Last week I went to see someone for a bout of what I thought was true depression. It was probably the worst I’ve ever really felt in my life- just a general feeling of a dark cloud always around, kind of like those ads for Abilify or Zoloft that you used to see around, where the cloud was hopping around, following you everywhere. A lot of the things I knew to be true from my past experiences just weren’t feeling true this time, like “hard work breeds success,” “actions speak louder than words,” etc. etc. I knew what my goals were for the summer and for the immediate future (like- tomorrow), but I just was not getting s*** done. I felt I was growing more distant from the people I loved, felt like I wasn’t trying hard enough to meet people here in Chicago, I was drinking a bit more than what I usually do (well, teacher summer breaks make that easy haha), and I wasn’t happy. For a few hours last week I considered going on anti-depression medication because I truly thought I would not get out of the funk I was in. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but taking medication after having no medication history would be huge for me.)
What’s changed since then? A few circumstantial things, including being in NYC and home for a week, getting a few paychecks that will stabilize things for the rest of the summer, and touring around Chicago some more (after being here for a year and not getting some extended time to explore), have helped. Being an actual person after a year of massive training and work definitely helped.
But really, my mindset and mood shifted Friday night a few hours after I met up with Tumblr teachers JBizzle and PPT. After telling them a bit about my first year of teaching and what I was doing moving forward, they kind of summed up my teacher situation this year in a few simple words:
"You got screwed."
And while that sums up kind of an instirurional part of this year and not my own actions, baby, those may be the happiest words I’ve heard in a while.
Sometimes you just don’t know or understand your situation until others paraphrase it for you. I had control and I made a lot of mistakes, but at the end of the day there were a lot of forces I couldn’t overcome. My friends and family have been telling me all year how my situation was bad and would be hard for anyone- but of course, when your friends and family are trying to support you sometimes you don’t believe them because it sounds like they’re sugarcoating the issues or saying the “right things” to support you. Mostly I knew these things and was repeating them over and over to try to validate my own experience, but it wasn’t working to help improve the stink I felt myself in.
I know there are plenty of things I need to work on moving forward, and I know I made LOTS and LOTS of mistakes in my first year on the job. But man, the learning curve, all the obstacles, the neverending responsibilities, the constant failures, the lack of time for anything else, the effects on my existing relationships, and the emotional toll of all of that made me feel simultaneously like I could never climb the first-year mountain and like an absolute immoral failure who was doing wrong by kids. I wasn’t strong enough to take all of that on yet—however much I have the brains, I did not have the emotional strength to deal with it all. If you don’t have the willpower or the emotional energy, as much as your brain is telling you to go, your heart just stops. I will not say I did not appreciate my experience- I was blessed to be given the opportunity to work with such wonderful kids this year, and changed forever by the people I was able to meet and work with. I know I will be an immensely better teacher next year for it. But man, the year really shook me to my core, made me rethink what I thought about who I was, shook all of my past relationships as I moved to a new city, and made me feel like I couldn’t be successful even though everyone around me was truly, truly wanting the best for me and my kids. Never really hitting failure up to this point, I was new to failure and didn’t know how to deal. I am much stronger and better for it, but when I was in it I was in deep. While I know I will have growing pains to come as I grow older I hope none will make me feel like rock bottom as I did this year.
So just wanted to shout you guys out on Tumblr publicly- JBizzle and PPT and the other teachers I met, thank you for the meetups, the good conversation, and the honesty. I’m getting back on my feet, and I’m glad I have the support of many communities- offline, online, and online that’s now offline (wooh, comprehensive!)- to do so! <3