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“Growing up at Theodor” by Megan Potgieter.

Growing up, I was a victim to the taboo around mental health. I believed I was not susceptible to any illness deemed shameful by social stigmas. I believed I was invincible. It was not until I took my first steps down the tiled, Asylum floors that I realized I was no superhero. I realized I suffered from a mental illness.

Now, before your minds run wild, before you isolate me in a bracket to later lay your judgement on. I would like to refer you back to yourselves. For everyone of us in this room is fighting the same battle. What battle this is you ask ? It is one that although only a micro fraction of the population fight, is significant nevertheless.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, otherwise known as the DSM-5 , is a universal authority used in diagnosing psychiatric diseases. This manual is a tool, guiding one in understanding the symptoms composing their disorder. Due to the lack of knowledge surrounding my mental illness, the DSM V was not able to offer me any description. I am textually sane ,however, internally, I beg to differ. For this reason, I decided to layout my own symptoms for this illness. This illness whose treatment is black and white, yet most patients choose to remain in the grey. For once you suffer from this illness, you realize that the pain you endure is far better than being of a sound mind.

In order to better understand the traits of my mental illness, relating it to another was an important task. Although far too unique to be identified as anything other than that, PTSD is a useful reference for this mental illness which we all share.  This mental illness which I like to call PTTD: Post Traumatic Theodor Disorder.

PTTD develops after one has experienced the demands of this school whose ability to produce excellence aligns with its ability to cause mental breakdowns. As you all know, the academic standards of Theodor are intense and paired with extensive extra-murals, let’s just say trying to do it all is near impossible ,however, our little Asylum pushes us to achieve just that.

The symptoms of PTTD vary between patients however some that I have identified include:

•Sleep deprivation brought about by Maths Investigations that when given to University Maths students, make them question their entire degree.

•A severe addiction to caffeine which has not only put strain on your liver ,but your bank account too.

•Frantically removing all excess jewelery off of your body in the space of .5 seconds in order to avoid punishment from the force.

•Sudden clothing changes. When a patient suddenly begins wearing tracksuit pants instead of their Zara skinny jeans, concern should set in.

•A full storage capacity in your Apple device due to the whatsapp group for every subject and extra-mural activity not to mention the gallery saturated with images of board notes, test memos and answers to worksheets from that one academic freak in your class who gets 100% for everything !

•Being so close with your teachers that you don’t just know their entire life story ,but are Facebook friends with them too !

•An emotional breakdown brought on by watching school productions. The mass of tissues used by the audiences of Blood Brothers could be listed as a leading factor in deforestation.

•Isolation. Not only is the highly competitive nature of fellow patients a catalyst for solo work ,but the load of homework received is enough to not only damage any Venn diagram of the perfect work life balance, but to totally erase it off the page. Balance is certainly not kosher.

•Extending on this, we have our next symptom. Dietary changes. When you rush to the Walmer Spar on a Friday afternoon to purchase a freshly baked Challah, you can start kissing your sanity goodbye. Not only is Challah delicious, but addictive too.

•The final symptom of the disease, is a rare heart condition. One no doctor can prescribe medication for or operate on. Theodor changes your hearts phase of matter, not only warming it ,but burning it too. Theodor’s love melts away any insecurities or doubts and leaves a scar of genuine friends and memories that stay with you for the rest of your earthly life.

Alongside my fellow patients, I will sit proud in group therapy as I chant my name and hold my head high, proudly pronouncing my disease. My name is Megan Potgieter and I have PTTD. I would not have it any other way.