Trying to Make Myself Better While Trying to Make You Better

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Trying to Make Myself Better While Trying to Make You Better

I know I have a lot of followers and other bloggers on here who suffer from something. Whether we deal with anxiety, eating disorders, depression, or any other mental “problem”, we know what it feels like to be too much in our own heads, too much controlled by them at times.

I have never in my life been so aware and outspoken about anxiety as I have been recently. I still don’t go screaming my problems from the rooftops, but I definitely have had my fair share of moments where my mouth just runs and words come out that wouldn’t have a few years ago. I am starting to realize even more that we are much more the same than we believe. I may not have anxiety as bad as some, others may have it better off than me, but I know everyone has had the basic feeling of anxiety at some point in their lives.

What I didn’t realize (until yesterday) was that I know more people than I think who suffer from depression and thoughts of suicide. I know that’s not something everyone wants to talk about don’t get me wrong, but I just never realized how close to home it would hit for me.

Over the past few years as a teacher, I have watched many kids who feel so depressed because of their performance in school, something going on with their family, etc. It has always broken my heart piece by piece to watch these students struggle with very little assistance given to them. Let’s face it; while I care, there’s only so much that I can do from a professional standpoint. Even worse, I don’t have the technical training to be able to truly give them advice that I would feel comfortable using. I know our brains are a complicated thing, and I’d hate for anything I said to make a negative difference to a kid who is already struggling.

One year I even had someone who was so depressed, they started dropping suicidal hints left and right. Based on the student’s personality, others thought they were joking. I took it seriously from the start just because mental issues hit so close to home for me. Thank God I did. While I cannot take full credit by any means, my awareness and notification to the proper people may have helped that kid in the long run. Yet every day I felt so fearful that I would never see that child again, that they would do something one evening or weekend that would cause me to lose them from my professional life forever. And that would have killed me.

So recently my sister-in-law started posting about how she wanted to do this Out of the Darkness Walk towards the end of October. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention hosts these walks all over the country to help raise money for their cause. They work on research, advertisement, and raising awareness for those mental issues that lead many people to thoughts of suicide. Their goal is to decrease the suicide rate by 20% by the year 2025.

While I’ve never done anything like this before, I decided I was going to walk with her. The organization gives you the option of simply walking to raise awareness or to walk because you are trying to earn some funds for their cause. While I don’t have a lot of money to spare, I do plan to donate something of my own. Yet, I thought it would be such a waste to try not to raise any money at all.

Which is how I ended up spending quite a bit of time last night sharing information about my cause to my friends via Facebook. I asked that even if they could not donate themselves, that they share with their friends who may be able to. It was through these Facebook chats that I found out that there are even more people close to me who suffer so severely with depression. I did my fair share of feeling depressed and saddened last night. There was a moment where I almost cried. And I did a lot of praying, praying that those who really need this help find some way to get it before it is too late. I also prayed that anyone suffering from this issue never goes so far as to act out their thoughts.

Almost instantly (at least within less than an hour), this cause has become SO important to me that I am having trouble putting all of this into words. So for that reason, I’m just going to shut up now.

What I am going to do is to say that I am just one small, individual, meaningless person in this whole big world. In the long run, the best thing I do to make a positive difference is teach. But I feel like that’s not enough. So I’m going to do this walk, even if no one else walks with us. I’m going to do this walk whether my one single presence at this event makes a difference or not. I am going to walk even if I show up that day with only my meager donation in my hand and no one else’s. I am going to walk because this is important to me. I am going to walk for my kids and my friends and my family. Because I care.

If you are so inclined, feel free to read more about why I walk at my AFSP webpage here. There is a donation button and the option to share my page as well. Again, I know not everyone can give, but anyone who shares or donates even a few dollars will become even more near and dear to my heart!

Hopefully one day we will be able to kill that suicide rate!

With Love,

~B

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My Life as an Anxious Overachiever

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There are very few people in life who cried over actual spilled milk, yet I bet there are even less who cry over a grocery store flyer and a TGIF ad for two-fer deals on entrees and appetizers. I actually wonder if there are any people who cry over the mail when the mail is such inconsequential papers in the grand scheme of life. These junk pages aren’t even worthy of their own envelopes.

Then I remember: just a few short hours ago, that was me; I was the girl crying over the flyer and advertisement. While I didn’t have any spilled milk, let me just say I did not need one single thing more to set me off. But let’s start at the true beginning.

Last Saturday I got some weird news. A distant relative had a major health issue that landed her in the hospital. She and her family ended up having to mourn the lost of one of their own. Why weird you ask? Not because the relative was so distant, not because it was so shocking… it ended up being real weird because it affected me more than I ever thought it would.

To anyone reading this, I hope that didn’t just sound super selfish. I didn’t mean that I got nosy and pried into their lives; in fact, I haven’t really talked to any of the family much since. I’ve been giving them space. Instead I spent time thinking of them, wishing them well, and praying hard that everything would be alright for them. Let’s face it; we aren’t the closest people ever, but their tragedy touched my heart because in some way, they welcomed me in to parts of their own lives. Even more, the devastation that a person becomes aware of when tragedy strikes anywhere close to home brings their anxiety up and their confidence down.

I trudged through the weekend, trying to enjoy myself and think of things other than the horror that probably ensued that day for those people I care about. Monday came and things at work were strange. Everyone wanted updates and to share concerns. (Long story how that connects to work, but believe me, it encompassed a large part of my conversations that day.) When I made it home, I realized that my husband and I had made plans to go buy a new dryer that night. Our’s had broken sometime over the weekend and we were about to be in desperate need of clean work clothes.

It was about 8:30, the parking lot was dark, the stars may not even have been out. I surely didn’t notice any constellations. My phone kept vibrating; I had been having a text conversation with my sister while we shopped and waited for the Lowe’s appliance guy to run through his paperwork. I finally got tired of it moving in my pocket, so while we were waiting for the dryer to come out to be loaded into the back of the pickup, I pulled it out of my jeans to see what was going on. A family member had texted me to tell me some contact information for the relative I spoke of earlier. I had called my grandma’s house for the number earlier in the day but there was no answer. Not only did I never receive that number from her, but the relative also continued to text me about how bothering my grandmother with things like this while she was trying to come to terms with her disease and inevitable death was something I needed to realize was inappropriate.

Crying my way home on my husband’s lap as I laid across the bench seat of the truck felt like the stupidest thing I had done in a while. I wished many times I had never made that phone call, left that message on my grandma’s machine. The contact information wasn’t that important; in fact, I wasn’t even sure that was the only way for me to get that number. (I ended up getting it from my Uncle later that night as it turns out.) I just couldn’t think how my one phone call had to be such a big deal though. How did the idea of leaving a message turn into me crying over the idea that I had made my grandma sick? How did my outlook on her illness and my relation to her change so suddenly with just some simple words on a screen? The answer is this: I was tired, I was worried about the wellness of others already, and I was stressed after having slept poorly the night before.

In the end, it was silly of me to have broken down like I did, there in the dark Lowe’s parking lot. Yet it made the events of the rest of the week seem even more important, maybe even worse.

Tuesday I spent all day trying to figure out how to stop thinking of my grandma every second. I went through teaching my classes as best as I could, but the thoughts lingered. When I realized it was time to go home, all I wanted was a break. Then I remembered I had to go to see my therapist immediately after work.

I won’t retell the events of that hour-long visit I had. All that’s really important is that I don’t remember ever walking out of therapy feeling worse than I did that day. It wasn’t my therapist’s fault; she was trying to help me get through the thoughts and issues I had been having, she was trying to prepare me for reality as best as she could. Unfortunately, that did not help to alleviate any of my worries or fears.

Going into Wednesday morning, I didn’t think much more could happen. Then we got the news that a coworker had to leave suddenly because of a family emergency. At the time, I could only guess what had happened to their family; unfortunately, the guessing made the anxiety worse. I continued to talk to my family and friends about all that had transpired so far during the week while simply praying to find an escape when I got home that night. I guess it wasn’t the worst day of the week, but I felt the stress climbing like my acid reflux climbs up my throat when I’m feeling particularly ill.

I thought Thursday would be settled enough to help me become less anxious; I was wrong. Thursday was the first day in my recollection that I had cried at my job. Well, at my current job. You see, I had made a mistake; I’m not afraid to admit it, nor am I afraid to tell you that I had been kind of immature in some of my actions. You see, my students continue to leave their lockers hang wide open all day long. Many of them leave their cell phones in their lockers, open for any eye to see. Even more of them leave other valuables unlocked without the realization that anyone, even a visitor, could end up taking something of their’s without it ever being returned. I’ve spent almost the past year and a half closing lockers on a daily basis. Always the same kids, always the same valuables, always the same lockers between every period of the day. Students say they don’t have enough time to unlock their locks in between classes though I’ll never understand why that means they can’t at least close the door…

In any case, my coworkers and I had started to move things. We never removed things from lockers, we just moved a textbook from one shelf to another. We zippered up a backpack that had a calculator and a brand new iphone peeking out of it. Then we closed the door and made sure it was latched just like we have done every other day for years. Maybe this was our way of teasing our kids a bit, but I’d like to think that it was my way of trying to get them to realize that someone, anyone, could be touching or removing their things. Some kids did start to get it; some kids thought the idea was funny. If they forgot to close their locker, they’d have to spend extra seconds finding the textbook that used to always sit in the top left of their locker. It may have been annoying, but they saw the lesson, they tried to learn. There was one kid who wasn’t so understanding… Needless to say, boss man ended up in my room that morning telling me that it was inappropriate for me to touch the kids’ items regardless of whether I had removed any of them or damaged them or not. It was really the first time that I had gotten in trouble at this job, the first time I ever felt a large level of anxiety within this classroom of mine. Along with everything else going on that week, I broke.

I spent at least 30 minutes crying silently to myself, with my husband working on the other end of the speaker phone as I tried to grade some quizzes for my students. It wasn’t so much that I had been yelled at, it wasn’t so much that I didn’t get what he was trying to say… I think I had finally realized the stupidity of the situation, the fact that I had actually spent time trying to teach these kids a lesson about valuables, about material things when all I wanted was for the people around me to be healthy, happy, and safe. At the end of the day, I may sound callus but I don’t really care about any of those cell phones, any of those backpacks or textbooks. I care about my family member who had a funeral to plan, I cared about my grandmother and how she had either gotten more sick or I had missed something in recent weeks that would have helped me to know how sick she truly is, and I especially worried about the coworker who was out of work again on Thursday for some unknown family emergency. I didn’t care about these phones, but I took the time to try to teach the kids (in what I thought was going to be a fun and carefree way) that their lockers needed to be locked. Really, I thought that was an open and shut case. A story that quickly should have ended. I thought the kids would be refreshed by the fact that I hadn’t yelled or babied them like normally happens when an adult tries to teach a teenager a lesson. I know now how it could have been perceived differently, but I wish someone (that kid, my boss) had realized that my actions were honestly not to make their day worse, to break any rules, or to do the wrong or immature thing. It was a bit of inane movement that I thought would result in giggles and lessons.

That day was clearly not the best; I spent the rest of it feeling like an alien in my own classroom; what other actions could be perceived as immature or incorrect? Would I run into my boss again? Would any random meeting be awkward? My anxiety was in third gear, maybe fourth, by that time. I got home successfully but I spent a good long time doing some more crying when I got home. I couldn’t manage to put this into words that day, or any of the other days earlier in the week. I couldn’t explain to anyone how these individual incidents kept piling one on top of another.

Friday was my glory day; Friday was the day things were going to be different. I didn’t think I’d end up saying the same about Saturday… maybe even Sunday. At this point, I just wanted to make it to three o’clock. I wanted a junior to come in and clean my room faster than ever so I could just go home and be away from humans. I think I had started to realize that the more I tried to converse with others, the more stress and issues there were. Friday was not to be my day either… another coworker was called out on family emergency (seriously, does anyone else believe in coincidence or things happening in groups). Then there was the last period class who tried to give me all gray hairs in a single 30 minute period. I had to end up assigning them the extra homework of explaining the word respect and how they had disrespected one another and myself. I asked them to think this weekend about what they needed to do better during their class next week. I had tried moving seats, I had tried gentle reminders, circulating the room… these kids were extremely distracted and extremely hyper that afternoon. I should have done the normal teacher thing and just gave them a Friday afternoon off; stopped teaching either out of the kindness of my heart or because I had reached an unsafe level of frustration. What I did instead was assign them more homework, more grading for me, to try to teach a lesson. I hope they take it seriously. I hope they realize that I’m trying to do good by them. Each and every one of them.

I did make it home finally, and I was able to have a relaxing evening with my mom. We attended a small play based on the story of Anne Frank. One of my students performed as Anne and was ABSOLUTELY amazing. The stress and fears lingered with me that night but I thought some sleep would help.

Today, Saturday, was going to be a good day. I had an event in the morning and a whole span of afternoon hours in which to relax, sleep, and be okay with me. I never thought the walk to prevent suicide would hit me so hard; side-by-side with my sister-in-law and my husband, we walked those two miles. I listened to stories of people who had died or almost killed themselves due to depression and suicidal thoughts. I listened to one man discuss how his major social anxiety led to him attempting to take his own life. I guess I realized then that all this stress isn’t good for me. I realized how desperately I just wanted life to pause for a minute, to just give me one second of rest without a single thought of all of this negative and horrifying news. I just one wanted minute, maybe sitting on my couch, where there wasn’t a thought in my brain or a single image on the TV screen. I wanted just a little bit of time by myself, no human interaction at all. As much as I care about those around me, I wanted for just a bit to truly take care of me.

I got home from the walk today; there was an envelope in the mail from the state tax bureau. They thought I hadn’t paid our taxes in full, that we had lied on our return from last year. I spent probably an hour with my husband trying to figure out where the “missing” money was. Luckily, we found out that it wasn’t missing at all. Unluckily, I finally reached my breaking point. As I cleaned up the papers from the tax debacle and prepared to mail the paperwork in an envelope, I could not find a pen that wouldn’t stop dying on me. I was on the phone with my sister at the time; she probably thought I was insane. I started yelling, pretty sure I threw that pen up against the wall. Then I told her I had to go; I hung up, looked around the room, and realized this: my life was a mess, my week had been one huge snafu, and even worse to me at that moment was the fact that it was a never ending feeling. Even the dog hair on the floor was a nuisance, the mail laying in haphazard piles just more mess to add to my extremely messy life. It was there, standing looking around my kitchen, that I broke.

I think I’m okay now. My husband made me lay down with no option of getting up, doing anything, or seeing any of the mess of my life (physically or in my head). He kept me distracted from the stresses and let me talk out things whenever I felt like voicing my thoughts.

I can’t say I feel better at this point but what I can say is this: my life has been worse, my life has gotten really rough at times. I thought many times in life that my days would be difficult, maybe impossible to get through. Yet each time so far, I have been wrong. There’s always been a tomorrow, there’s always been a light at the end of the tunnel.

I can say right now that I don’t see the light. I don’t think that working an open house at school tomorrow is going to brighten my future or bring me out of my funk. I’m not even convinced that someone will not have another family emergency this week or an issue that stresses me out. Instead, I’m just trying to go with it… I’m going to turn this computer off, lay down on my couch, and relax with my dogs. This is my evening, and if it’s the only evening of relaxation again for another whole week, you’d better believe I’m going to try to make the best of it.

If you suffer from anxiety too, just remember you aren’t alone. If you don’t have anxiety and now think I am totally out of my mind, I’m sorry. I guess detailing every minute thing that happens in my life is just one way of saying to others that I understand, that they can be okay too, that they are not alone. You. Are. Not. Alone.

 

More About My Family

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Tonight, for Grandparents’ Day, my sister and I went to visit my grandma. We were both tired from our long weekend (so excited that my sister and I practically spent the entire weekend together!) but we wanted to at least drop by. I’m quickly realizing that my grandma’s life is… like a ticking time bomb, and while she may not pass anytime soon (hopefully) we can never be too certain.

So besides the cancer that is going on, she fell the other day and broke a vertebrae. They want to do surgery, but grandma is basically against it. She’s got too much going on in her body and doesn’t know how well that would end. So she’s just dealing with the pain and management of all her health as best she can.

But what astonished me tonight more than anything was that we spent about 90 minutes at grandma’s, just talking about the past. I forget how we even got started, so I’m just going to list some things that we discussed. Hopefully I’ll remember more or find out more from her later.

  1. Grandma is mad at the local newspaper. She only gets it on Tuesday and Sundays, but today when she got the news, she noticed that none of the Football Friday events were listed. She told me she’s been having trouble reading through a Nora Roberts book for the past month or so. She’s been trying to use the newspaper and sports stats as entertainment while she cannot seem to focus on her reading. —- A side note here, I have never known my grandma to not have a book beside her that she flies through pretty quickly. Even when she and grandpa were still much more active, I remember her loving to read just like I do.— In any case, I ended up looking up the results of so many different sports games; Penn State, the local leagues, etc. She even tried to watch my kids’ game which was broadcast on TV the other night; she found that one boring to watch too.
  2. My sister tried hogmaw the other day from a lady at her work. She didn’t know what hogmaw was (neither did I), so grandma started to explain about it. Grandma calls it piggy maw, for the record. This was basically a meal that grandma liked, but hated to cook. She said it took the entire day and was extremely tiresome. You see, when the family butchered pigs, they set aside an entire day. My great grandparents on pappy’s side of the family all got together to do about 20 pigs. They started before breakfast, my great grandma would make pancakes (grandma says she was the best cook she ever met!), and then butchering would occur throughout the day. Even when grandma was growing up, she had to help butcher the pigs at her own parent’s house. Her job was to follow her mom around all day; their job was to make sure the men had what they needed, including food. So once the pigs got butchered to a decent extent, the women were in charge of cleaning out the intestines and the stomachs. They would make sausage with the intestines in preparation for cooking it and some potatoes in the stomach to make a hogmaw for dinner. (Pretty gross if you ask me, but I was enraptured by this story.)
  3. Grandma went on to discuss how there were at least five pieces of the pigs that got smoked in their smokehouse. Grandma and grandpa had a smokehouse up until they sold off the farms and got their final house (the house I will always think of as their’s). There were always 2 hams, 2 shoulders, and some bacon from each pig. Grandma was always scared of the smokehouses, she said it creeped her out. She knew in her head that you smothered the fire before leaving the smoker be, but she was still worried that the fire would flare up. Her latest smokehouse was also right next to their house’s front door, just to add to the anxiety. Nothing ever happened though, except for some good smoked pork.
  4. Grandma told me that my great grandma on grandpa’s side always liked to cook with greens. They weren’t a very wealthy family at all (almost poor from the way I interpreted her words), so great grandma would pick dandelions, cabbage, and lettuces from their gardens. It’s funny; grandma thinks that Aunt M.G. (my dad’s aunt) got most of her cooking skills from her mother. When she said that, I immediately flashed back to Aunt M.G. asking me to help her pull dandelions and other things from the front yard throughout the seasons. In any case, great grandma always made her hogmaw with cabbage.
  5. Along with that fact came the fact that my great grandpa (on grandpa’s side) worked quite a few years in Frederick County. Just him and two mules up in the mountains, pulling logs down off the hills. Why? Because he helped to bring the logs down to the county to create the first electric lines that part of Maryland had ever seen. Meanwhile, great grandma would be down the hill with the kids, taking care of the farm and trying to save up money however possible.
  6. Great grandma on grandma’s side was straight up Pennsylvania Dutch. She says almost every meal served at their table (2 parents and 7 kids, just FYI), included some kind of dough. The cooking was heavier and fattier (think Amish foods if you aren’t familiar). I find it interesting that grandma and grandpa came from two very different lines of people, but they all seem like exactly the same line to me. I guess they did have their similarities, but it sounds like grandma may have been much better off in her childhood since they had the means to provide for their family much more easily than grandpa’s seems to have.
  7. Grandma doesn’t know if our generation is better off or if her’s was. While she doesn’t understand this whole Internet phenomenon totally, she says she thinks her life may have been harder. She says it was good to know exactly where your food was coming from, exactly how it had been prepared, etc. but it was a hard and difficult life to go through. She says as a young kid, you just got used to everything because that was how you lived every day. She never thought hogmaw was disgusting or that entire days of butchering were out of the ordinary. At the same time, she wonders about the kids now who grow up not even understanding where milk came from. It’s interesting to see how she wavers between her ideas of “better” just like I do. Some days I feel like I should have grown up in a different era, when things were simpler but people were more honest and worked harder to get what they needed. Days were family oriented and your livelihood came from your farms. In any case, I find it interesting that we both waver back and forth on what we consider to be better between now and then.

In any case, I’ve decided I like the Internet, even if it’s only for this one reason: I never want to forget these conversations with grandma. I want to be able to come back here as often as I want and still imagine her sitting in her favorite chair telling my sister and I these stories on a quiet, rainy Sunday night. And no matter how many more conversations I get to have with her, I am grateful to know that I came from a family who were always so close, loyal, and amazing towards one another. That’s the part I love about my family best; they kept the closeness of the family together even after family butchering days ceased to exist.

For now Internet, happy grandparents day to any grandparents out there!

~B

When it RAINs, it Pours

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This has already been an extremely busy week at work. Disregarding the fact that the Internet wasn’t cooperating for half of the day, the academic gradebook site was also broken today. So what that meant for me was

  1. No way for me to keep up-to-date on my emails unless I killed my phone battery
  2. No way for me to finish my October lesson plan (to submit for my teacher program)
  3. No way for me to write any of my essays (though they aren’t due until March)
  4. A stack of graded papers for which the students have no clue what they scored

It was a long day to say the least.

Actually, though classes have been running smoothly, it’s just been a really long week. And it’s only Tuesday. Go figure.

Though I wanted to stay home tonight and do my own thing, I had a few responsibilities. The main one was to go and see my therapist. (The other was supposed to be to run the dogs, but it’s a good 100000 degrees outside right now, so my breathing is just saying no to that one.)

I don’t know how therapy works for anyone else, but I’ve been going to see someone to talk to every month ever since I was in the sixth grade. That’s when we realized that anxiety was really an issue for me; that’s when we realized I couldn’t just sit by and have these bad days and even worse nights because of my fears about school and death and other weird things that no other normal 6th grader would ever think to worry about.

Needless to say, I think my therapist knows me truly better than anyone else. Even my husband and my parents. Even my best friend (my sister). It’s weird to say that; it’s not like we’re Facebook friends, work together, or even go to the movies on a Friday night. But she does know a TON about my life.

I think she also knows that as the years have progressed, I probably don’t need to talk to her for an hour every month anymore. Sometimes I think she wonders why I bother to show up. Again, I’m not sure how therapy works for anyone else suffering from any type of mental differences, but there are sessions where I just sit and talk about my life the entire time. Sometimes I walk out of that office wondering why I just paid someone so that I could update them on my life without feedback or really much response at all. Then I reflect and realize that sometimes I just need that someone that I can talk to about anything (and honestly everything) in my life. A therapist by definition is someone you can talk to about anything; she not only allows me to do that but knows when I am seeking advice and when I just need that unbiased shoulder to lean on a bit.

**With all of the above being said, my life would not be the same in ANY way without my amazing therapist. So even though I downplayed her part in my health just there, I’m only doing so because some days that is my perspective. She does a lot more than I ever really recognize.**

I guess tonight’s sessions was one of those times that I actually needed some advice. After everything that happened this weekend with my anniversary and grandma’s health, I needed someone to realign my thoughts back to their “correct” path. I needed someone to sympathize with me a bit and remind me that it’s never going to be possible to eliminate these stressors entirely, but there are plenty of ways to handle them.

My current issue? Dealing with the stress that is lingering in the back of my head while I’m at work. For example, teaching a class today, I wanted to yell at a bunch of kids who would not stop messing around and chatting when others were trying to pay attention. By yell, I don’t mean I wanted to tell them to stop (as a decent-ish teacher, I definitely did that); what I mean instead is that I wanted to yell at them to get the heck out of my room and not come back until they realized that they needed to grow up and that not everyone can deal with their immature crap! Obviously, as a teacher, I cannot let that irritation and anger show at any time.

What I realized tonight was that I wasn’t actually angry or upset with those kids. Were they more annoying than I may have liked? Possibly. Could they have been quieter so as not to distract the rest of my students? Definitely. But was my anger actually directed at them? No. At some point today I found myself thinking about all of this weekend’s events and looking ahead to this weekend coming up. All I was craving at the moment was some peace and quiet; no running around for errands, jobs, and puppy playtime until all hours of the night. What I needed at the moment was to know there is a time coming (soon) where I will be able to sit back and relax for more than 20 minutes at a time with no one else on my mind but the book I’m reading, the TV I’m watching, or the adventure that I’m going on. Unfortunately that backfired as I remembered how hectic and sort of messed up this past weekend was. Looking ahead, I realized I’ll spend this entire Labor Day weekend tearing down my old kitchen and replacing it with our new cabinets. (Even the thought of this last makes my stomach twist. I hate change, and while I know we need new cabinets and we are getting exactly what we want for our kitchen, I’m also nervous to see if the change in our own home causes me some anxiousness for even a few days.)

My therapist says it’s okay to have these stresses in the back of your head and to try to cope with them, even while at work. Even though my main responsibility is a bunch of young kids, I need to remember that I need to take care of myself first or I’m no good to them. Even more, I need to realize when things are going awry (as in the above example) and be able to step back and hit a refresh button or to just take a deep breath until I get my head screwed back on straight.

So I was reminded tonight of a method that I was introduced to when I was in sixth or seventh grade. The RAIN strategy.

Image result for rain acronym                                      Borrowed from mindful.org!

 

In any case, I have come to the realization in the last hour or so that I have started using RAIN subconsciously whenever I am having trouble with my anxiety. What I need to remember to do in the future however, is to use RAIN even when I am just feeling slightly stressed or “over” whatever the current situation is that I find myself in. Even my attempt at good happy thoughts today took a sideways turn for the worst; it would have been the perfect opportunity to remind myself of RAIN. Unfortunately, until tonight, I had forgotten to purposely force myself to think using these four steps.

So tomorrow my goal is this: Go into my classroom and find a place to store the RAIN sheet that my therapist gave me. It’s just a tiny slip of paper that can easily sit in my desk drawer or be taped under my keyboard. Yet just knowing that it’s there makes me hopeful that tomorrow will be filled with less negative thoughts and more positive re-directions for my kiddos and my brain. Here’s to hoping!

If anyone reading this has any trouble with anxiety or any other thought processing issue and uses RAIN, I would love to know how well it works for you! I’m looking for advice and examples all the time, so feel free to comment. Until then, I hope this reminder comes to you much faster than my therapist’s reminder came to me. Let’s just hope it’s not too late!

~B

The Beginning of the Second

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Today is a new day. While I don’t often blog two days in a row, I felt I needed to today. If only for the purpose of letting everyone who read yesterday’s post know that things do get better.

That’s probably the biggest thing that I’ve learned with anxiety; even though it may seem like your world is ending or will never feel right again, it always ends up getting better.

I’m not really sure which of my many strategies helped me last night to get over the shock of grandma’s change in condition or my husband’s seeming lack of care about our anniversary. It may have been the writing, it may have been that I picked up a good book and got lost in it for a while. It may even have been the fact that I had a decent cry as I talked to my husband about grandma last night. What I think may be more likely though is that time helped to heal.

As I had time to reflect, I realized my husband would never blow off our plans on purpose. In reality, we didn’t have anything set in stone, so my assumption that we would hang out all weekend was confused with his assumption that we would spend all day together on our actual anniversary. Plus, as I talked to T last night, I realized that time flying by when people are having fun had a lot to do with it too. He actually admitted that he would not have been away from me so long yesterday, but he totally lost track of time. Even more so, I think time had a way of calming my nerves and making everything seem a little more manageable.

You see, sometimes an anxious brain will jump to the craziest conclusions. For example: my husband not spending a few hours with me means he clearly does not love me as much as I love him. Or better yet, the fact that my grandma is running a fever clearly means that she will suddenly die before I get to see her again. It might sound crazy, but anxious brains often travel to the very worst (and possibly most outlandish) assumptions ever.

Luckily, I’m here tonight to say that things did not go as horribly as I made them seem yesterday. Giving my brain time allowed me to come back to the truth of reality and to see that things aren’t all as bad as they seem. I was also able to talk things out with my husband so we could make anniversary plans for last night and today. He also convinced me to leave him at home for a few hours this afternoon to go and see my grandma. I tried to resist at first because I felt bad for being away from him on our anniversary. He didn’t let me get my way though, and I’m glad he was there to remind me what is most important.

Last night played out pretty well. I was still pretty upset when my husband got home, but he decided to take the four of us to our favorite state park. We had a picnic (though we didn’t have picnic food, so we improvised by picking up pizza from a local restaurant), watched as our youngest pup, Zoey, played in the creek for the first time, and took a short hike that we have taken on occasion before. Doing things as a group of four helped me realize how close of a little family I have and how fortunate I am to be able to spend any time with them at all. Going to the park also reminded me that even the simplest things mean the most to me, no fancy food or events required for my happiness.

This morning we woke up and looked through a box I had stored for our first anniversary. There were guest books, cards, and relics from our wedding day and honeymoon to look at. Then we cut our anniversary cake (for breakfast no less!) and found out that it wasn’t as dry and horrible as we thought it would be. As I gave T his gift, he started to light up and smile. Though he didn’t get me anything (miscommunication on both our parts), I was happy that my idea worked out well. Every time I asked him what I should get him, he told me the traditional first anniversary gift was paper. I could not think of a single thing to get the man that involved paper! So I finally settled for writing him a bunch of “Open when” letters for times when I am not around to remind him how loved he is. He opened the first today, which included a summary of our first year together. He has others, which he quickly put in order of how he assumes he’ll end up opening them. (One of the top on the list is “Open When I become anxious and you don’t know what to do about it. Shocker there!)

Around 10, we decided that we wanted to visit the restaurant we ate at on our first “dating” anniversary. We enjoyed the meal that evening and decided to go back. Unfortunately, when I called to reserve a table, no one bothered to tell us that it was a brunch buffet until 2pm on Sundays. When we showed up, we were invited to get our food off the buffet. Not only was that buffet expensive, but it had the weirdest combination of breakfast and entree foods. I am glad to say that my stomach is no longer cut out for buffets (yay for losing weight) but I also feel as though I wasted some of T’s hard earned money by not eating my money’s worth. Oh well…

Though I went to visit grandma tonight (she is doing better than she was yesterday), I came home so we could light our unity candle together and spend some more time before our hectic workweek starts again in a few hours. So overall, though it wasn’t anything super special, I have to say this was a great anniversary.

The thing is, I need to remember who I am. Who we are. While my brain was so muddled on our wedding day because I wanted everything to be so perfect and to feel so happy the entire time, I have to realize that we had a small family wedding for a reason. I have to realize that going to the park yesterday was one of the biggest highlights of my first anniversary. And more than that, I have to realize that there’s a reason that my favorite parts of life are the simple, relaxed, things that we do together. The more I got worked up about trying to make plans for our anniversary, the more fun I think I sucked out of myself in preparation for a weekend that ended up being special anyway. The more I tried to do “fancy” and “special” things, the more my anxiety built up and I got too nervous to want to do much of anything.

So for next year, I need to remember this: my husband loves me and loves doing the same things as I do. We could have taken a bike ride to the shore or even sat at home in our pjs all day, and he would have been just as happy. Though you often think it sounds cheesy in the movies, it is honestly true that all I need, and all my husband needs, in life is to have quality time to spend with each other.

Here’s to another happy year! Thanking all of you who helped me pray yesterday and continuing to ask for prayer in my grandma’s name. Thank you!!

~B

First Week is No More!

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It’s official; I’ve survived my first week of school again for the fifth year in a row! This one seemed extra long and drawn out, but I have to say that part of it was my fault. Who schedules an eye doctor appointment for the evening of the third day of school? And who then follows it up with Back to School Night on the fourth evening? I am exhausted.

I think that’s why I’m sitting here writing at this point. Because I get extremely tired and then I get extremely emotional. You see, this is the weekend of my first wedding anniversary. I have been anticipating this weekend for weeks. Did I think we were going to do anything super special? No. Did I even think I’d want to do ANYTHING this weekend after how long this past week was? No. Yet I didn’t think that I would spend this entire day with just my two dogs, my sister, and her dog. Nor did I think that today would be the day that I would get some horrible news from my family.

So as I sit here, at home, I’m reflecting on everything that has been going on in life, and I wonder, when do we take time for us? I know as a teacher that I did not choose the best weekend in the world to be married. At the time I was questioning whether I was even going to return to teaching after a horrible experience back in 2016-2017. I never knew that I would be this exhausted and unable to plan anything super special because no teacher in their right mind wants to take time off during the first or second week of a new school year! But I’ve adjusted. Or so I thought…

The other thing that happened this week is that my husband bought a new truck. Well, new to us… more like a 1990 Ford pickup that had problems with the light system and the brakes. I wasn’t worried about it at all; I have an uncle with a garage, a lift, and plenty of experience fixing up pickups. I also know that my husband can figure most anything out on his own if given the time. What I didn’t know was that, in our state, you must have a newly purchased vehicle inspected within ten days of purchase. Quite a bit of a problem when there are issues that clearly cause it to fail inspection. My husband has spent almost every night this week at my uncle’s place working on this truck. I am excited to be able to use it next weekend when we install our new kitchen cabinets and remove our old ones. I’m also excited about it because the vehicle search is finally over! What I didn’t anticipate was that my husband would plan to spend this entire day also working on the truck.

We had discussed minor plans for our anniversary, just small relaxing things that would allow us to feel like we were away from our normal reality. Maybe a motorcycle ride to a new location, dinner at a fancy restaurant, a hike, or a trip to the movie theater. Nothing huge. Just special little things. I picked up our wedding cake tier and planned to pull out our wedding album, cards, etc. to look through. I got him a small gift.

So now I sit here waiting for my husband to return. I shouldn’t be upset at him for trying to get the truck done. It needs inspected in the next four days. But with this being our anniversary weekend, our FIRST anniversary, I at least thought there would be a bit more effort on his part. A bit more… care? I know he cares for me, and I know that he likes spending time with me, but he’s a guy. He wants to play with his new toy. I feel dumb for even putting blame on him because I know that deep down.

I think the real reason that I am upset is because I just got back from my parents’ house. I was picking up my wedding cake, but while I was there my dad gave me some news. Apparently my grandma’s cancer has spread so far into her bones that even a single fall would break most any of the bones in her body. While it cannot be fixed, they are at least helping her to manage the pain and trying to stop any further damage. Yet for the past few days, grandma has also been running a fever. She is showing signs of infection, but there is none to be found. So the doctors are guessing that she may have cancer that has traveled through her bone structure and into her brain. It’s the only part of the body they have not yet examined to check for why this fever and shortness of breath is occurring. To check the brain, an MRI needs to be scheduled. Except grandma is 84 years old, gets claustrophobic, and swore she would never have another MRI done in her life for any reason. So we aren’t sure whether she’s even going to allow them to check her brain. Plus, with her shortness of breath appearing for no real reason, no one is sure that anything is going to help at this point. Her bones are weak, her body is weak, and I think she may be tiring of this long fight with her cancer. The one thing I know about my grandma is that she didn’t spend so many years in this family with all of these other stubborn people around her to not have picked up some stubborn of her own. For that, I am fearful.

I know I spoke with grandma many times over this past summer. We mostly discussed the gossip of the town and our family, just because that’s what is most comfortable to talk about at this time. But there was one conversation we had about how far grandma was willing to go to beat this disease that has taken over her body. If she is sticking to any part of that conversation whatsoever, I have a feeling she won’t let that MRI happen. I am so grateful for the fact that grandma is at peace with what is happening. I may have my own personal regrets (being too busy to visit her often over the past few years for starters…) but at least she knows that I love her, that we all love her and she is still the one making the best decisions for herself. At the end of the day that is most important to me.

Except now that I am home, waiting for my husband to want to do something for our anniversary and thinking about my grandma being so suddenly sick compared to the last time I saw her, I cannot help but have all of this built-up emotion that I’m not sure what to do with.

The thing about anxiety is that it manifests itself in so many new and different ways that it could take a lifetime to learn how to deal with every reaction my mind decides to have. Just when you think you have it all under control, you realize you really don’t. At the end of the day, I know other people have gone through similar things to this. Yet this seems like a horrifying thing to me right now.

The important thing is for me to remember my coping strategies and for me to find the one that works right now, in this moment. While writing helps, I’m not sure this post will be enough this time. I may need to do more to find peace in my own current situations.

In the meantime, I hope anyone reading this will send a prayer up for my grandma. While I know time is limited, I also know that showing up at her doorstep so soon after hearing this news is the wrong thing for me to do. So I just pray that she makes it longer, even if it’s just a bit longer. Just enough time for me to get to see her again, have another one of those amazing, eye-opening conversations. Maybe one more episode of the Price is Right. If that can’t be, then I at least pray that she is still in that mode of peace, that she is still okay with everything that is going on. I’d appreciate anyone willing to help me out in prayer too.

~B

While It’s Late, My Heart Breaks

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It’s late. I’m sitting up in my husband’s office (to use the nicer computer!) unable to sleep because my brain has been nonstop nagging at me for the past 36 hours or so. While this post might seem useless and I’m not sure where it’s even headed to begin with, I’m going with the idea that if I don’t write right now, I will not sleep well tonight and may possibly ruin my entire weekend. Not guaranteeing this will fix anything, but I sure hope to try. Prayer and reflection just hasn’t been doing it for this one…

You see, I am an educator. Anyone who follows this blog should know this. You should also know that I am an extremely emotional person. What may not be so clear is how seriously I take my role in my career as a caregiver. I don’t mean to say that I baby all the kids and make them feel 100% at home (though sometimes I wish this latter were true). What I mean instead is that my heart goes out to each of my kids in their times of need. When something horrible happens in their life, or even when something great does. I hate making my life more stressful because of my emotions, but I refuse to be a teacher who could easily be replaced by a robot. 

So here’s the thing. I need to write about a situation that happened to me yesterday. Though it’s been an ongoing saga for many people around me, I just happened to find out yesterday. What I found out is basically that a young person in my care last year was going through a rather difficult time. Though I noticed change in their behavior, I honestly thought it was usual growing pains of a teenager. I never said a word to anyone. I never thought anything of it really. I cannot say I wasn’t concerned, but the concern was overshadowed by my other duties, by my other students, and by so many other parts of life that hit you when you least expect it. But here’s the thing; I cannot continue to teach right now in the state that I am in. I cannot imagine starting school with new kids on Monday and wondering which ones I might be “overlooking” this time, as unintentional as my actions may have been last year. 

While I’m struggling with so much here internally, all I really know is that I feel the need to apologize. To the student, to the parents, to anyone else who was carrying this knowledge and felt like they were trying to help alone. Because, especially as teachers, the more we pull together for a cause, the more effective we can be. 

To the child:

I want to apologize for having mistaken your changed behaviors for normal changes that happen while a young person is growing and finding their way into adulthood. I want you to know that I never meant to overlook you in any way. While it may not have seemed as though I did from your perspective, I feel like I let you down. Please know that you have taught me a lesson that I have never experienced before; that keeping my eyes open to every student at all times is vital to the health and safety of all my students.

Thank you for also reminding me that just because you don’t see someone else’s struggles doesn’t mean they aren’t there. I spent so much time trying to build up myself and others through difficult situations last spring… but I never totally considered all you must have been going through. I clearly didn’t see it, didn’t realize.

To you, I hope the biggest and brightest future. Because even though you might not feel like you deserve it all the time, you honestly do. Never forget that you are a unique and amazing person. Don’t ever let a soul take that away from you no matter what.

While I’m at it, I might as well throw this out too. You will probably never read this letter, and yet I need to say that I went through some horrible things as a young person myself. Though I cannot compare my life to your own, I can say that it does get better. And I’m not using that statement as a cliche. One day you will find out that even though these circumstances have worked out for the worst in many ways, one day you will realize how strong and independent struggles in life make you. I hope you realize it sooner rather than later.

To everyone else who did know about all of this:

I wish you had told me. I wish just one person had spoken up and told me that one of my kids were in trouble, were having trouble outside of school. I wish I knew that I could have at least attempted to help be a source of comfort. Knowing me, I never would have said a word to the student myself, but I would have worked doubly hard to ensure that my classroom was a safe environment from bullying and the terrors of any horrible reality that was occurring in any of my students’ lives. If only I had known then rather than now, at a time when I will never teach the student again. While I’m sure there will be others who need my support and guidance just as much, missing even this one opportunity to make a difference in any small way is breaking my heart.

That’s it for now. Not sure I feel any better, not sure this cryptic post will even mean anything to anyone else. Just needed to write it… Just hoping maybe one teacher will read and make an effort to be more aware of ALL of their students and ANY change in behavior, no matter how small. I know that this year my goal is going to be just that. To pay more attention. To make my classroom a safe haven for any child going through any negative situation. In the meantime, I’m off to write more specifically about this in my paper journal. My mind just isn’t settled yet… 

~B

 

I Don’t Understand

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Right now in life there are so many facts, so much data, and so many events happening simultaneously that it’s impossible for any one person to know everything. It’s even impossible in my opinion for someone to know everything that they would like to know. Maybe that’s just me though. As a teacher, I am always thirsting for knowledge. I love learning, which makes me able to learn and teach new things to others. But I digress…

Really what I’m trying to say is that even though I don’t plan on ever having all of the answers, right now I feel as though I have none. For example, I turn on Facebook or flip through a news station (which I admittedly don’t do very often), and all I see is negative. We had an entire professional development day yesterday at work about being positive, wording everything you say to your students in a positive manner, and being kind as well as compassionate for others. I spent almost 7 hours yesterday being drilled with positive this and positive that. I have to admit that it was refreshing, but the problem was that when I got home, everything around me was trying to throw negative in my face. I felt like I had hit a brick wall. Honestly, I still kind of do even 24 hours later. Maybe I just don’t understand.

Additionally, God threw into my life yesterday another twist on the rollercoaster. My friend died yesterday morning from his battle with cancer. While we weren’t super close, I will always consider him a friend. We may not have spoken often lately, but I know that I will miss seeing his old pictures of mountain climbing expeditions and other things that he experienced in his very active life. So here I go again, from this positive team-building day filled with activities to a negative brick left in my road to trip over. What makes this even worse at this particular moment is that my family has been struggling to even watch TV shows where people are suffering from cancer since my grandma is currently battling many types. To hear that someone I knew died from the disease is almost paralyzing. I could not get my head wrapped around the reality of that death, that pain, or that worry I was feeling. I guess I just don’t understand.

Then to flip through the news and see all of the negative that happens in this world… it just floors me. I believe probably close to 99% of all news stories are negative ones. And I cannot stand it anymore! People hurting each other, people being hurt by forces of nature, people being hurt because they can’t afford or cannot get healthy for one reason or another. It’s always something bad. Maybe the media needs to take a page from yesterday’s lessons that I went through and try to make everything positive. I’m not sure that’s really possible in our world right now. Even the people who have seemed trustworthy or good in the past often turn around to be a negative part of our lives. Yet, I feel like there has to be some sort of solution to all of this negative. And try as I might, I don’t think it will be possible for me to make myself 100% positive all the time with all of this dark cloud nonsense surrounding me every day.

I read a blog post recently about someone who was in a very positive place in her life. She was able to go on a trip that would change her life for the better. Even then, she mentions in her one post that the devil tried to input his negativity into her trip, into this once-in-a-lifetime experience. It made me feel good to know that I wasn’t the only one experiencing some struggles with the negative things in this world. Yet even more, I wished for just that one day, that one trip, that the writer could have experienced a completely positive environment. I feel like we all deserve that one chance, that one moment, to feel totally at ease in our lives.

Unfortunately, I am being reminded constantly that the idea of total good and happiness is not a reality in anyone’s life. I feel right now that I could attempt to (or even succeed at) being the most positive person on the planet with the most faithful and beautiful ways, but I would still be affected by that thundercloud of doubt, of anger, of negativity.

So it’s true then: I just don’t understand. If anyone has tackled the beast that is positive vs. negative in the world and has found ANY inkling of an answer, please feel free to share it. I know more than one person who would love a clue as to how to begin understanding all of this ‘ick’.

 

Favorite Scriptures, Quotes, Images…

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Favorite Scriptures, Quotes, Images…

Kind of a weird post tonight. First I’m typing on my Kindle so this will be short. Second, I’m not writing anything about my life or journey really. All I’ll say is sometimes I feel like we all need guidance or help with some area of our lives and don’t always get an immediate answer (that’s where I am right now). So I figured I would try to see how many people actually read this jumble that I write. 

If you do, and you have a scripture or book passage or quote that brings you guidance or comfort, I encourage you to share it in a comment here. Not only am I hoping to get some good things for my own personal benefit, but I’m hoping to share them on my blog as well. Maybe if one of them really hits me, it’ll even become a topic in a later post!

FYI, my favorite is the serenity prayer, though it’s not seeming very applicable to my situation at the moment. 

Let me know your favorites, even if they aren’t religious!

~B