The Excruciating Arena of Mental Illness

Angst … is a word not to imagine but to let it wrap you unconditionally body and soul in itself. People are in the habit of calling their heartbreak as depression and their stress as anxiety yet almost nobody wants to open their eyes to the bitter uncoated truth of angst, major depression, bipolar disorder, paranoia, schizophrenia, and even paranoid schizophrenia, PTSD, borderline disorder, and a lot more! Every morning you wear a mask and you do your best to either choose a merry one or at least an apparently normal one based on society’s expectations. However, the question has always remained: does it help you or it just fools others to consider you normal and react shockingly while seeing your meltdown? You might have heard substantially about people with mental disorders but in reality, how many of you can honestly understand the situation and try to help? On the scale of zero to ten, I don’t assume it can possibly exceed half a percent, far from satisfactory but sadly it is the case.   

When you cannot even make it out of bed, cannot eat or drink anything, cannot take a shower, or even climb or go down the stairs, cannot remember the date, time, and place; or even worse, on many occasions you are looking into the mirror and to your sheer horror, yet cannot recognise yourself at all, I should stress literally at all! Notwithstanding, you are obliged to pretend to be normal, go to work, wear a smile, hide your tears, angst, anger, etc. just forasmuch as you can never ever be open about the reality of yourself among people without being labelled as: lazy, preposterous, weak, insane, liar, etc. I know, walking in our shoes is not manageable or may not be probable at all, yet please try not to label us erroneously and do a little tiny effort to read and do research about people akin to us who are killing themselves and taking piles and piles of pills to be able to live up to that ‘normality expected’ while shattering inside.

I take a trip down my memory lane reading an anonymous quote: “People who die from suicide don’t want to end their lives. They want to end their pain.” I’ve seen a considerable number of people along with myself who suffer from various kinds of mental illnesses; numerous friends of mine gave up their jobs, and so many other things in their lives due to these problems. One of them is a dermatologist and a great university professor who prefers not to work at all because she thinks with depression, she is not going to be adequate; the other one was crying like hell for the reason that she was lost in date and time and missed her class as a professor! I myself likewise was crying in between my classes like a baby who lost her mom without even knowing why!!!! And let’s not talk about self-harm that is beyond the bounds of your imagination.

People like us usually struggle to achieve capabilities as much as possible and be as multi-tasked as possible yet when others congratulate us, there is absolutely no sense of pleasure or accomplishment!! Weird? Yes, it is, true. Anhedonia is a word to express that inability to feel pleasure in commonly pleasurable situations, and this is a psychiatric condition.

There are various scientific justifications for the roots of these harrowing hells; the most critical one is our genes. These illnesses have been imprinted on our DNA by chance by our ancestors since millions of years ago or merely by our parents, in conjunction with, environmental factors. 

Imagine this: you are part of a huge society, you are a teacher, a woman who has not The Passport and who has to fight for both her rights as a Woman of Colour in ELT and keep her mask in front of her students, be as patient as a prophet to teach and answer all their questions – now with this COVID-19, even from her bed early in the morning or late at night – yet get labelled as ruthless, get rejected by The Government after applying for an Interdisciplinary MA Social Justice and Equity Studies program while having received the acknowledgement and acceptance of the university of the interest as the best applicant. How does it make you feel? Let me make it easy for you: an outcast! Yes, an outcast in the middle of nowhere towards never-land! That’s how confused and devastated it makes you feel. 

Behnaz Amani
Photographer: Amir Hossein Soroush


Look at you.

Still standing

after being

knocked down

and thrown out.

Look at you.

Still growing

after being

picked and plucked

and prodded out

of your home.

Look at you.

Still dancing

and singing

after being

defeated and


Look at you.

Still here and hopeful

After it all.

Alexandra Elle [1]

[1] Alexandra Elle is a full-time freelance writer, published author, poet, and small business owner. Her career focuses heavily on writing and holistic healing from the inside out. Elle’s written work is an embodiment of her passion for self-love and advocacy of self-care.

Behnaz Amani

A Ph.D. holder in English literature, who had studied interior architecture and design as well. A fine art photography model, poet, and writer who believes in kindness and understanding. Tries her best to be supportive of those in need and hates lies and infidelity.

We, Women of Color in ELT, have powerful stories to share. Our stories can help us heal and empower ourselves and our collectives.
Check here to share your story if you choose to do so.

Takeaways from #31DaysIBPOC for #WOCinELT to Heal and Light Up the Dark

The views expressed in blogposts are the author(s)’s own and do not necessarily reflect WOC in ELT’s stance.

Link to the tweet

Who is in your Twitter feed? Now, many social justice activists and scholars/educators of color. To name a few (in alphabetical order):

I was checking my Twitter feed and I saw this hashtag: #31DaysIBPOC, a project that celebrates the teacher voices of Indigenous, Black, and People of Color (IBPOC). 

Source: Click here

Every day I had something to read to heal and light up the dark. As @meg_allison tweeted,

It’s so hard to choose, but here I would like to share some highlights of these amazing poems, essays, and blogposts that I found healing, enlivening, empowering, and liberating.

Note: Some people wanted to print this infographic, so here is the link to its PDF file.

Read, read, read, and read.

Source: Click here by @SaraKAhmed

  • Read Acevedo, Alexander, Baldwin, Cisneros, Coates, Delpit, DiAngelo, Edim, Freire, Gino, and Grimes.
  • Read Hughes, Kendi, Morrison, Oluo, Reynolds, Shalaby, Slater, Stevenson, Thomas, Woodson, Zoboi, and Zinn.
  • Read Veera Hiranandani and Maxine Beneba Clarke and Edward Galeano.

Tweet, tweet, tweet, and tweet.

Sources: Click here by @HKhodai & here by @SaraKAhmed

  • Twitter is the medium through which I broadened my network.
  • I read and I write in 280 character bursts. In the spaces between panic and despair, I like and I retweet. I process and make visible my thinking, all the while striving to believe in the power of my story and inviting others to share theirs.
  • Study posts and threads from the human beings of #CleartheAir #EduColor #DisruptTexts #WNDB #DiversityJedi #HFellows.

Write, write, write, and write.

Source: Click here by @SaraKAhmed

  • Write. Write like hell. Write for anyone who will read, study, and listen.

Listen, listen, listen, and listen.

Sources: Click here by @SaraKAhmed, click here by @biblio_phile, & click here by @edifiedlistener

  • Listen to perspectives and voices who own a story you cannot tell as your own.
  • I was surrounded by people who had so many amazing stories to help make sense of my own– I just needed to listen.
  • Listen to the pop playlist here. Soul playlist over here. All of those tunes belong to me, to the person I’ve become, underscoring my collection of missed wishes and dreams come true. I know the words to all these songs. In singing them, I sing myself in a thousand and one ways.

Create, create, create, and create.

Sources: Click here by @biblio_phile, click here by @SonjaCherryPaul, & click here by @izzieteaches

  • I’ve realized that I have to create the place where I feel whole. It’s up to me to look ahead and create a spaces and connections.
  • Find and create new spaces to thrive.
  • You create your own path. Others may not understand it. It wasn’t meant for them to.
  • You can move quickly with speed but go further when you stop to pause for clarity.

Dance, dance, dance, and dance.

Sources: Click here by @edifiedlistener & here by @ValeriaBrownEdu

  • Song and dance offered me an emotional home base; countless spaces for me to rejoice and rage, recover and revive.
  • Sis, light up the dark places with your dancing. Dance in your classrooms. Dance in the hallways. Dance in and out of meetings. And when they ask you why you are dancing, tell them that you are protecting your heart.

Do you, do you, do you, and do you.

Source: Click here by @izzieteaches

  • Affirm yourself. Affirm every day.
  • You are multifaceted. Don’t stick yourself into any singular box. Get rid of people who try to.
  • Take time to connect with yourself. Seek out understanding, not to be understood.
  • You’re allowed to change your mind. Over and over and over again… You are not the same person, you were six months ago when you made that choice. If anyone questions how much you change, question why they haven’t.
  • You will be afraid at times. Be grateful. Fear signals that a change is about to occur.
  • Trust yourself. Align with the wisdom that is inherent within you.
  • Acknowledge the emotion and continue moving forward despite it.
  • You are not alone. One hundred ancestors have been pouring of themselves into you for decades.
  • You are worthy of taking up space. They’ll pretend they don’t see you. They’ll walk past you without excuses. Bump into your flesh, as though your melanin can be ignored. Plant your feet even deeper.
  • Exist loudly! From your hair follicles to your toenails. You have a right to your existence. Stand tall and show up!
  • Never shrink yourself to make others comfortable.

Continue, continue, continue, and continue.

Sources: Click here by @booktoss, click here by @mochamomma, & click here by @CrazyQuilts

  • I continue to speak, continue to push, and continue to educate because nothing will ever change if we allow ourselves to be silent.
  • I’ll keep telling that story.
  • We feel fear, but we continue; we persevere.

Love, love, love, and love.

In the end, love prevails. Love is the answer. Fierce love that demands change. Active love in which silence against injustice does not exist. ❤ Source: Click here by @DingleTeach

And ice cream. Lots of really good ice cream. 🙂 Source: Click here by @booktoss

If you want to amplify this project on Twitter, you can find all the posts here:

Here is the link to #31DaysIBPOC webpage. I am sure you’ll read some of these posts that resonate with you more than once:

Finally, I would like to thank the hosts of #31DaysIBPOC, Tricia Ebarvia, @triciaebarvia, and Dr. Kim Parker, @TchKimPossible, for allowing me to blog about and make a graphic design based on these powerful posts.

What do you do to heal and light up the dark? Leave comment, reach out on our social media or contact us and let us know.

Peace, radical love, and revolutionary hope,

Dr. Parisa Mehran

Born and raised in Tehran, Parisa Mehran holds a BA in English Language and Literature, an MA in TEFL, both from Alzahra University, Tehran, Iran, and a PhD in CALL from Osaka University, Japan. Her research interests include CALL and Social Justice and Equity Studies (SJES) in Education with the focus on Anti-racist Feminist Pedagogy. She currently teaches part-time at several universities in Japan.

We, Women of Color in ELT, have powerful stories to share. Our stories can help us heal and empower ourselves and our collectives.
Check here to share your story if you choose to do so.