It's taken a long time for me to get up the courage to write this blog post. It's not something that comes easily or that I take lightly, but it's something that I think is so important, that we need to start talking about it and erasing the stigma. That's why I'm sharing this with you.
I have depression, and not just your run of the mill depression but bi-polar 2. This means I have intense bouts of massive chronic depression, but the high waves of feeling good, never hit mania, I just cycle between exceeding low and okay, all the time.
Add on to that, anxiety, a heightened sense of hyper-vigilance and an intense worry about anything and everything around me. I question and question and question until I'm paralyzed with fear and driving my loved ones insane with my worry, doubt, fear, and intense questioning.
Finally there is PTSD, and I hate to even bring this one up, because I feel like I do the men and women who serve our country and truly face the horrors of war an injustice when I say I have PTSD, but in some small way, I have my own form of this horrible disorder. Mine came after several years of being intensely bullied, badgered, and beaten down by some administrators who wanted to see me gone. They made my life a living hell and made me feel like I was a failure time and time again. Anyone who spoke up on my behalf was quickly and permanently dismissed and my world and contribution to education was erased in just under two years. It was horrible and made me hate myself even more intensely than I thought possible.
These three disorders have combined to make one interesting individual. My husband of 27 years is a saint for putting up with me and all my mood swings, bouts of depression, and feelings of worthlessness. But I also love hugs, despite having resting B face. I enjoy time in the mountains, seeing a student when the light bulb turns on, and helping others accomplish tasks. My passions are in history, geography, and sports, and I love to see the pinnacle of success. I cry at the blink of eye, I am the sappiest of all, and I love a good romance story.
When it comes down to the nitty-gritty though, I take medication to help me regulate my moods and it helps to a degree, but without it, I am a wallowing mess. I also go to out-patient therapy with a licensed counselor. Early on we saw each other weekly but have since graduated to more time between appointments, sometimes three to four weeks. I also was being treated by a psychologist, but after 18 months with little to no changes in my overall mood, she graduated me from her therapy and sent me back to my regular PCP.
I also have some coping mechanisms that help get me through rough days and difficult times. I like to make lists and keep them in my calendar to help organize myself and set goals for the day or week. I also have a mood tracker – A Year in Pixels – which helps me look for trends, identify troublesome areas, and talk about key points with my therapist. I find it soothing to read, color, and nap, and may do all three or any one of the chosen activities if I need to decompress or have a moment to myself. I also listen to meditations when I'm having trouble sleeping or calming down. I specifically like HeadSpace, but just finding a meditation system that works for you, can help you zone out and keep in touch with your inner self. Finally, I try to ground myself when I feel the paralyzing fear of anxiety wrapping itself around me. This is a technique that involves becoming hyper-aware of your senses and what you can acutely see, feel, hear, smell, etc. at that moment, allowing you to free yourself from the fear
I'm sharing all this, because I know teaching is a high-stress job. It comes with high demands, lots of pressure from various stakeholders, and young lives held in the balance. I'm not the only one who has suffered from depression, anxiety, fear, self-loathing, etc. It's time we erase the stigma, and that we get help. It's time that we practice what we preach and that we reach out for assistance from those professionals around us. It's time that we do what we need to do to be happy and healthy.
I am not a licensed therapist, psychologist, or doctor, and I can't tell you what's right for you, but if you find yourself unhappy, worried, or lost all the time, there are ways to get help and find that part of you that you miss. Talk to your PCP or use Psychology Today to find a local counselor or therapist that's right for you.
You can get help and start living again.
I invite you to engage in a healthy conversation. Ask questions, seek advice, share your story.
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