Battling an Internal Storm

Tomorrow, May 12, is Mental Health Awareness Day. In correlation with our school’s focus on Social Emotional Learning (SEL), we are honoring this ½ day of school by having students attend workshops led by us teachers to help them learn new ways to cope with stress, anxiety, and growth mindset. I’m leading chair yoga with my students. I’m expecting giggles and uneasiness, but yoga has been a life-saver for me.

I honestly wish I had this opportunity when I was growing up and attending middle school.

On December 29, 2016, I was declared to be suffering from depression and high-functioning anxiety.

Why am I talking about my depression and high-functioning anxiety? Because I know I’m not alone.

I am a teacher who is working to the best of her ability while my mind continues to race on other matters. I am a teacher who just wants to be left alone at times when I’m supposed to be uplifting and connecting with students and colleagues. I am a teacher who feels the waning energy and the zoned out students means I’m an absolute and complete failure with no outlook of being resilient. I am a teacher who constantly fidgets with my nails, clasps my hands, and clenches my teeth so hard that I develop headaches. I am a teacher who lives in a constant clutter of crap that sits on my desk and I just want to sob because I’m terrified of throwing or recycling anything.

Being a teacher and having to function with these daily internal struggles is a constant battle for me as I’m sure it is for anyone who experiences this. The ability for me to reach out to students is halted. These hesitations and thoughts are what leave me to believe this is why I’ve been struggling with my Amazing Race project I talk about so often. I can’t start until I have the perfect clues, which need the perfect set of directions, which needs the perfect set of objectives, which needs… which needs… The list goes on and on.

I am a human who believes that if I’m not sitting in front of a computer all day, I’m rejecting work and therefore will not succeed. I am a human who puts work above my health, relationships, and family. I am a human who is terrified of social situations with my closest friends even though I’m longing to make connections. I am a human that has at least 3 “To Do” lists going on at once because having just one is unacceptable. I am a human who is terrified of asking for help because I’m afraid of looking weak.

There’s one thing I want to stress. I’m not writing this post as a cry for help. I’m writing this to make connections. We’ve all had those days where we throw up our hands in frustration and say “I’m done!” But this is more. I’m reaching out to make connections to those who feel lost, held back, overwhelmed and who have truly thrown in the towel. I’ve been there.

You’re not alone.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this whole process and lifestyle, it’s that my support system is larger and stronger than I ever thought possible. I believed no one understood what I was going through. I believed that people would look at me like I’m crazy, weak, or being over dramatic. I was wrong. My family has proven to be stronger than ever. My boyfriend is completely understanding and does everything in his power to help. And finally, my students.

It’s always interesting to see what students notice. They can tell when I’m off. They notice when I’m not myself. They know me to be very organized, on top of my game (the majority of the time), and bubbly, happy-go-lucky. They help me figure out what’s wrong. They gladly input their voice on how we can work the day around. I stand in the hallway each morning with my oatmeal and a smile, and the students smile right back. They understand that I may not be perfect, but I try my best.

No, I most likely haven’t made the magical, ever-lasting connections yet with my students. But I do make an impact, which puts me in a positive mindset. When my students genuinely smile, it really has an impact on me. Although I believe being a teacher has made some of my feelings more intense, education has also shown me that I do make a difference and that I have a purpose. Students from last year still write me letters telling me how much they miss my class and that they’ll never forget when I sat down with them to guide them through struggling subjects. I’ll cherish these letters, and I do look at them when I need a pick-me-up.

Monday, we had the father of Martin Richard join us to promote the message of peace. Martin Richard was the 8 year old boy who was killed in the Boston Marathon Bombings in 2013. His message of peace and kindness wasn’t just about spreading positivity to others, but about leading a positive life. Our school created pledges that began with the phrase “For Martin, I will…”

My pledge: “For Martin, I will treat myself and others with respect and kindness by embracing positivity and avoiding negativity.” Peace begins with me.

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6 thoughts on “Battling an Internal Storm

  1. Sam,
    Your strength to share, to be yourself, and to be honest with your students is an inspiring message that should be mandatory coursework for an aspiring educator.
    Our students fill us with hopeful energy as much or more so than we provide an opportunity for them to discover curiosity, passion, and dedication for lifelong learning. You give all of us hope and strength that we are not alone but one.

    A rising tide lifts all ships.

    Like

    • Thank you, Pete. Students definitely are huge supporters of their teachers. It may not always seem it, but they’re also there for you. We are all definitely one. We work together to change the world.

      Like

  2. This is truth. Thanks for sharing it!

    What resonated most was “It’s always interesting to see what students notice. They can tell when I’m off,” which made me think of this great teaching and learning concept:

    https://top20training.com/training-seminars/top-20-topics-3/above-below-the-line.

    Just knowing when I was above or below “the line” (and communicating that with students) helped us all manage our inner (and outer) selves better throughout the day.

    This is one of the better Teacher Appreciation Week posts I’ve seen 🙂 Thanks again!

    Like

  3. Thank you so very much, Eric. I love the idea of the “line.” We tried mindfulness in the classroom for all of March, and students definitely felt the difference. The idea of incorporating SEL next year is one of my key goals.

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  4. Hey Sam — loved this, thank you. I’ve run my own marathons through mental illness, and I appreciate you sharing some of your experiences here. Funnily enough, yoga is a big part of my own path to wellness. That I’m still on. A few steps forward, a few back. But yeah. Yoga, my dog, sometimes therapy, some meds…living life. Anyway. Shared this on Twitter, I’ll share it on FB tomorrow too. Thanks. 🙂

    Like

  5. Sam, oh God I hear you! I have suffered from anxiety most if my life. On top of that I am an introvert. Meditation has helped me. Your transparency helps others. Your students honor that. Keep up the good fight and celebrate the small things like those smiles. The big things never get done.

    Like

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