Good morning dear readers,
As many of you know, I am currently dealing with struggles and challenges (as truly many of us are in these blighted times), with stress, anxiety, addiction, and panic.
I’m a teacher. A teacher of students who have profound Special Needs. These students are loving and truly beautiful children who deserve a teacher who can care for their needs and teach them the skills they need to learn to try and live in the world, after high school, with supports and with guidance–So they can have dignity and so they can have a chance at as normal a life as possible despite their challenges.
They can also be very violent, aggressive, and can attack at a moment’s notice. Not through malice or bad intentions, but because they cannot communicate what it is that they need, or are afraid of, or are experiencing inside, or, something we take for granted like just needing to go to the restroom. When you have no way to speak, and no one is helping you or understands what you need; you would be angry too. That’s where they are. And that is where my journey to this moment of addiction, recovery, and making a new path began.
I have done my job in a self-contained classroom for seven years. I have loved kids and embraced them with opened and loving arms, even though I have been bitten, scratched, punched, kicked, had my head busted open, fingernails torn off, and pretty much any other injury you can think of; even a broken toe. This year, though, is and was different. This year I decided to tap out.
When COVID hit, we all thought, we in the “Good ‘Ole USA” at least, that it was going to be bad for awhile but we would eventually get through it and get back to normal. NOTE: This is NOT where I’m going to go into a diatribe about lack of leadership from on high and a general grip of insanity that racked this once great nation–that’ll be another time. No, instead and worse, we were all isolated from each other and the outside world which proved, for many, to be cause for unhinged behavior and irrational actions. Stir crazy, it’s called I guess. We all had it.
Try being cooped up in your house with a child who has a severe behavioral disability for months and months and months; having them cut off from their school schedule and routines, and then having them not having any idea or being capable of having any understanding as to why they aren’t being allowed to go to school or go outside….you will (and they did) see a primal reaction of fear, severe aggression and violence that you will have to deal with in your home until school re-opens and then send them back to school having regressed to the point where the teachers and staff; who are already terrified of exposure to COVID in the first place (and had no PPE mind you either but that’s ANOTHER story), have to deal with that same aggression and fear/panic mania that you’ve dealt with. It’s a formula for mental stress and anxiety that makes any time bomb look like a kiddie’s toy.
After all, these are kids who lack toileting skills in some cases requiring cleaning (and thus exposing staff to infection), who have regressed and are clawing and biting, fighting and reacting to change (which they have huge issue with by definition) with aggression, and having to re-learn skills they absolutely lost during the lock-down. All with a staff who are all mentally and physically hanging on by a thread from fear of being exposed or infected themselves through having to battle and clean these kids, and who are so tired and beat up by the end of the day they can hardly move.
This is where my story begins. I had been in a classroom where I had students that were particularly hard to handle physically. On an hourly basis, for weeks we endured continual screaming and yelling, attempted self-harm behaviors, repeated violent attacks requiring restraint or protective stances, and general chaos where “teaching” couldn’t even take place…just hanging on and surviving the day was all that we could do. It was literally Adult Day Care. After 8 weeks of this high level of stress, I found that I had become an alcohol-dependent, aggressive, raging, train wreck at home and then at work and I finally said to myself “ENOUGH!” in a primal scream and went to seek help.
After all, at this point I was so drunk every night…EVERY NIGHT, that I was having blackouts, falling and busting myself open, insulting and belittling my wife, and going to school the next day to deal with the rage and fury there for 9 hours a day, all with a hangover that felt like lava was running behind my eyes. Oh, and I forgot (which is also a problem) that I didn’t REMEMBER anything that happened the night before either. The cycle continued for weeks, with continued falls and bad behavior and pushed my wife to the brink of leaving. I have two sons at home as well, a teenager and an adult son, who saw their father turn from the “happy, funny” drunk, to a real bastard who was nothing but hateful and ugly and didn’t have any idea the next day what he had done or what he had said that had hurt them.
So I said enough. I told my boss that I was going to have to get some help from my therapist and my psychiatrist and take some time and I did so. I know full well I may not have a job to return to and, quite frankly at this point, I don’t care. I’ve discovered several things during this sabbatical that have been the greatest help in my recovery:
- I have a great therapist and psychiatrist who have my back
- I can write freely for the first time ever and am pouring out poetry and prose like blood from a cut artery
- Green Apples cut into pieces and Fresca can and do take the place of Chardonnay and I’ve been dry now for a week.
- I have a family who loves me and wants me to get better
- I want to get better. For me. For the first time I am doing Self-Care and to hell with the job.
So; here we go! Today this is an introduction to a project I’m going to do in ONE day called “Unite the Seven” where i am going to tear apart the “Seven Deadly Enemies of Joe” as it were:
In ONE day, ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to individually rip these struggles apart into seven separate poems/experiences, and share them with you and the world.
For example, when I do “Mania”, it will be in REAL time….I am going to type non-stop for five minutes without ceasing the random and machine-gun thought processes I endure every day as a manic-depressive and show how the fire that runs behind my eyes and through the center of my head is like a river of creativity that, once allowed to flow, will not stop until I force it to. You’ll be able to time it yourself if you want to.
I’m going to purge myself of the lurking, creeping, controlling, monsters that have brought me here to this dumping ground and unite myself into one being; flawed yet healing….chipped but fixable; and finally honest with himself.
Hang on. It’s gonna be an interesting day. Let’s Unite The Seven.