Hitting Restart

Hello internet! I had to look back and remind myself that the last time I wrote on here was in April. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking (and overthinking) and reflection during this period of quarantine, but I found myself coming back to this blog. It’s something I’ve wanted to work on but I’ll admit it’s been difficult and typically not on my mind on a day-to-day basis, even without the impact of the current pandemic. These last seven months have felt so much longer as we come to the end of another calendar year, and I’m not sure what to expect in the next.

Here’s a quick update of what’s been going on with me in the last 7 months (and I’ll get into it more of some of that in other posts). I wrapped up my 6th year of teaching online instead of in a classroom. It was a weird ending that lacked real closure. Goodbyes were said through a screen and wishes for safety and good health were sent. In those 6 years I learned a lot but something I had known for a few of those years was that I needed to branch out and find something different. A few interviews later, I received a job offer and took it. I moved to a new city and have been adjusting to a new school during a pandemic, which has been taking a significant toll on me mentally (I will DEFINITELY get into this more in other posts).

It was mid-March when the world changed. I had students in front of me when the president of our school announced over the loud speaker that school would close for the next two weeks. It was in the middle of the day in the middle of a class. I think we all anticipated the announcement that was coming, although the adults in the building weren’t given any sort of head’s up. Some students cheered and celebrated but I don’t think any of us knew what was to come.

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As faculty, I had no idea what to prepare for. I felt so flustered that I left most of my things on my desk at work. When school closed we pretty much immediately transitioned to remote learning. I barely remember but I think we had one “day off” to prepare. So many teachers experienced this and I think about that often. How, once again, teachers were expected to have all the answers and do everything needed in a dire situation without support.

Even though I’ve changed positions and schools, I’m still teaching remotely. I haven’t been in a classroom since March. I have been struggling through this pandemic, again, as I’m sure other teachers and people have. I’ve questioned my career and profession before, but I don’t think I’ve ever questioned it as frequently as I have in the last four months.

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I write this to hit the restart button for myself. I push it to return to the goal I set for myself over a year ago to start a blog and write for myself, other teachers, and those who experience anxiety and depression. I push restart to make room for creative space in my life as I navigate this difficult time. I push restart in order to try and focus on the present as much as possible, even when guilt of the past or fear of the future creep into my mind and thoughts.

My mission remains the same, to share how anxiety and depression affect me as an educator, especially during these challenging times. I hope my future posts can serve as some sort of comfort, or at least be something to relate to in a time where people may be isolated and feel alone. To those who may be going through similar experiences, you are not alone.

What Do I Want to Be When I Grow Up?

This is a question that we get asked a lot when we’re young. We thought about the careers that we used to see at home, in our community, on tv, and in movies. These ideas usually changed quickly and frequently. One day the answer is doctor and the next it’s astronaut. (Side note: you rarely hear that people want to become teachers when they grow up). Sometimes the ideas we had when we were kids lead us down a certain path once we’ve reached adulthood, but that question isn’t asked the same way when we’re adults. Instead we are asked, what are studying? How is the new job? Do you have something that you can fall back on? These questions bring up a lot more anxiety compared to the excitement we felt when we were kids.

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It isn’t so much dreaming about the infinite possibilities like when you did when you were a kid. It’s about what can you do to fit societal standards and how can you be financially stable while doing so?

I knew I wanted a career in education. That has always been true. But, when I was figuring out what I wanted to be when I grow up, a part of me in high school wanted to pursue art. I did study art in college as a minor, but I can’t say that I didn’t listen to other grown ups (a.k.a. my parents) who said history would be a more practical major (HA!) But seriously, now that I am where I am, I have no regrets. I truly did find an unexpected love for teaching history. I think compared to a lot of people, I’m quite lucky.

Now this isn’t the whole story. There was a moment I thought that I was going to leave that path behind completely and give up.

I probably have been experiencing anxiety for at least about 10 years, but I haven’t recognized it or accepted it until the last 2 or 3. While I was being asked “what I wanted to be when I grew up” I was also acquiring learned behavior of how to treat my feelings of anxiety, which was usually telling myself that it was just nerves. One of the first anxiety-filled moments of my life that I can remember happened the summer before my senior year of undergrad.

I went to school in Massachusetts where I was part of a teaching preparation program. Part of my senior year was to be spent student teaching. Leading up to that semester, I had to complete the state testing that would allow my teaching in the schools and eventually lead to my teacher certification. Luckily being that my subject was history, I only had to study all of history, government, and economics (sarcasm!).

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Took it the first time, didn’t pass. Took it a second time, I had failed again. When I got those results a tidal wave of anxiety washed over me, which was something I had never felt before.

I went into a panic. I cried to my parents. I reached out to my advisors at school. My answers to failing for the second time included, I’m not cut out for this. I shouldn’t be a teacher. I won’t be continuing with student teaching this fall. What should I do now?

My mind was feeding me all of these negative thoughts. My panic got even worse because what I wanted to be when I grew up didn’t seem like a possibility anymore. My plan for social and financial stability (again, HA!) wasn’t something I could picture. Anxiety is funny like that. It puts these terrifying thoughts into your mind and almost paralyzes you to the point of no return. The trouble is, I still believe them.

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I couldn’t tell you how I exactly coped with that experience. I don’t remember how I changed my mindset to show up on my first morning of student teaching. I look back on this moment with admiration because somehow, I got through it. But, unfortunately, a lot of it is a blur. What I can tell you is that I’m still in the classroom 7 years later. But that’s another hundred stories.

What do I want to be when I grow up? I don’t know that I have an answer for that now. If anything I feel more lost than I did that summer 7 years ago. Sometimes I panic about it. Sometimes I lay in bed dreading the future about it. But there are some days where I am able to convince myself that it’ll be okay.

Introducing Me

I sort of always knew I would go into education. In my elementary school years family and friends, and even some of my teachers would tell me they could see me as a teacher. What really got me into education was my time volunteering at my youngest sister’s special needs school. And what pulled me in was seeing her growth and improvement and knowing that I was a part of it. From that point on, I began working more with kids in the classroom and on the tennis court. Now I teach middle school and high school social studies/history.

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What has kept me motivated in teaching are the rewarding moments that you experience as a teacher. It’s the “thank you” you get after helping a student improve a particular skill or providing them with a new study strategy that makes things click, or supporting a student through a difficult time. It’s moments like these that make being a teacher even more special than it already is.

Is being a teacher always full of these moments? Heck no! Those shimmery moments make up a small percentage of the day-to-day. But for me, it’s still worth it. At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself up until recently.

I live with anxiety and depression and my mental health is consistently all over the place. Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck at the bottom of a well even after having a good few days while other times it’s just bad all around. I wish I could separate what goes on with my mental health from what happens at work, but it just doesn’t work that way.

I’ve noticed that some of the things that I experience at work or as a result of being a teacher has a significant impact on my mental health even after the school day is over. So much so that I’ve had to force myself to stop checking emails after school and have turned off my work email notifications.

My anxiety and depression have caused me to question my capabilities as a teacher, made me feel like jumping out of my own skin, lose confidence in my own self-worth, and lose countless nights of sleep. I’ve avoided students in the halls, had panic attacks anticipating parent meetings, cried after having parent meetings…

So why am I here?

I know that I’m not alone, whether you’re a teacher, nurse, lawyer, accountant… you name it. The thoughts and feelings I experience living with anxiety and depression are not just about me. It’s about everyone out there who struggles in their workplace because of their mental health, and sometimes even more so because of what goes on in the workplace.

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I wanted to create a space for myself to share how anxiety and depression affect my life and work, and hope that this space becomes a place of connection, solace, relatability, relief, etc… for the people who visit my page. I also like to bring in some humor amidst darkness, because it can’t all be dark, right? (I hope you like laughable and almost unbelievable teacher stories).

Whoever you are out there, you’re not alone. Let’s work through it together.

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