Snow White complex going on.)

japanese-flying-squirrels-animals-cute-cuddly-friends-adorable

This Japanese flying squirrel would have been particularly adorable to make friends with.


Later, when I went on to high school, yet ANOTHER teacher mis-interpreted my personality (partly introverted, shy, self-conscious) as being at risk for taking drugs and possibly suiciding.

AGAIN.

This time, she told my mother directly instead of telling me, and warned my mother to take me into a therapist and possibly put me on drugs for the obvious depression I was going through.

O_O

I was just quiet. QUIET. Not depressed.

There’s a difference!!!!

There was something about me, a quiet, shy vibe, that made people uncomfortable and maybe, still makes people uncomfortable (Who knows? No one tells me these things).

What I did learn from that experience as a kid that that no one likes a bookworm who is shy, careful, quiet, likes to draw rainbow-coloured designs and think.

Apparently, that made me somebody who could snap at any time.

To be a “normal” kid, you had to be loud obnoxious, careless, lazy, in-your-face and to be too cool for school. Less thinking, more action.

Introverts are misunderstood, and I hope that if you are one, you don’t feel alone in this regard, because you aren’t.

I mean, if my teachers’ assessments were anything to go by, I should be dead or in jail by now.

Luckily.. I am in neither position.

Anyway, just a story I thought would be interesting to share. I’m sure other people have similar types of stories, although I’m sure none of you were diagnosed as being suicidal for being quiet.


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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

I got out of $60,000 of debt in 18 months using TheBudgetingTool.com. Since then, I have worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K (savings rate = 85%). I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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Posted on August 22, 2012

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25 Comments

  1. Tania

    Have you heard of the book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts” by Susan Cain? It is about how society has changed this century in how it views introverts including many examples of how the extrovert personality is stressed and how that’s a mistake. Not only because we do not have a choice to some extent (we are what we are) but also how important the introvert thought and creative process is in many areas. She also did a TedTalk on the subject which is great, you can find it online.

    I’m an introvert and I was very similar to you in elementary school. I did switch schools in the 9th grade and things were quite different for me. The cultural background of the students was different and I had more friends. But, I still was an introvert.

    I once took a test at work as part of the health assessment programs (to benefit the employee). I was very honest. Do you feel sad and hopeless? Well,yes, sometimes. My results told me I needed to watch out for depression. Does anyone go through every single day and every single moment feeling happy and hopeful? I don’t think so, I’d be suspicious if anyone claimed that. That same study told me to read smoking cessation materials even though my response was that I had quite smoking over twenty years ago at the age of 21 (I’m 44 now and have never craved a cigarette since).

    Reply
    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      It’s on my list to read. I think no one can feel happy all the time. That is not realistic. I feel sad and hopeless plenty of times, but that’s in the short-term (a month or so) not the long (more than a month).

      The long-term is where it becomes difficult for some people who suffer from depression.

      Reply
  2. The Asian Pear

    I had the opposite problem. I was horribly depressed and bullied. To the point that my current self is suprised that I’m alive right now. But my teachers just said I was too introverted and don’t play with other kids (it was the other way around – they wouldn’t play with me.)

    Reply
  3. A
    Amber

    I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that text graphic, “Things not to do to an introvert friend” or something like that. It lists things like, Do not criticize your introverted friend in public, Don’t force them to participate in group activities with extroverts, etc. All of the “Do nots” were basically my childhood in school and it SUCKED.

    I was never declared suicidal or depressed, but my teachers did think I was anorexic (in grade school, really, that was kind of young age to start back then. My understanding is that it’s more common for that age group now…) and one teacher thought I was being abused and secretly passed me his phone number and told me to call him or the admin over break if I needed to. In reality, I just come from a line of petite women and didn’t hit my growth spurt until I was 14/15 years old, and although I was super quiet and a bookworm in public, in private I was hyperactive and getting into fights with my brothers, which resulted in the bruises and cuts that the teacher noticed.

    Haha, so you’re not the only one who was misjudged by teachers! It’s funny in hindsight because I can’t remember any teacher ever just ASKING me directly. I’ve always wondered if they thought I was too young to understand.

    Reply
    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      Ah yes, I was thought of as anorexic too. It was my super fast metabolism (and growing 5 inches) after a year or two of being chubby.

      They probably thought we were too young to understand, but … kids should be given more credit for maturity.

      Reply
  4. Anne @ Unique Gifter

    Egad. Those are ridiculous experiences! Maybe Quiet should be mandatory teacher curriculum. My SIL has a child-psych degree and is a teacher and even she really wants to read the book because I found it so interesting.
    Whatever happened to “the bookworm?” I had friends who were labeled that as kids and that was A-OK with everyone.

    Reply
    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      Bookworm? I think they called us nerds, geeks, freaks… No “bookworm” label here.

      Reply
  5. C
    CorianneM

    I don’t remember exactly where I first encountered the introvert/extravert differences, but I’m happy I did. I understand myself so much more now and I can better handle myself.

    I’m an introvert as well. I am still a bit shy, quiet; but so much less than in secondary school or elementary school. I’ve also come out of my shell 🙂

    I was never called depressed or suicidal, thank god… but my teacher from the last year of elementary school didn’t think I was smart enough to take the academic preparatory track in secondary school (a standardized test + personal advice from your last teacher = the recommended secondary school track)… never mind I had one of the highest scores in the test and very high grades, and I was always ahead with reading. What I later found out from my parents, his reasoning was… that I was too quiet, wouldn’t speak up enough, which, in his view, was necessary to be deemed smart? :S

    I do agree that you have to open your mouth from time to time, but I just can’t force myself to blabber at every single moment. I need some time to think! 🙂

    Great post!

    Reply
    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      That is an awful thing to think someone is not smart because they are quiet, perhaps it wasn’t so much intelligence but he thought you were too fragile? 🙂

      Reply
  6. B
    Brandy

    It is amazing how just because you are quiet you are seen as a weirdo, someone to be watched. I am just now coming to realize that it is ok to be me (age 32).

    Reply
    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      People don’t like quiet people from my experience. It makes them slightly uncomfortable if you don’t talk. Either you are boring or at risk. It took me a while to come out of my shell so to speak. About 25 years.

      Reply
  7. PK

    You could have fooled me about the whole shyness thing – but hey, it’s hard to figure out personality traits over email.

    I never was labeled dangerous or at risk, but one teacher did ask my parents to test me for ADHD. Diagnosis? Ahead of the rest of the class and bored (does that count as a humble brag?)

    I also had a teacher declare war on the athletes in high school – for me, specifically, it included saying I cheated. In math. Again, in High School. Hopefully where I am today disproved that idiocy, heh.

    Anyway, glad you’re a well-adjusted adult!

    Reply
    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      I’m not painfully shy now. I was in the past. Imagine a slightly chubby, pimply, braces-covered, glasses-wearing child and you have the reasons why I was not liked.

      Hey you should send that teacher your calculators 🙂

      I think kids who aren’t the average or majority, are looked upon suspiciously. I was once told that I was cheating in English (wrote an essay that she couldn’t believe someone my age wrote), so she called my mother in and tried to tell my mom I was a cheat.

      My mom didn’t say anything to me when she got home, but later defended me saying there was no way I was asking my her or my dad to write for me, seeing as my mom is awful at English and my dad never even finished high school.

      To prove her wrong, my teacher showed a video in class and made us write an on-the-spot essay while in class. It was only after reading that essay she realized that it had been me all along. (She apologized to my mom later).

      I found all of this out, 10 years later when my mom reminisced. 🙂

      Reply
  8. M
    MelD

    It’s hard to be different.
    I wasn’t depressed or suicidal but I was definitely always different, for various reasons, possibly in more subtle ways. Anyway, I never fit in and even now, I prefer a very few friends scattered around the globe and who have stuck with me and don’t have “girlfriends” as a group or anything to get together with, just two friends who live locally and who I see occasionally – they, too, don’t really “fit in”, so that’s fine!!
    Fortunately, my husband is similar, so we get on great 🙂

    Reply
    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      I don’t particularly feel a need to always see my friends all the time but I do crave interactions once in a while which is when I start setting up times to see them. I always come out happier and I feel great but the actual outing itself exhausts me by the time I get home. I have friends scattered in cities all over which makes it harder, but very few close ones.

      Reply
  9. S
    Shovellicious

    I don’t know why but sometimes I have this feeling that teachers (or whoever) use “depression” so often, even too often, to describe teenagers who are (like you said it) just quiet or introverts that they can’t see real depression.

    Reply
    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      I think blank labeling children with “ADD” or “depressed” is very dangerous. I was just quiet, and while other kids were also quiet, they weren’t “at risk” like I was for some reason because I just seemed so odd to them versus what they expected a kid to be. One teacher did tell me that it was a bit strange talking to me because she sometimes forgot I was a kid, not an adult. :/

      Reply
  10. S
    Sarah

    I was rejected from the gifted program at my school because the teachers said I wasn’t making enough new friends and would read instead of socializing. You know, because gifted children are known to have superior social skills. *rolls eyes*

    Reply
  11. A
    Aleksie

    I’m horrified by the unprofessionalism of teacher A. She should’ve talked to you directly to see how you were or talked to your parents about her concerns. Talking to other students about her concerns for you (and then probably further isolating you)- I have no words. If she really thought you were a danger to yourself or others, she should’ve done something to help you.

    Teacher B was a little off but at least she went to your parents, not gossiping about you with other students.

    Reply
    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      Right?! That’s exactly it. It probably made the other kids more wary of me and she didn’t even tell my parents or call them in to chat. It was just a casual observation which she then passed on to the other kids.

      Also, she may have fancied herself a therapist because I THINK she was in therapy at the same time (which led to her diagnoses of a mental breakdown).

      I guess being called depressed by someone who was actually depressed makes me feel as though she projected her depression on me and had nothing to do with me.

      Reply
  12. Ati Aziz

    I am an introvert too. But on the contrary, when I was a teenager I was so confused as to the reasons why I am so different than other people that I was depressed to the point of being suicidal.

    It took me great many years (and journeys) to learn to know who I am and stop beating myself for what other people think of me.

    And finding other like-minded people (like you!) along the way definitely is a big help to realise that I am never alone and not the only one that is different. 🙂

    Reply
    1. saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      That’s refreshing to hear!

      You are definitely not the only one who is different. It’s just that we don’t talk about it more often, and no one reads about quiet, calm, introverted individuals. Everyone wants to hear about the go-getting, wild, “fun”, bubbly, party animal, which is why a lot of our magazines and literature are so skewed to one personality type.

      Reply
  13. eemusings

    Hmmm. When I started high school, we all had to fill out this questionnaire. Based on my answers I was flagged as being at risk, basically, and sent off to the counsellor (I think based on the fact I’d attended a few different schools, moved from a different country, was quite quiet and introverted and didn’t have a lot of friends). I think once they actually got to talk to me they realised I wasn’t seriously misadjusted or off kilter, just ME.

    That said, I’d much rather the system err on the side of caution, for obvious reasons. Too many kids still slip through the cracks.

    Reply
    1. s
      saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      Phew. Guess I’m not the only one who was flagged at risk.

      I’d also rather err on the side of caution, but couldn’t she have at least talked to me? I found it weird that she did it behind my back rather than asking me how things were, etc.

      Reply
      1. S
        Sarah

        I think the weird thing is that she told other students instead of alerting a guidance counselor! What a weirdo!

        Reply

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