Snapshots of My Depression #2: The Care Team

This is one in a series of posts I’m calling “Snapshots of my Depression.” These are memories of times in my life when my mental illness manifested itself in one way or another.

When I was in junior high school, the school had something called “The Care Team.” Or maybe it was the “CARE Team,” an acronym for something or other. I have no idea what it might have stood for. But here’s what it was: a group of teachers and staff whose mission was to identify students who were having trouble due to drug addiction or mental illness, and to connect those students with appropriate resources to help them. I remember learning about the CARE team in Health class in ninth grade, and how students could refer other students to the team…I think perhaps it was a new program that year. I have no idea if they succeeded in helping any kids or not. But they certainly tried. They tried to help me.

I was absent one day. I don’t know why. Maybe I was sick. Maybe I was pretending to be sick. I don’t know. I do know that I wasn’t smoking weed or shooting up. But either way, I missed school that day, and in doing so, I missed Health class. And boy did I miss a good class there. When I returned the following day, I discovered that I had been the topic of discussion in Health class. Apparently some of my friends decided to share with the Health teacher some of my quirks. Now I was no longer claiming to be “manic depressive,” like I did in elementary school, but I was certainly still moody. I still had moments when I would get upset or grumpy. I still had moments when I would just not talk to people. I was an excellent student, as always, but I was probably a weird friend. Ninth grade was actually the year I finally started to make a lot of friends. And I guess some of my new friends were seeing something weird in me.

So I came back to school, and my friend Virginia told me about the Health class. Virginia was very kind…I don’t remember, but knowing her she probably told me that she was sorry if she spoke out of turn. And I probably told her that it didn’t matter. I didn’t know yet that in response to that class, the CARE team had been activated. But later that day, I got called down to the school nurse’s office.

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This was not my school nurse, but looks like a really good book.

She asked me a lot of questions. She didn’t come out and ask it explicitly, but I got the sense she thought I was on drugs. (This was the 80’s, so that was the way to put it: “being on drugs.”) I had no idea what drugs were even like, or where to get them. I’d never touched tobacco or alcohol. She seemed skeptical, but let me go back to class.

The next day, I got called down to the guidance counselor’s office.

ruth_bader_ginsburg_official_scotus_portrait
Justice Ginsburg was not my guidance counselor, but her picture came up with a Google Image search for “guidance counselor.” So there.

This was a much longer meeting. Looking back, it feels like it must have been an hour or more, but I have no idea how long it really was. I don’t recall many details of the conversation, but I remember feeling very uncomfortable, like he was trying to pry into my life. I remember getting the feeling that he thought I was suicidal. And I distinctly remember him encouraging me to join a gym. (And I don’t think this was a reflection on my weight, either.) I believe that at the end of the meeting, we had scheduled another meeting for sometime in the future.

I was starting to get really upset about this. I told my mother about the meetings with the nurse and the guidance counselor. I realized then that some of the loose talk I sometimes had would have repercussions. My mother always thought I was just looking for attention when I talked about suicide or “manic depression” as a child…and honestly, I believe she was right. I think I was just looking for attention then. And now I realized that I’d gotten the wrong kind of attention. I just wanted this CARE team stuff to end, and I did not want to join a gym, and I was very willing to try and think more about what effect my words had.

My mother called the school, and talked to the guidance counselor. She told him that these meetings were starting to get me depressed, and he told her (and I remember this vividly, even though he didn’t say it to me), “I’d rather have a depressed Michael than no Michael at all.” There it was…proof that he thought I was suicidal. My mom did prevail, and I never met with him again. I never heard from the CARE team again, except for once. The next day, I was called out of class one more time, this time to go and speak to my math teacher. He was one of my favorite teachers, and I knew that he liked me too. I also knew that he was on the CARE team. When I went to see him, he stepped out of his classroom and talked with me in the hall. He said something like, “Mike, is everything alright?” I smiled and told him, “I’m not suicidal or on drugs, Mr. M____.” He smiled, put his hand on my shoulder, and said, “Good. I didn’t think so.” He went back into his classroom.

And that was the end of that.

NOTE: I want to make something clear here. I do not blame my parents for anything they did, for any choices they made regarding my mental health. I’m really not sure if there was anything to be done anyway in these early days. I am confident that no counseling or medication would have helped me back then. My parents made good choices. They gave me a safe home where I could slowly, slowly figure myself out. They supported me and loved me, but let me figure myself out on my own. Now that I have kids of my own, I’m just starting to see how difficult that must have been for them. I am very grateful for all they’ve done for me.

Author: michael j scholtes

I am a time-worn preacher with no intent of malice.

5 thoughts on “Snapshots of My Depression #2: The Care Team”

  1. It’s really a pain when your friends all think they know what’s best for you and they all have their own opinions on what you should do. It always winds up me being grumpy at everyone and wanting to just yell shut up and leave me alone. But then they say gee what’s up with her…we were just being nice. Can’t win.
    I’m glad your mom got things straightened out for you! It’s great to have loving parents, wish everyone could.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That male teacher soumded like he understood you well and cared in the right way. It’s lovely to think they cared enough to try.

    I think my teachers would have been glad to see the back of many of my classmates.

    But I get what you mean about wanting to be left alone. My daughter who is moody, would have hated that type of attention too.

    Like

    1. Thanks for the comment. In retrospect, I wonder if I was the first person the Care Team tried to help. If so, it explains why their execution was a bit sloppy. But in the moment, I just wanted, like you said, to be left alone. It’s funny…it’s like I always craved attention until I got it, and then I wanted it to stop.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Our minds are so complex and it’s hard to understand even ourselves. I think many of us crave acceptance coming from attention but then fear it at the same time just in case things become too intense or we feel we can’t continue to live up to the expectations of always being interesting or funny or likeable. It’s not weird, just how some of us are. It’s like a lot of shy people wear bright coloured clothes and eye-catching attire but then hate it when someone notices. Only God truly knows what makes us tick and isn’t it wonderful to know that he does even if no-one else does! 🙂

        Like

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