This blog post was originally posted at zoebettess.wordpress.com
I haven’t blogged in a long time because I am not confident in my writing skills but lately, I have had lots of thoughts and found myself wanting to share but have been scared to do so. Then I heard Clara Hughes (mental health hero) speak and share her story about her mental health struggles. I made the decision that it was time to share my story around my mental health struggles. Of course, a month has come since then and I haven’t blogged. Then on Thursday, I met my inspiration in literacy teaching-Pernille Ripp. I realized through her keynote and our tweets that I need to share my story too. I just need to remind myself that I will never be as eloquent with words as Pernille is and that is okay.
For those of you who know me in person or follow me (or my class-@3bbees) on Twitter/Instagram you know that I am a primary teacher who loves connecting and sharing learning through technology. But, you might not know that I have anxiety and have struggled with it for almost a decade or that I grew up with a father (teacher too) who had severe depression. My anxiety isn’t severe and usually it is kept under control by; medication, physical activity, supportive friends and family, and strategies to keep it at bay. But then something happened.
With the riding the waves perspective in mind, I am always moving and changing what I do based on what my student’s needs are. I am never afraid to laugh at myself or with the students. I consider myself a silly but engaging teacher. I was the teacher that truly believed all of the inspirational and truthful teaching posts on Instagram and would excitedly screenshot them and text them to my teaching partner in crime. But, then one day at the start of this current school year the waves stop. I had turned from the teacher who loved the upbeat teaching Instagram posts to the one who related more to those posts from teachers complaining about having to go to work on Monday or dragging themselves through the week etc. It was like something had snapped and I wasn’t me anymore. I didn’t want to get up in the morning to go to work. Everyone morning when I woke up I was anxious about what the day would bring. Sometimes I’d even have a bit of a panic attack when I got to school before the children came in. Some days I even struggled to get through the day once it started. Yet, I appeared to be fine when I was at home not thinking about school and when spending times with friends.
Soon I was dreading going to work every day. Yet, I rarely talked about what was going on. I didn’t know what was happening to me and wasn’t telling anyone other than two teachers at my school that I am friends with outside of school. I didn’t tell my mum as I didn’t want her worrying about me. Despite my two friends telling me that it was just a rut and things would get better, I kept on struggling. Eventually though, another teacher at my school noticed something wasn’t right and that I was struggling. After hearing her story and her advice I knew something had to change and that I need to take action as I was at the point where I thought, “Oh no! I am going to end up like my dad and need to stop teaching.” My thoughts were so irrational and despite knowing this I couldn’t stop them. Now, I was thinking about school and my future outside of work hours and it was start to cause me to have more and more anxiety. Things weren’t getting better and I was scaring myself with the possibilities (unreasonable ones). I took the advice of my colleague and made an appointment with the MTS counsellor. It was hard going to him again after years of being fine mental health wise for the most part and having to admit something wasn’t right. We hashed out potential scenarios for why I was feeling the way I felt. Meanwhile, I was going through the struggles of getting back to the right dosage of my anti-anxiety meds. Eventually, close to Christmas time, I told my mum what was going on. She listened and told me that she knew I loved my job and not to be silly. Of course, little did she know that is the worst thing you can say when I am anxious or irrational. It just made me feel worse about feeling the way I felt. She meant well but, it didn’t help. It did get me to fight the upward battle to continue to get the help I needed to be me again. Finally, winter break rolled around and it felt like things might be changing for the better.
I spent Christmas break at home with my parents and spent a lot of time with my best friends and her three girls. I left home feeling revitalized and much more better about returning to school. I started the first week back feeling happy to be back at work. By the end of the first week back, I was happy to be there and loving my job again. I don’t know what happened for sure but, I think part of it was that I was not at the right dosage of meds at the start of the year and slow got to that right dosage. By the time Spring Break rolled around I could say that I was almost 100% that teacher that I loved being. I am now 100% certain I made the right choice to fight to return to the teacher that I know my students need and respect.
I wrote this blog because I wanted to let others struggling with mental health issues know that they too can fight back and return to who they use to see themselves as. I want others to realize that they need to reach out for help. Let the colleagues you are closer to know what is going on and let them give you advice if they have it and listen to it. Don’t be stubborn, get help. Don’t be afraid to share your story in your own way and own time.
My story isn’t finished. I will continue to be the teacher my students need but will make sure that I am the person I need to be in order to be that teacher. I have anxiety but it doesn’t have me. I won’t let it control my life anymore!
I need to say thank you to a few people who’ve helped me or supported me.
- My parents for listening and supporting me in the best way they know how to.
- My two friends from work who listened to me.
- The colleague at work for checking in on me when she realized something wasn’t right.
- My best friend for listening to me and giving me a distraction when I was visiting. Her twins and daughter kept my mind off of my anxiety.
- My other friends who eventually knew about what was happening. They listened when I needed them to without judgment.
- Clara Hughes for sharing her story and leading me in the direct of sharing my story.
- Pernille Ripp for encouraging me to not be afraid to share my story.
- A teacher of pre-service students who follows my class on instagram and sometimes says how much she loves what she sees going on in my classroom from the photos. I wasn’t posting a lot at the start of the year but her comments made me remember that I am that teacher she saw and that I needed to get back to that. So thank you!
Remember that we all have voices that need to be heard. Hopefully mine can stay strong for myself and my students.