This post is re-blogged from my main blog, AboutTeaching. It was originally published June 6, 2015
Quite a few people have been asking, so I guess it’s time to post an update on me.
As I wrote here, about a month ago I fell apart. I was in so much distress that I needed to take time off work.
The initial diagnosis was anxiety and depression, and there are elements of those, but according to my therapist, the main thing going on with me is post traumatic stress disorder – which feeds both of the other conditions.
I haven’t want to acknowledge it, but there were multiple traumatic events in my past. I’d just pushed them all down, buried them and kept on going. But, a couple of months ago the memory of one of those events was triggered, and brought back with it all the pain and emotion of the original experience. This seemed to have a cascade effect, and one after another, more painful memories of the past started emerging. It was like being forced to re-experience all the sad and traumatic experiences of a lifetime in rapid succession.
Things are definitely improving. Now that I understand what is going on, it’s less distressing. There is a rational explanation for the anxiety. I’ve even had days where I’ve felt completely normal. But I’m also frequently finding myself triggered. Everyday things will suddenly stir up a memory and I’m back there, re-experiencing trauma all over again. At times it is just painful, at others, terrifying.
The unpredictability of this has made it difficult to work. It’s hard to know from one moment to the next if I’m okay, and on bad days I have great difficulty managing the anxiety, concentrating or responding to stress.
Plus, I’ve had so much to process – counselling is forcing me to confront things I’d tried to bury. I’ve needed time away to provide the head space for me to do that.
I feel fortunate to have the ability to take some extended sick leave and to work with people who support that choice.
I also feel fortunate to have such a supportive online educator network. Since publishing those posts, I’ve received messages of support almost daily, and online friends, some of whom I’ve never met in person, regularly check in on me. It has helped me more than they know.
I’ve also been contacted by several teachers going through similar struggles. Sadly, not all of them have felt able to be open about it with their work, their friends or family, and are suffering in silence. It’s a sad reality that even though we work in a profession that cares so much about wellbeing, the stigma around mental health issues in adults still remains. There can be real consequences for speaking up,
I’m not sure how much of this I would have admitted if it had been work related. I’ve been be able to redefine my role over the past few years and get my hours down to a more manageable amount. I’m not finding work stressful. I enjoy it, I and I miss it. But if the stress of work was feeding my situation, I would have been less willing to share it. I’d worry that I would be judged as not quite up to the task. Who knows, perhaps that will happen anyway. I do wonder how damaged my credibility will be as a result of being open about what’s happening, and taking the time that I need to heal.
We would never question the need to look after a broken leg, or have treatment for a physical illness, but we do when it comes to mental health. It’s often seen as a weakness or a character flaw. The stigma around mental health issues needs to end.