After a sustained absence and a summer and fall full of changes and rearranges I’ve decided to start anew. In my last blog written in July (well over three months ago!?) I outlined and discussed some of the issues that I was facing coming into this year. In hindsight I probably should’ve done something about it but didn’t. You see I, like many of you presumably, have dealt with depression for some time and have been on medication to cope with it. I have felt that it was enough to just pop in some medication and forget about regulating my feelings. However on the first day of school everything changed, although I didn’t recognize it at the time. That was missed opportunity number one I suppose.
As I previously wrote I lost a student at the end of last year as well as a long-time colleague and close friend Casey. As far as I knew I was good, I had dealt with those feelings and had moved on. I was so wrong. After going back to my classroom, and to the job I loved, I found myself with increasing amounts of hesitation, self-doubt, and fear. Feelings that I had never really felt before, at least not that I had confronted or felt with such intensity. Without any knowledge of what to do, or how to deal with any of it I started missing a day of work per week, then two, and then I started missing two days-a-week, week after week. The problem wasn’t an illness that I could cite, it was different. I found myself simply unable to get myself out of bed. I just couldn’t muster the courage to do so. I was afraid of doing a bad job, I was afraid that I would do a disservice to the bright and caring students that I’m in charge of, and I was afraid of what they, and everyone else frankly, would think of me. My thoughts would turn to self-doubt and loathing until I found myself in a tangled web of depression and anxiety. I was paralyzed.
To an extent I was aware enough to know that this wasn’t sustainable and I knew that I couldn’t fix it alone. Thankfully I work in a building with absolutely amazing, loving, and caring professionals. Luckily I have fantastic friends and as a giant group of love and caring they all began to point me down the path to recovery and self-help. I got in contact with a counselor that our district has on-call for cases like mine and free of charge. I began talking to him every week and I was prescribed new medication. The combination of the two has slowly started to right the ship and I find myself trying to use the tools that my counselor gave me to overcome the fear and anxiety. I’m not saying that I’m back to where I was before the grief struck me but I can now say that I am building the courage to grieve (also the title of a great book that I highly recommend) and get out of bed. I’m on the path to wellness.
Of all of the lessons that I’ve learned in the past 4 months, the understanding that I am not weak, broken, or crazy was perhaps the hardest to learn. However this understanding has allowed me to open up to my friends and colleagues more than I ever have. Not perfectly or every time, but I discuss my feelings far more often. The second lesson is that I’m not alone, ever, and I want you, teacher or student or whoever, to know this too. I know that our profession and life, with all of its wondrous and beneficial impacts, is highly demanding and it doesn’t take something as life-changing as the loss of a student or a close friend to turn demanding into impossible. But remember, you’re not alone. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed and to hear negative voices in your head telling you that you’re not good enough or that you’ll never do this job well. The key is to talk about it, let others know how you feel, and have conversations about how they deal with those feelings and how you can help them in return. Keep your friends informed and keep your colleagues as friends because this job requires a communal effort. That’s how Casey and I became friends and that’s his legacy for me.