As mentioned in Sunday's post, a lot of my time this year has been spent asking the question, what next?
What could I do when a job that I sacrificed a lot of time and personal hobbies for cut me loose?
What could I do when that job is in the career field I'd worked towards since I was 19, and my confidence was shaken?
What could I do about the fact that hiding my identity from nearly everyone in my professional life has caused me to lose sight of it in my personal life as well?
I've always been pretty good about picking myself up after a setback and finding a way to move forward. I trained myself to view failure as an opportunity to learn and I value hard work to accomplish goals. The first thought I had when I got out of the final meeting with the administration was decide that I was going to work on my Masters research, get straight to finding a job, dig my room out from the piles that always accumulate when I'm stressed.
But. There's always that but.
In this case it was the perfect storm of a few factors:
1) As mentioned, I had gone off my meds about 6 months before, cold turkey. If you know anything about meds designed to treat mental illness, you know that was a stupid ass thing to do. Which I know, but had conveniently forgotten.
2) I do a couple of things predictably when I'm overwhelmed. First, I compartmentalize my emotions so that I can focus on day to day tasks, like planning, grading, actually teaching the classes, meeting with colleagues and parents, etc. Anything outside of those tasks goes on the back burner until I can deal with it. Then, if I'm tired and not forcing myself to deal with it, it builds up and will eventually take me out.
3) Teaching is stressful on the best days. First year teaching is, by all accounts, three times as stressful by default. Teaching in a place where you don't feel like you have a ton of allies on the staff just adds to that. So... I wasn't dealing with anything that wasn't absolutely necessary to doing my job.
4) I put every ounce of energy into keeping that job for months, and when I was cut loose, and suddenly had a lot of time on my hands, I ran. Ran from the barrage of emotions that was nipping at my heels, ran from having to face the consequences of ignoring myself for 6 months, and sunk into a depression that was almost as bad as when I lost my sister and nephews in 2013.
So I played a lot of video games, watched a lot of Netflix, and read a lot of trashy novels. And I also made zero progress on any project that could eventually get me out of my funk, like finding a job or working on research. I just couldn't find the motivation, and believe me, I tried. I tried every single day.
The only difference was that this time I at least knew to do some things. I knew that when I didn't show signs of bouncing back after a month or so, I needed to get myself to counseling and fast. That helped some. I also tried to force myself out of the house for stuff, though some days that didn't work out super great. I went to camp, I volunteered. I tried.
So the question remained, what next?
I found some of the answer with Marie, for sure. Having a future to plan for with her has been some motivation to get myself in order. Another piece was found when I finally managed to get a job working in after school care, which is what I was doing before teaching. It's a familiar rhythm, even at a different location, and that's helped ground me a little bit. It's also helped me realize what I actually missed about working with kids.
And the rest I'll have to tell you about tomorrow, because I'm writing this on my phone and it's not playing nice with the app, so I will come back to this when I'm at a computer.