Updated: Jul 27, 2020
Disclaimer: Yes, this is how I really feel. No, it is not a cry for help. I have a Dr. and therapist that I work with often. What this IS though, is a way to use my struggle for good. I think it is very important that we normalize talking about our mental illness symptoms and triggers. And we all know I believe our stories hold power; mostly the power to allow another human to feel less alone.
I don't know how many other ways to say it. I'm struggling. I am not feeling well. I am in a bad spot.
I can't catch my breath. For the past two weeks. The shortness of breath feels like I can't ever get enough air in my lungs. It feels as though a brick is laying on my chest that refuses to allow air in or out.
I have zero desire to get out of bed. Like at all. Ever. I don't even want to watch TV. I want to sleep or just stare at the wall. That sounds sad AF, I know. If I do get out of bed, it is because a certain 4 year old is kicking me and yelling at me to wake up. I will take any and all chances to nap for endless periods of time later. There seems to be never enough sleep for me to feel able to move.
When I do move, it is like I am moving through sludge or swimming up a stream. The air is heavy and I can't seem to get my legs to go. Every step. Every motion forward exhausts me.
It is nothing, but full on grit and calculated perseverance that keeps me afloat. And right now, I only stay afloat the hours my children need me.
What the hell is happening?
It sounds like I have COVID-19. Shortness of breath, sheer exhaustion...perhaps it is, nothing would surprise me anymore.
But the reality is, most likely these are the same depression and anxiety symptoms I have suffered with for half of my life. I didn't talk about it much because we had a much larger battle with Scott's bipolar disorder. So most of my life was working to help him stay well. And when I would hit my own bottom, he would pull his shit together and care for me in the way only a person who knows depression and anxiety deep within their own body can.
Recently, I hit a wall. I should have seen this coming. My husband died. I survived the year of firsts without him. I muscled through caring for my grieving, angry, wild children, working full time as a classroom teacher, and surviving a f-ing pandemic alone. There were bad days. But I was productive. I wrote and shared. I read about white privilege and anti-racism to be a better human, mother, and educator. I taught my favorite movement on the planet, Buti Yoga, to amazing women in person and virtually. I entered the strange world of dating at 41. Then I met someone who I wanted to stick around. I made big plans for myself and my work. I was trucking along until... I wasn't.
It is never one thing. It is a lot of things together; my grief is still never ending (even after that year of firsts-just in case anyone thought it got easier after that), motherhood is not a natural talent of mine, quarantine suited me as an over-achieving introvert so leaving it (sort of-does anyone really know the rules anymore?) is confusing. This was supposed to be my summer of healing. Finding my new normal. Seeking and searching all the way to the jungle on a retreat. Allowing the music of summer concerts and the ocean breeze soothe my soul. So much loss.
I think the breaking point came with conversations, articles, and news reports about going back to school in the fall. The unknowns are paralyzing. I have devoted 19 years to being an educator. I pride myself on always learning, always changing, always doing better than the year before. I spend way too much time moving classrooms (15 of the 19 years), spend way too much money making those classrooms become a welcoming place that my kids will feel comfortable, inspired, encouraged, and loved, and honestly way too much of my energy into the job. I take it home with me. We all do. And I don't necessarily mean the work. We take home all the emotions. The worry about our kids. The concern. Nothing ends for us at the end of the day. Those kids in our class, are ours and we care for them as we would our own.
When we were told we had to teach from home this spring, I was more concerned with my students emotions. Were they scared, sad, confused, frustrated...what was going on in their little minds? I spent most of the spring reading to them encouraging books and telling them to remember what we learned this year: mindfulness and kindness. My teammate and I hosted Zoom meetings just to see their faces and learn about what they had been up to during quarantine. Sure we did some teaching, but at that moment in time, life wasn't about the teaching, it was about helping little folks navigate this new world that just happened one day out of no where.
And we were called heroes. Parents sort of got a taste of what life it is like daily in our classroom. Political leaders seemed to appreciate our ability to take any situation and make it work. There was so much gratitude for what we did that I was taken aback. I thought, finally, they get it. I am 19 years in and maybe the world understands the depth, difficulty, and importance of my profession.
Fast forward to the middle of summer. My anxiety starts to rise. From the news, political leaders, social media, and conversations I hear, I realized something profound. They don't get it. They don't care the way I thought they did. They need us to be a puzzle piece put back in our place. A place I do not feel comfortable.
My heart is broken.
50% of this post just got deleted. I copied and pasted it into my Google Drive to add to the book I will write one day. My anxiety is high enough as is and I don't need a looming fear that my thoughts and feelings will be misconstrued. (Side note and a tiny story that says so much about who I am at my core.I felt that fear since that time in college when I took a stand. High stakes standardized tests were just coming out. We felt they were not good for students so we started a protest in the streets encouraging parents to opt their children out of them. The only result was not being able to find a student teaching placement because "they didn't need that kind of trouble.")
All of this compounding together and here we are. I can barely walk around the block because breathing is so difficult. I am irritable and agitated. I am forgetful and in a brain fog. I am exhausted.
If you are also feeling similar ways, you are not alone. The world we knew our entire lives has literally changed over just a few months. There are no longer clear cut rules of what we can do and what we can't do. There is judgment being blasted everywhere. The news is suffocating. It is hard to know who is speaking truth to us, if anyone. There really aren't any good decisions. They all suck. So kindness, grace, humility, and empathy for one another might be all we have and the only good decision.
Depression and grief look many ways. One thing I want to make clear is that a smile can hide it. Scott hid his often in his smiles and humor. Most of the time, the bottom left is my reality. We don't know what someone is going through by the look on their face or social media posts. This isn't just about me. So many are suffering. Let's be kinder than necessary.