Scooting across the road in a time machine, every minute floated in infinite space. We borrowed the 2003 Acura from Kevin’s mom while our car was in the shop. Something about the thin carpet and the nostalgic musk reminded me of a carefree time in my life. I drove down the road on my way back from lunch with friends on a day off from work, from the chaos of being a pandemic teacher. We’re always told to write and say people-first – so technically people would want to say a teacher instructing during COVID-19, but reality is much different from what we all used to do.
As a cancer patient and survivor, I thought I already knew how to deal with trauma. I was convinced that a potential death sentence which wrecked my body, my family, and my finances was the most stressful thing I could endure and everything else was easy. I thought I had all the necessary skills and coping mechanisms to handle every future problem in strides.
Then yesterday, I found myself on the other side of a screen, in our dining room, completing the one hour intake processing for a psychiatrist. In many ways, I felt ashamed to be seeking help. Everyone has an opinion about getting help, but they are also not the ones going through your day or willing to bear every anxiety attack with you. They began with increased heartrate when I rode into the school parking lot, only stress vomiting on the weekends when people would ask me about work, then I hit my breaking point.
Last week, I sat in my classroom trailer during my planning period and the silence and reality of teaching during this time wound its spindly fingers around my neck and clenched. The bile began to roil up, pooling in my back of my throat, and all sounds became static in my ears like when the tv antennae are dislodged and no longer receiving signal. I went home and balled up in my bed unable to sleep.
I’m NOT okay.
The only things grounding me in teaching are my students. That’s it. Period. The laughs we share daily: watching my journalism class celebrate publishing their paper with a horrible out of tune Taylor Swift karaoke session, sharing mismatched mugs of cheap coffee with my creative writing class, and the hilarity of my English 11 classes.
I’ve been working on my doctorate for the last year researching psychosocial distress and how to cope with anxiety. It’s time to take my own advice. I’ll be on a leave of absence from Hopkins to just try to be okay again, to try to do things I enjoy and get my joy back. I hate it because I don’t want to feel like I’m not accomplished or not working hard or slacking. I’m not that person.
In my head, I know this stage of my life doesn’t define my entire life. I know I need additional support, and there is no shame in seeking help. Then why do I feel ashamed?