Ever since I was little, my mother would try to scare me into getting good grades. The way she would scare me is by asking if I liked to pump gas, flip burgers, or collect trash. When I answered no, she would say that those would be the only jobs available to me if I didn’t get good grades. It’s only later that I realized that this meant that I needed to get a good college education. The entire time I was in school, I would constantly be told that if I don’t get a degree than my options would be incredibly limited. While this is true today, back then, I couldn’t care less about what my grades were. I was more into playing video games because they would help me escape my life and be a hero (in the game). I only realize now, that I was already beginning to cope with the early stages of my depression.
I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up, the ones I did have were all superficial, and were only my friends because we grew up on the same street. So I was very shy growing up, which I later was told were the beginnings of my severe social anxiety. My mother didn’t have many people to compare me to, as I was the first born in my family, and therefore was expected to do great things in my life. The incessant reminder that I would ultimately become a low paid, the menial worker would eventually lead to me having a prejudice against those workers. I was told, almost every day, that the people who had these jobs, weren’t good enough. I know that this was not the intention of my mother, but I grew up strange, due to my festering mental illness. Nonetheless, I still to this day, have a sort of resentment against minimum wage workers. I hate to say it, but for the longest time, I viewed these professions as being beneath me, and by association, the people as well.
Being told that I would have a worthless profession, and therefore be a worthless person, put a lot of pressure on me to succeed. The fact that I always felt that my mother set exceedingly high expectations for me didn’t help either. Before I began battling my depression, my sheer intelligence carried me through school, without any issues. However, when I had to start thinking about survival, as an active state rather than a natural one, my grades fell quite drastically. To such a young person, I had no idea why my grades fell, why I started feeling so awful, or why the school, both academically and socially, became so difficult. This pressure that I began feeling, to succeed above all else, was a direct result of this prejudice that I was taught against those who “didn’t succeed in school.” I wanted more than anything not to be one of them, and yet here I am.
Recently, with my improvements being made to my mental health, I’ve been given the opportunity to look inwards for problems, rather than just focusing on survival. With this inner view of myself, I’ve realized many of the predispositions that I’ve grown into from my childhood. Being just a high school graduate myself, I’ve come to respect the amount of work and dedication it takes to work minimum wage jobs. Being a paycheck to paycheck worker myself, I’ve learned the true value of every dollar that I’ve worked so hard for. It is something that I learned the difficult way, but I’d like to say that I no longer view minimum wage employees as being below me, as I am, and have been, one of them for my entire working life. I just wanted to illustrate how everything that is experienced by someone with mental illness can be drastically different than the intent. That even the most innocent of actions can have the most sinister consequences. So be careful of what you say and do, because you never know how someone might react to it.
Read more from me at my blog: The Smiles We Bear