Teacher dealing with a diagnosis of severe depression and anxiety

One in ten teachers, according to a Union survey last year, are currently taking antidepressants to deal with the lifestyle and workload. I never thought that I would be making up part of those statistics. But now here I am, signed off work with mixed depression and anxiety, medicated for my depression and facing a 6 week wait for therapy.

I cracked.

I have always prided myself on doing a good job but have always struggled to keep up with all the work. The marking pile was never empty. As soon as I finished one cycle of books I had to start all over again. Managing classroom behaviour was exhausting. I was at the point where behaviour wasn’t terrible or dangerous but it wasn’t meeting the expectations I had previously held. Fed up of having to lower my expectations to just “make it through” the lesson I made the decision to hand my notice in and get out of teaching. Then I had the added pressure of feeling like I was letting everyone down. When would I do it? How would my colleagues react? What would they say?

I’d always managed to put the brave face on; to keep smiling. My colleagues were always threatening to walk out. Teaching has not been a very positive environment in any school I have worked in for the past 8 years. Instead of joining in with the moaning and adding to the concern my Head of Department probably had that she was going to lose more of her department, I just withdrew and started keeping more and more to myself.

Then I had my first panic attack. I dreamt about school, about being left by all my colleagues to deal with 6 classes of children all by myself. My throat closed in; I couldn’t swallow; I couldn’t breathe. Except now I know I could. My body had gone into fight or flight mode. A reflex historically saved for fleeing from danger; except in my head the danger was hundreds of teenagers (and in reality they aren’t a real threat). I went to the doctors that day and I haven’t been back to work since. They signed me off after I spent twenty minutes crying through explanations of what was going on.

I will be going back in (I hope) to serve out my notice period as I have since handed my notice in. Spending evenings and weekends with my husband enjoying life and not feeling guilty is more important than my pride. I feel weak for leaving a profession I spent years trying to be successful in. I feel weak because my colleagues and thousands of other teachers all over the country are battling the same workload, the same behaviour issues, the same stresses, and yet I’m the one that cracked. But my health is too important to let my pride dictate my life.

The only thing keeping me going is that I know I’m not alone. People are leaving their professions more frequently now due to mental health issues. Particularly in teaching we are exiting in droves. I want to take the positives from it though. We are talking about mental health. We are dealing with depression, anxiety and panic disorders more openly. The taboo is being broken and that removes it’s power (some of it anyway).

I don’t know what my next job will be yet; there are lots of things I enjoy doing. Maybe it doesn’t even matter, as long as I don’t ignore the warning signs in future and make time to do things I enjoy. What does matter is that we keep talking about Mental Health even after the month of May is over and Mental Health Awareness Month memes stop filling up our social media threads.

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The Attack 

Your hands are tight around my throat choking the life out of me. 

I can’t breathe,
Can’t stop you squeezing,
gripping tighter.
I’m gasping, crying, clutching.

It’s futile.

Until his arms reach round so gently
and pull me back to him. 

His gentle touch chases you away.
Seconds feel like minutes,
feel like hours. 

The firm delicate touch of his hands soothes and calms. My tears disappear. 
He has saved me.
My husband brought me back from the brink of despair. 

You lose. Better luck next time. 

NB: I’ve just had my first panic attack. I was asleep having a bad dream about one of my triggers and on waking I felt as I described in the poem. 

This is raw, unedited poetry straight from the heart. If I feel the need I will edit but for now, just writing it was the therapy I needed. 

Pampering on a Sunday

We probably all get that Sunday feeling, unfortunately I get it every day at the moment. In a bid to do something that makes me happy every day I chose to pamper myself a bit today.

I did my make-up, even though I was only going to the recycling centre, and I have done my nails because the sun is out and I wanted to feel more summery. 

Look at those grey undereyes- hooray for foundation

My nails usually look quite good when I do them at home now, and that is down to a brilliant Christmas present from my mother-in-law. Christmas 2015 she bought me the Boots Sensationail starter kit and I’ve added to the collection with a Polish to Gel Topcoat. That basically means I can turn ALL of my nail varnishes into Gels. Brilliant! (because I have a carrier bag of polishes and don’t want to waste them)

It doesn’t look quite as good as having them done at the salon, but I don’t spend 8+ hours a day, 5+ days a week doing manicures. If I’m honest, I do not look after my nails and I’m terribly self-conscious about them. Growing up as a violinist I was not allowed to grow the nails on my left hand and to top it off I inherited my Dad’s bad habit of nail biting. I cure this by wearing falsies. 

Today I used Nailene so natural short court nails with Nailene Ultra Quick glue. I question whether they really are short, as I still have to file them down quite a lot. Either way, they last quite well and are a lot cheaper and quicker to put on than a full set of Acrylics.

Rimmel London 031 Super Gel Kate Moss Perfect Posy, Sensationail Polish to Gel

So it’s only something small but they make me smile and it hasn’t eaten into my bank balance like a trip to the salon would. Win-win! 

Does anyone else have anything at home that makes them happy without having to spend lots of money?

Irreconcilable differences

I’ve been in a long term relationship for the past 8 years. It started in February 2009 and at first it was filled with passion, enjoyment and dedication- just like all the best relationships. I looked forward to every single day. Filling my every thought and focus, it was soon the biggest part of my life.

The problem was and still is that it’s all consuming. There doesn’t feel like there is space in my life for anything else and I’ve reached a point where I’ve realised I can’t keep that kind of relationship in my life. It’s not healthy. Feeling like I can’t face going out the door because I can’t face something I once loved is heartbreaking. Sitting at home in the evening thinking about the history we have together should evoke feelings of fondness, yet increasingly all I can remember are the frustrations, the tears, the anger.

This relationship is exhausting and feels entirely one sided. I put everything into it and every year I have had a little niggle that I should get out. However, every year I have put aside those thoughts as I remember the moments of laughter, enlightenment and I foolishly decided that they were worth staying for. Which is why I’m not surprised that now, after 8 years in the relationship, I’ve decided that life is too short and those brief
glimmers of light, hope and happiness do not come (even a little bit) close to making up for the endless hours I put into the relationship and which leave me feeling exhausted, unhappy and numb. When every day you have to fake the smile on your face it’s time to get out.

In a few weeks time I wiwriting_a_reference_letterll be handing in my notice. I have given my teaching career every ounce of inspiration, energy and passion I have. Now I have nothing left to give. I’m tired. Tired of putting 100% into something and receiving nothing back; tired of feeling judged and having to prove myself at every point; and tired of not actually getting any real time off to recover, recoup and regroup.

This is not a healthy relationship and the only reasonable solution for my wellbeing is to file for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences from teaching forever.

Taking a leap

leap-of-faith

Two months ago, almost to the day, I married the most amazing man. In 2003 we lost touch and our lives drifted in different directions. Not so different that in 2014 when some classmates arranged a re-union that I couldn’t find him on Facebook to tell him off for not going. So we met for a drink about two weeks later. He very quickly became a massively important part of my life and he filled me with confidence in myself. I took a leap in 2014 to change the direction of my life and I chose him.

That is why I need to take another leap now. I am not as happy as I should be. We have a beautiful house (we are working on the garden), we are very happily married and we have very supportive friends and family. I keep telling myself to forget what I don’t have and focus on what I do. That’s easier said than done when dragging yourself out of bed to go to work each morning feels like the hardest challenge you’ve ever faced. So, instead of hating every night because it means the next day I have to go back to a job  I hate, I am going to change career.

I am 30 years old, I have a 35 year mortgage for a lovely two-bed house with my husband and I am going to risk leaving a secure job as an English teacher, for a happier life. Right now, I’m not sure what that new job will be-  I’ve got ideas, both practical and ideal –  but I have to make the change now; take the leap before I have no choice but to stay in a career I’ve fallen out of love with.  I’ve decided to document it all here and chisel some time out of my frantic life to return to what I’ve always loved to do – WRITE!

I will try not to rant and rave over the next 3months about how much I hate my job. This is my place for positivity, gratitude and loving life again.