A story of a little girl’s fight to become a teacher during and after the Dutch occupation in Indonesia.
Note: Today would have been Ati’s 101st Birthday. Ati is how I called my grandmama, the first woman in my family who went to school, got higher education and became a teacher. She was the one who taught me the value of persistence. She taught me to dream big. She was also the teacher who helped me overcoming my learning disability.
I was struggling as a child with a learning disability. I actually quit school in grade 4, because I was badly bullied. It was my grandmama Ati who saved me from illiteracy. She did it by telling me stories.
Every night before I go to bed, she would be telling me stories about fairies, princesses, and knights. But they’re not typical bedtime stories. I remember that the knight never “saved” the princess. But they save each other and work together. Many different stories, but always the same theme.
About a couple of weeks after I quit school, one night she told me a story, a fable, about an ugly rough stone, a lump of useless coal, who turned out to be a diamond. The story went like this:
“The stone was sitting by the river, crying because she felt so ugly and worthless. Then came a wise Owl, who said to the stone that he could make her beautiful and worthy because of all the things she would be able to contribute to the world. But the stone must have faith because it was going to be a long journey, the wise Owl said.”
The story goes on.. telling how the stone must go through many obstacles, pressures, and hurtful cutting processes and polishing periods before it becomes the precious diamond.
I remember Ati said this to me,
“You are like this stone. Your brain is. Right now your brain is a rough diamond.
But still, a diamond is a diamond, no matter how dirty it looks now.
A diamond can fall into a mud puddle and looks dirty, but it will still be a diamond that can have the potential to shine, only if someone works on it.
We need to polish your diamond.
We need to polish your brain.”
I agreed to go back to school, but I asked my parents to transfer me to a different school so I can have a new start.
It took about 7 months before I started to catch up with my other classmates in the new school. During that period, Ati worked with me, tutoring me every night.
Not long after, I started showing great progress and ended up graduating as one of the top students.
Later in life, I constantly won awards and scholarships and it dramatically changed the course of my life.
P.S. Today, January 2nd, 2021 would have been Ati’s 101st Birthday. I still miss her every day. I like to imagine that she’s watching me from heaven, smiling, watching me now help other students to shine, just like she did for me.
“I wouldn’t tell anyone you have it. They’ll judge you and treat you differently.” “I wouldn’t tell your boss. It could affect your job.”
Sadly, this is often true. I’ve experienced it first hand and usually the ones who give this response are others that have dealt with the repercussions of disclosing their mental illness. I’ve done this many, many times. I’m quite good at it. I push through it. I smile when I am miserable. I slink off somewhere to manage an anxiety attack. I don’t talk to anyone when I am depressed.
When I reveal it, it is often not met kindly. However, that’s the reason I have decided to talk about it even more. The stigma is there because most keep quiet. This is what emboldens me to share my experiences. You never know who is suffering mentally. You can say you have a physical disease and most often, you are treated with concern or empathy. If you mention a mental disorder, the subject gets changed or the conversation get quiet. It’s an isolating experience.
Music 🎶 helps me a lot … “Then, when I am not feeling well and I find it harder to escape, I can use those same songs to connect to happier times and escape my reality even for a few minutes and give myself a break.”…
🌻 Sophie’s Note 📝. I struggle a lot with depression bouts because of my Bipolar 2 … and I find that there are days when meds don’t work, and I just have to push through it.
This article is based on people’s experience living with TRD – Treatment-resistant depression, and I find many of the suggestions helpful. I hope it can help you too …