I was seriously debating entitling this particular entry something like, “I am officially the worst teacher ever,” or “Depression is horrible and so am I,” but I have had time to sleep on it (I’ve been sleeping a LOT), and gave it the current, kinder, and gentler title instead.
In recent news, despite my newly prescribed meds in addition to my other ones, my anxiety attacks have gotten worse, not better, while my depression has spiraled out of freakin’ control, to the point that I had to take a psychiatric leave of absence from my school for the remaining weeks of the school year.
Let me back up a bit. For the past several weeks (though maybe I’m off, because the concept of time is often elusive when you’re unwell), I have been crying uncontrollably at very inopportune times (as in, in front of my coworkers, my principal, and on more than one occasion, my students). Nothing seems to give me the slightest shred of pleasure. I can’t even say that I hope for happiness. Happiness would be an unimaginable luxury at this point. I just don’t want to be in this perpetual, unsustainable state of pain anymore.
Yesterday afternoon, I was starting to feel, well, not alright, but something closer to neutral. Until I got a pop-up on my cell phone from my school email inbox (I need to deactivate that, STAT). It was a heartbreaking email (which is far too personal for me to post) from one of my students, a 12 year old girl, who wrote to me that she and some of my other students cried when they found out that I was unwell and not going back to school. She went on to plead that, for her recent birthday, all she wants is me to come back as her ELL teacher (insert a billion broken heart icons here) 🙁
I couldn’t bear to continue reading, so there are some parts that I couldn’t even get to, but the message is still there, waiting for me to finish it. It is more than worthy of a meaningful and truthful response (to the extent that a child can understand), but right now, I just don’t know how I can and what I can possibly write back to explain what I have been experiencing. I feel like a horrible person, teacher, role model, everything. To say that I am furious with myself is an understatement, but I know in my heart that I had no choice. If I had continued to go the way that I was going, the outcome could have been a hundred times worse.
Every time I have to take my various meds, all for a different purpose, some which counteract the effects of others in some way, it is a reminder that I am “sick,” that I am “ not normal.” It sucks. I wish I could just flush them all down the toilet and be done with them forever, but unfortunately, I have tried similar actions before, a number of times in fact, and it never leads to anything good for me… or anyone else, for that matter.
I know it sounds worse than blasphemous to say, but I wish I had a physical illness or condition that could somehow “better justify” my need to take this leave. But at least with a physical ailment, there is sometimes a specific time frame of recovery, and you know that it is a question of when (not if) you will recuperate. And that, in all likelihood, you won’t relapse. This is lamentably not the case with a mental illness.
For a very long time,
I felt compelled to follow the mantra, “The show must go on,” in terms of not only teaching my classes, but also keeping up a pretense, no matter how feeble, that I had it together and that I was fine.
Fine. I’m fine (*Snort*). Everyone knows by now that “I’m fine” really means, “I’m Fucked-up, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional” (or some such variation with the same general idea).
No. I was not fine. I am stilll not fine. I need help.
I have deactivated my Facebook account. Nor am I using Instagram any longer, and I am avoiding Twitter (not that I ever used it practically at all, but you get the point). I need to clear my head and my heart. I need a break from social media. I need a break from it all. If I honestly believed that checking into a “mental health clinic” would be of any good , I would have already done so, but I’m just going to use the old cliche, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice [or three times, in my case], shame on me.” To me, the experience and thought of going back to a psych ward is remnant of that poignant Amy Winehouse song, “Rehab.”
But although the paperwork is signed and handed in for my medical leave of absence, and the process of my recover is in motion, the thought of taking a break from absolutely everything (my teaching job included) quite frankly scares the hell out of me. Not just because change is scary, but because taking such drastic measures can go either way. But I desperately need a change. Although I am an employee in Argentina, I am still terrified of the idea of losing my teaching job for good. Yes, the law says my position and I am protected for up to 52 weeks, but society and personal past experience says otherwise.
In the meantime, I am trying to seek some sort of meaning from this entire thing. I am desperately trying to get better as much as I can and as soon as I can. I wish I could just hastily call off this whole psychiatric leave situation, but I know that it would spell disaster for me in every sense. So I am prepared to pull out all stops. I don’t care what I have to do, I must and will do anything to get better as soon as I can. I need to. For my family and for my students, and for myself, too.
“Do not judge me by my successes. Judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” – Nelson Mandela