Going back to work after a breakdown is the worst. Everyone cheers you on, and slaps you on the back, and says “I’m SO glad you’re OK now….like you were cured of leprosy of something. They then begin walking around treating you like you were made of lace or china and keep you at arms length but keep popping in every three seconds to say, “How ya doin?” , “Everything going OK?”
This is what happened to me–exactly. I was given the job of being head teacher for a group of students with severe disabilities. This would be my first teaching job as a full time teacher and I wasn’t going to goof it up. Thus, I began to work 16 to 17 hour days to prepare the classroom with all the materials I would need (we don’t get funding you know so, hey, if you want it you better make it) as well as creating schedules and a curriculum.
For the better part of three weeks I maintained nearly 75 hours a week, trying to make sure i was ready. I had two classrooms to create and 10 incoming students so I was damned if I wasn’t going to be ready. Pay no attention to the fact that I had practically stopped eating and also slept about three hours a night
I started driving my bosses crazy because I would wake up at 1:30am (shocking I know) with a laundry list of new ideas and things to try and emaile them to him in the middle of the night or worse, text him. I know….what a schmuck right?
So, pushing myself like a freight train on meth, i kept rolling and rolling and rolling until we had the first day of school. Along the way we had the obligatory, “Meet the Teacher Night” which was fine as I managed to wow all the parents and that felt great; an aside here–I am an attention WHORE. Give me a compliment or a pat on the back and you’re good for a whole school year, Yup, my self esteem is that freakin’ low kiddies.
So, the first day of school came and went and it was fine…a lot of work, but ok . The second and third days came and went and the same thing –all aces. I’m golden by now right…uh-uh baby.
On Day 4, I hadn’t slept in two days and had less than 1000 calories for the last three days in my system. I remember getting the kids off of the bus and then getting them into the room and beginning instruction then i went to a strange place where all that lived there were people’s feet and I was laying on the ceiling apparently. I was GONE. That’s right –Gone down the road WACKO.
Paramedics came and poked me full of holes, I started crying and shaking and convulsing and then talking like a five year old. Soon, I found myself in the back of an ambulance headed to Rubber City Memorial—not really but it was the hospital.
Once we got there, my wonderful and magnificent Assistant Principal jumped off the ambulance with me (he hadn’t left my side the entire time) and stayed with me for the next FOUR HOURS while I tried to claw back to reality. I was completely altered. My wife was there and I didn’t know her name. At one point I thought I was a dog at the veteranarian’s office. It took FOUR WHOLE BAGS of Klonopin just to calm me down and even then I thought I was apparently a televangelist. Nut City.
I was told I had a complete and total nervous breakdown. It took five weeks of intensive therapy, rest and psychoanalysis just to get me back to reality enough to resume work. When I did finally return, I had a family wrap themselves around me like I have never felt before and I felt both deeply loved and very deeply ashamed for having risked so much just to literally make this first year work. And this wasn’t even close to COVID time.
Why am I telling you this? Because of COVID and all it’s lovely a nd wonderful stresses and the kind of student I work with, it tried to rear up again last week. I got help immediately and now know the value of self-care but I ain’t goin back there. It can’t happen again.
My point: If you know a teacher, a teacher’s aide, a school cafeteria worker, a Principal, and Assistant Principal, or anyone in education especially RIGHT NOW–wrap your feelings and hearts around them; give them your support and give them your love and patience. They are SUFFERING. The need an open heart and a BOATLOAD of GRACE right now and they are not getting it from ANY school systems. I could go into a whole new diatribe about that but it’ll wait–but dont’ worry school systems…you’re on notice: it’s coming.