Hello again, my loyal friends. It has been a very long while since I posted. I had this vision that the pandemic would have me introspective and posting all the time, or at least once a week. Boy was I wrong. So many people around me (yet far away) were super productive. While Husband was home he learned to pickle, exercised his butt off quite literally, and become an obsessive keto eater. I binge watched a lot of TV, old and new. You bet I watched The Office again. Twice. Or maybe more. I read books at night. I did learn a lot of new tech and some new teaching techniques. When summer came, I invented the “Cul de sac Drink and Snack” event where friends could come and distance in the driveway, have drinks and food, and marvel at the world we were living in. Honestly, other than the existential dread and general fear for the world and my own personal health that I was feeling, the first several months of the pandemic were not horrible. I am privileged and have a home and food security. I was able to work from home at the height of the danger. Husband was laid off but with the promise to be hired back as soon as the company opened positions back up. Daughter was miserable but safe. So, so safe. We started playing D&D and even got closer. It was awful in the large picture but the day to day was ok. And then it was fall.
Depression and anxiety seem to be harder in the cold and gray for a lot of people, and this year the fall and winter were heavy. When my work started up again in the fall we did a lot of back and forth- fully remote learning, then a blended model of students who were online and students in person while I had to teach them all simultaneously. I don’t know if I have ever worked harder as a teacher. I would fall asleep immediately after work every day. I would wake up, have dinner, watch a little TV, and fall asleep again. I was drowning. My colleagues were drowning. We had no idea how to build the ship while we were sailing in a monsoon. As I do whenever things at my job seem insurmountable, I found solace in the kids. But other things were weighing on me, too. I do my best to avoid specific politics in my posts, but the state of the world, the election, all of the following events, weighed so heavily on my mind. In the spring of 2020 I had learned quickly how to speak to students about the BLM movement. I have been on top of making sure they understand LGBTQ+ rights and have done everything in my power to let students know that I will love them in all cases. But everything was becoming so charged. Views about the pandemic and masking were becoming completely political. The election? I couldn’t even teach about the process because there was so much misinformation being spewed to students at home that I was afraid of backlash when I shared facts. While I kept my personal choices out of the classroom, it is obvious to anyone who talks to me for long that I am pretty darn liberal. All of the arguments happening around me in the world, travesties of injustice that I was seeing, hate, anger… it all got to me. I became a keyboard warrior for a bit. It didn’t help anyone. Honestly, I lost the respect of a few people that I care about and a few people I don’t. I did learn how to walk the line of advocacy and support without being a lunatic, which is something I hope stays with me forever, but it wasn’t without missteps. My anxiety at work, for the first time in my life, became unbearable. My anxiety at home became unmanageable. By the beginning of winter, I was the closest to breaking I have ever been.
I was lucky enough to have people in my life who could help me. Someone at my work who I adore but did not think would be my savior, frankly, was. I was able to research about where to go to commit myself to a program. I was able to talk to the intake people there and make a decision about whether or not I needed to go and be away for a while. As this was going on, an opportunity presented itself. A position that I have dreamed of ever since working in an elementary school became available and because of my school’s unique position, I was qualified for it. Instead of taking my “vacation,” I threw myself into the idea of becoming my school’s reading specialist/coach. My bid for the position was successful and I truly think it saved my mental health in the moment. I was reinvigorated and my excitement for the job allowed me to push through the final weeks in my classroom position. I was torn in many ways, because leaving my sweet class in the middle of the year during a pandemic was a crappy move, but I honestly think it saved my life. I had a few parents and students who were upset with me, a few who were just sad to see me go, and one who was downright angry. One of the hardest things for me to know in the entire world is that people are angry or disappointed in me, but I had to do it.
When I finally got to make the physical move into my new position, I was over the moon. My space was coming along into what I dreamed it could be and I was so ready. We went back online and I was given my schedule. The job, as so many things that we build up in our minds, was not at all what I thought it would be. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I said, “This is because we are remote. It is because you don’t know the kids well yet. It is because of the pandemic.” I became reclusive and sad again. I physically hurt. My back went out. I was a wreck. We went back in person and things got better, but the work was still disappointing to me on a daily basis. I realized that I had to make it what I knew it could be. Yes, there are some things that must wait until we are safer, but I saw some areas I could make work. It is still not perfect, but it is better. I am learning how to make things my own. Next year is going to be great. So why, then, are the depression and anxiety creeping in and being so very bad again?
Last week was our school’s spring break and this week, out of an abundance of caution, we have been online. I am so proud of my school for making this choice, even though it totally stinks. I am vaccinated. We’ve been panting the upstairs of our home and really making the entire space what we have been envisioning. I am sliding back to that point of things being as bad as they have ever been. This damn pandemic, my lord it is just going on and on. People are still refusing to wear masks and claiming it isn’t anything more than the flu. I work with some of them and it is utterly heartbreaking to know that people can be that uncaring of their fellow humans. My weight loss attempts have been so full of failure again, and yet another round of doctors have not been able to help or provide guidance. I feel defeated and alone and unloved and unloveable and pointless and useless. But this is really the problem: looking for reasons and trying to find a solution to the “trigger.”
Depression and anxiety just are, and they lie. They are not situational or brought on by any sort of precipitating event. Of course I can only speak for myself, but there is not really anything that I can fix outside of myself that will take all of this away. They are the meanest things which come at you for no reason at all. Am I sad that I am fat and no one can help me change it? Yup. Am I sad and anxious about the pandemic? Sure. So are all other people. I need to tell my illnesses to leave me the hell alone and stop lying and saying if I fix X thing, then I will be ok again. Because that’s just it. I can lose a whole person’s worth of weight (in theory; all evidence is to the contrary). I can have all the pretty clothes, go on all the vacations, decorate the perfect house, have my dream job, and they will still be there. I will still have days when I feel like I cannot get out of bed. I will still find myself feeling terrified of my in-laws coming to visit because all they will talk about is how skinny Husband has become and they will secretly be thinking how terrible I am. I will still be too worried to go visit my own family because I am afraid that they all just love me out of obligation and are in actuality embarrassed by who I am and what I look like. I will still be worried that my students’ parents think I am worthless. I will still think I do no do enough as an educator. Because these mental illnesses LIE.
Today I decided to combat the lying by writing it all down. It is still too early to know if it has helped me or not. All I know is, today I can see that they lie and I am stronger than the lies. Today I can find the strength to protect my heart enough to get out of bed, to shower, to moisturize, to brush my teeth, and to watch The Office. Some things won’t change.