Publication:

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - 2021-11-21

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Overcoming my fears

EDUCATION TIMES 2

Chamodi Abisheka email: ca.pitumpe@gmail.com

Continued from Last week… 3: The Next Few Weeks However, I was still crying, not eating and totally refusing to go to school. My dad, a highly educated man, took me to a counselor, who had me do meditation and breathing exercises which I confess did not help me at all. I also had OCD from birth(just some small obsessions like putting my hands in a bowl of water to fall asleep and having trouble choosing socks to wear feeling sorry for the socks left out and that kind of thing) so counseling was pretty much useless. My dad worked far from home and only came home on weekends. Because of my condition paired with my OCD I wanted him near me always and I would scream and cry when he got ready to leave for work on Sundays(he had to leave on Sunday to be at work on Monday). I would call after him whenever he left and sometimes, he would turn around and travel all the way back even though he was already half way gone. They would buy me gifts and get me cakes to cut on my birthday at school. Miss. S was still my class teacher though. I guess they thought if they created happy memories around her I would start to like her. She is there near me and the cake in my school birthday celebration photos. Note that my parents did not know about the dragging me by the ear incident. It took me a long time to tell them that. Sometimes she forcefully kept me in class. I remember that she was pregnant and that time. She would keep me trapped between her desk and the wall and I would try to crawl through under the desk. Thinking back this was a very traumatic experience for me. I was trapped physically and mentally. I would throw my shoes, which sailed past my classmates’ heads and sometimes even hit them. By now I was the most popular kid at school. The “crying kid” they called me. Even some parents called me that behind my back. They gossiped about how I might need to go to Dewalas and how I might have been scared by a demon. Typical Sri Lanka superstitions. Eventually Miss. S left school and went to this new big international school. I still don’t know if she was sacked or if she went on her own. I would also like to mention that during the term I spent in my sister’s class, I still wrote the exam and got the fourth position of class. However Miss. S was the supervisor at the math’s test and I wrote about half of the paper , faked a headache and spent the next hour in the sick bay as I could not stand being next to her. I still remember what she smelled like, the smell of new born babies after they’ve had milk, combined with a flowery smell. I think she might’ve worn baby cream. A smell I had never come across ever since yet a smell I would recognise instantly. 4: Back to Normal My life at school became normal after that. I was a model student and I went on to become the head prefect at school and I was loved by all the teachers. I will be forever grateful to my principal and vice principal for being so kind to me, to the senior students who did not make fun of me and to my sister’s teacher for looking after me. I remember that when I was in grade 6 a new kid who was in grade 1 cried in the class daily and the principal had me talk to her. I felt like a really proud big sister consoling the kid and trying to find what was wrong. Fortunately that kid just missed her mom and was not bullied in any way. In 2014, I had to undergo surgery for appendicitis. I was supposed to sit for a major exam a few months after the surgery and I got depressed over thinking whether I will be able to pass the exams properly. After not getting successful results through counseling I had to visit a psychiatrist and I am still on anti-depressants to this day. However, the teachers at that time so understood and they gave me time to heal and helped me pass the exams with the best possible results. This shows how teachers can be nurturing and uplifting. Special thanks to my class teacher, to my IT teacher who always listened to me and to all the teachers who helped me overcome my fears and become successful. 14 Years Later So today, 14 years later I was talking with my grade 3 classmate who I was with for a few months before she left for another school. She brought up my crying incident and I told her about the Miss. S ordeal and she was shocked. She never knew the reason for my crying because she left my school soon afterwards but apparently she was also bullied by Miss. S. She was bullied in 2 different schools which she left because of Miss. S only to see that Miss. S was in the third school too. And that’s how I got to know that Miss S didn’t just ruin my childhood but my friend’s and also get this, she bullied 2 other kids that I know! She squeezed my other friend’s ear until it was bleeding. He had ADHD and this affected him a lot. I will let them tell their own story. This is my story. Bullying is NOT okay. It hurts my heart to know that other people went through such a painful time because of one rogue teacher. She was sacked from the last school she taught in and eventually migrated and lives abroad now. I wanted to tell this story because I cannot stand knowing there are other kids going through the same rough patch as I did. So if you know anyone who is going through or went through a similar situation please ask them to talk to someone they trust. Parents please make sure to look into your kids’ mental well-being. They might be going through a traumatic experience that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. I still have depression. I have been on anti-depressants for a long time. But it is manageable and I have a very good support system of family and friends who understand what I went through. I was one of the lucky ones because my parents understood the situation and got me the help I needed. If you are or were bullied, please speak up. There is no shame in admitting to what we go through. And talking about it while you are going through a similar incident can prevent it from happening again. We need to normalise talking about mental health and when more people speak up, it helps makes the world a safer place.

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