Sometimes The Bravest Thing You Can Do Is Get Help

I can’t pinpoint when my depression started, but I would say it followed when I was diagnosed with lupus in 2013. I had started an independent life all on my own in the mountains of Colorado only to have to move back to my parent’s home a year later because I could barely pour a cup of coffee.

I ignored my depression for years after moving back home, blaming it solely on the fact that I was physically ill for life. But when medicine started working, and I could pour a cup of coffee without searing pain, my depression became naked.

Blaming it on my illness only lasted so long before the people closest to me could see the pain in my eyes – even when I was laughing.

I met the love of my life in 2016 and we married in sweet November of 2017. Our first year of marriage was a beautiful hot mess. We fought all the time. I cried a lot. He got frustrated. I threw things at doors. He cleaned up broken glass. We didn’t know how to communicate. I was sick – a lot. I winced every time someone awed us saying, “Enjoy that honeymoon stage.” And then, my depression woke up – I hid it under my pillow every night until it was no longer comfortable.

I began to self-harm in 2018 and I did it six times. Every moment was different, but every moment I felt the same hopeless feeling. My brain started to connect the relief from my emotional pain with the act of cutting, and so, it became easier every time.

Try holding this away from your spouse – it ain’t gonna happen. Especially when your spouse is a therapist. My husband knew I hid a lot of my childhood, as well as the ache of my father’s abandonment at 18 and a whole lotta family dysfunction. Maybe it all added up and became too much to bear. My husband did everything he could to prevent my self harming. He hid knives and sharp objects – I tear up as I write it. I was stubborn and didn’t think I needed help.

My body has wounds on my arms and legs, but there were wounds that went so much deeper than anything that bled – than anything you could see. And I needed help.

One morning, with a crick in my neck after how much I had stuffed under my pillow, I agreed to get help. It took everything in me to accept it because accepting it meant I had to face really scary things.

And it was the bravest thing I could’ve done.

I started medication and saw a counselor for a while and today, I’m better for it. And then, as my life would have it, I was diagnosed with a very rare, incurable disease in October that makes me painfully half-blind for months and feels like jellyfish live inside my body. It’s called Neuromyelitis optica – I have my good days, I have my bad days. It’s been easy to fall into depression, but by the grace of God, it’s not prevailed.
Sometimes, I don’t feel like I’m winning, but maybe sometimes we have to fight battles more than once to win. I like to think of my depression as part of my story that had to happen in order for me to be where I’m at today.

I think people who’ve been depressed have a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion and a sincere kindness for others. Maybe we’d not know this deep empathy if we’d not lived through our depression.

If you struggle with depression, here’s a virtual hug and a gentle nudge to seek help if you haven’t. It’s OK. You’re not depression. You have a powerful story to tell. You have a past, a name, and your own quirky awesome characteristics that make you who you are. None of that goes away because you seek help. You’re still you. I’m still me.

You’re already brave.

Who knows, maybe you’ll better for it.

Dear Teacher: You’re Not Wrong For Going Home

I know you’re finishing up your lesson plan in your classroom right now at six o’clock in the evening drinking whatever stale coffee you have left in your morning mug—I’ve been there.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from staying late at work, it’s that whatever I was working on could have been done the next day or the next week.

As teachers, we’re always trying to get ahead. We always feel like we can give more, do more, be more. But I’ll bet if you’re reading this, you already are.

The thing is, work will always be there. So go home. Go home to your family, your spouse, your children, or whomever your loved ones are at home and be with them.

Truly be with them; make memories and stop working. Yes, I have to swallow this pill every time I leave work and hope that it does its job on the road home. My husband reminds me of this every time I pick up my laptop to start writing IEP’s or my next lesson plan. Don’t get me wrong. I wholeheartedly believe in completing deadlines, but everything else can wait.

Statistics say teachers work an average 50 hours a week and we keep working over 400 hours of overtime a year. At the beginning of the school year, I stayed late at work for almost four months and kept working until nine o’clock at home. The time I was missing with my husband grew on me especially the weight I took home. My go-to spot on the couch was no longer my unwinding place with a glass of wine snuggling up to my husband, but one where I’d snack on a PB & J while my laptop kept my legs warm.

Doing this inordinately drained me. I had no spirit to give my eighteen non-biological kids day after day. This became a chronic problem because my students deserve first class and I wasn’t giving them that. I needed to take care of myself by giving time to all the wonderful things that once nourished me. I needed to feel my husbands hugs and hear the laughter that springs from family gatherings again. I needed to taste the goodness that comes from a fresh glass of wine while soaking myself in a hot lavender bath. I needed to be in nature and feel the sun’s kiss on my skin and see the beauty that comes from blooming trees. I needed to be with my friends and catch up on life. I needed to pray and be OK with not doing anything.

I need to do my life; all that it is when I’m not teaching. I absolutely love my students and what I do as a teacher, but it is not my whole life—so I choose not to give my work all of my time. I choose balance; giving myself to all the different things I love in life.

I realized the work I stayed late to do wasn’t due the next day. I had made up my own rules to make myself feel better in the moment not sensing the taxing impact it was having on my loved ones or myself.

So, my dear teacher friend, you’re not a crummy teacher because you don’t stay late at work. We have one of the largest professions in the country with more than 3.1 million teachers, which means that much more people have your back on that. So go home and sip your cup of evening tea on your front porch and feel the warmth of sunset before dusk hits. It’s OK to choose home and be with your crazy humans before the moon rises. You see, we give our best to our students by giving them a well-rested healthy us—not we got three hours of sleep and ate a PB & J before bed us.

You deserve to go home and truly be home. Your people at home deserve it—and the on average 3,000 students you’ll affect in your career life do too.

You’re already an amazing teacher. It’s time to take care of yourself.

image by Rustic Vegan @ therusticvegan.com