An open letter to my students

 

I don’t talk openly about this chapter of my life too often.

When I do, it’s often for a well-timed, calculated purpose.

This time, it’s because a little voice in the corner of my heart kept telling me to share.

I am an adjunct professor at Brigham Young University-Idaho. I love my job. I love my students.

One of the things I love most about them is their strength. It astounds me.

And not just physical strength. I’m talking mental strength.

I see so many student who carry tremendous loads and do so with grace and dignity. They bear the burden of anxiety. They trudge through the trenches of depression. They rise from the ashes of their pasts as pure, refined and triumphant champions.

But the scars are still there. And sometimes, the wounds are too deep to ignore.

I get it. I mean I really, really get it.

I’ve struggled with mental illness my entire life.

I’ve been on and off medications, in and out of day treatments, even hospitalized twice as a young teenager for suicide attempts.

But I am not my past.

We are not our bleakest moments, whether those moments are locked on a replaying loop or ended years ago.

A 2013 study by the American College Health Association showed that among a sample of college students, 57 percent of women and 40 percent of men reported feeling “overwhelming anxiety.” Additionally, 33 percent of women and 27 percent of men reported experiencing debilitating depression.

The statistics of those who suffer are staggering.

If you do struggle with mental illness — and I pray that you don’t — know that there are dozens of good, strong, successful people who have felt what you feel and walk where you have walked.

They love you and support you.

I love you and support you.

Though my life is highly flawed, I thank God every day for how it turned out.

I’ve come so far, pushed so hard and prayed so fervently to fight this monster.

Often it is a daily battle to choose peace and joy rather than succumbing to the darkness that always threatens to cast a shadow over my life.

And as one that has swum in the deep side of despair, I want you to know that I believe in you. I believe in your strength to shoulder these heavy burdens.

You are doing better than you think.

Don’t be ashamed of your challenges. As cliche as it sounds, they really can mold you.

One of the greatest things I’ve learned from mental illness is my capacity to withstand challenges.

Allow the demons to refine you, not define you.

You are worth your struggles. You are worth your fight.

I know this because you’ve sat in my classrooms. We’ve chatted in my office. I’ve seen your strength, your triumph and your endurance.

Keep fighting.

Thank you teaching me what it means to press forward.

Let’s fight together.

 

 

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3 thoughts on “An open letter to my students

  1. Thank you so much for your letter Sister Witlock! I relate 100% with what you said and find comfort in your encouraging words. Thank you for the profound influence that you have had on the lives of so many students.

    I hope that you continue forward lifting the heavy hearted, and supporting those whom have fallen. Many student look towards their teachers as sources of sound, rational thought. And even though we go to a church school, I hear the voices of unsound doctrine, and insane advice being perpetuated through these hallowed halls of academia.

    It’s always a pleasure to read your blog posts, and hope that you will continue. They are a real slice of life that many students don’t get to see from teachers. It helps them to know that you really do know what we are talking about, and what we are going through.

    The communications faculty at BYU-Idaho is fantastic! All of the teachers are wonderfully real, and refreshingly authentic. Please continue perpetuating that kind of atmosphere. The student can see it, and they love it.

    Like

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