We have a pet cockatiel. He is still a young one-- just four months now. We need to keep his wings trimmed since he lives indoors and with all his flight feathers, he could easily startle and get up enough of a head of steam that he could smash himself to smithereens on the window. Lovely thought.
So the unformed fuzzy thought I had was something about wanting to be able to fly-- but not so far and not so fast that we become injured.
And it seems like the kind of thing that I would write about being on meds-- that I can't fly so high or so fast that I smash to smithereens. But here is the thing: I was never flying that high. The lows were the biggest problem. And I don't feel that the meds have clipped my wings.
I was just thinking of how we need to adapt to our environments. To deal with how things are and not how we want them to be or how they ought to be.
After all, my cockatiel aught to be living on the ground somewhere in Australia.
Short, sweet, post.
Concert on Friday and then a bus trip to Iowa for another concert on Saturday and then back this morning. Well, this afternoon.
Here are the relative points (from this blog perspective)
Some time after we got on the bus and were well on our way, I noticed that I was missing my beaded cuff... that I knew I had on in the morning. I remember showing it to the person I carpooled with. I had no memory of taking it off.
THIS FREAKED ME OUT COMPLETELY.
I looked through all of my things several times. And then several more times. And then again. Even when it was clear that the cuff could not possibly be among my belongings. I looked all over the floor. And between the seats (where I found someone's really old altoids tin).
Then I asked the carpool friend. No luck. No memory. No cuff.
THEN I FREAKED OUT SOME MORE.
I knew that I had a "spare" cuff in with my luggage beneath the bus, but I was quite distraught over the fact that I didn't know what had happened to the missing one (my first "Starry Night" cuff) and not having a cuff on my wrist-- which doesn't bother me so much any more when I am not anxious-- was contributing to my anxiety.
It took some concerted effort not to fall apart about this. Some effort not to cry. Some effort to not hyperventilate. All of this seems completely childish and ridiculous. But at the time, it didn't feel childish or ridiculous.
I was already a bit anxious about taking a trip away from home with people that I don't know very well. Having to be more social than I usually am. Things being out of the ordinary--even if they are good--can be a bit nervous.
Soooo... to cope with my anxiety I decided to bead.
On a moving bus.
With a tiny little plastic container as my flat surface.
In a freak accident, I spilled beads all over the floor. And then I tried to do something on my phone to distract myself, but the phone battery died.
So then I decided to watch the movie that was playing on the bus and I made myself three lovely little bracelets out of rolled paper so I would feel something on my wrist in the absence of cuff. This helped. Stupid anxiety. Stupid totems.
I then remembered that I had needed to fish my phone out of my pocket while in my friend's car. And it was likely I had taken my cuff off to do so. This made me feel MUCH MUCH MUCH MUCH better. And once we got to our destination I was able to put on my backup cuff, which returned me to almost equilibrium.
Played the concert, which was great. Even though we had a very small audience. Hopefully they were appreciative because it was awesome. Afterwards we went out to dinner where I was acceptably social with people I barely know.
And the call went out that after the bus returned us to the hotel, where we could change or drop things off... we could get a ride to a nearby bar for further socializing.
I don't think I get to take a great deal of credit for getting to sleep at a decent hour instead of going out. Because I don't really drink and I don't really socialize and I was wrung out from the day of bussing and worrying and playing.
Upon our return, my friend found the cuff outside of his truck on the ground. Wet, but otherwise undamaged.
Grateful Crap: that the worst thing that happened to me was I was a bit concerned for a piece of jewelry
socializing (within reason)
I am trying to set some routines for my class that are MY routines and not just this weird third-party report of what someone else's routines once were.
I love my job.
It is very very strange, however, to have been trained in by a long term sub... who may only have had a few days of overlap with the last person and who knew that she did not plan to stay beyond the four weeks. (She stayed five. I couldn't start soon enough).
Teaching gives me focus. And when I am not teaching, I am not focused. When I first stayed home (attempting the true "stay at home mom" status. the parental equivalent of veganism) with my oldest it wasn't long before I started making color-coded baby nametags for the other babies in our Early Childhood class. So you could tell by looking at them who was born in the same month.
I told one of my students today that I loved my job. They said, "Of course you love your job. You are a teacher." They said this with much disdain. And couldn't quite believe that there were people who would not enjoy teaching. Ha!
Wouldn't it be lovely if this blog that began as a "Kicking Depression's Ass" blog and then turned into a "Living with Effing Bipolar Disorder" blog turned into a "Teaching English Language to Newcomers" blog?
The one down side of teaching really is the change to the family schedule. At the moment everyone needs to work around my schedule, which means that my husband now has to work later than he used to. That will likely change next year when we don't have a child starting school at 9:00.
I guess that as a teacher, we are pretty much stuck working around my schedule. And as dismissive as I am about people who say that teachers have three reasons for becoming teachers: June, July and August... I am looking forward to not working this summer if at all possible so I can do things with my children who will be out of school. (Also, it's more like half of June and half of August if you want to be accurate. So perhaps we just have two and a half reasons.)
Grateful Crap: ripe pears
almost enough sleep
p.s. I really do need to schedule with the OFP. Haven't seen her since forever. Some time in November or December.
There was a fictional character I came across who quit playing chess because he didn't like what it did to his brain. He found that when he was deeply immersed in the chess world he looked at everything with a certain filter. And he felt that he needed to choose how to train his brain-- how he wanted to interact with the world. So he became a scientist and viewed the world through a scientific lens.
I thought this was utterly ridiculous. And after all, I do not go to fiction for my psychology.
I thought it was utterly ridiculous until I went back to working with students in a K12 setting and I could feel it... resetting connections in my brain. A particular way of looking at the world. A particular way of being. I do my best not to bring work home-- endeavoring to do my prep at school to the extent humanly possible. But my job lives in my head.
Not in a bad way. Not in an obsessive I can't stop thinking about my job kind of a way. Just that there is this hum, kind of a quiet engine that works passively in the background, figuring out long-range plans and juggling around groups of students.
Rehearsing possible chess moves.
This was mostly a message in Quaker meeting on Sunday.
Only the part of the message that didn't come out during my "vocal ministry" was the importance of doing. Of doing what you are called to do, doing "the right thing," doing what needs to be done. The way that what we choose to do... what we choose to let in... rewrites the physiological structure of the brain.
The reason this did not come out in vocal ministry is because it is messy and I can't articulate it still. Not to say that your job is the thing that rewires your head. For me, the job is... the thing. I am an evangelical teacher. Not teaching evangelism, but spreading the gospel of free and appropriate public education for all children. A born-again educator. Returning to the flock. The prodigal teacher.
Did I mention I got very little sleep last night?
I woke up every hour on the hour after dreaming that my alarm had not gone off. I kept waking up spouse to get him out of bed so I wouldn't be late to school. Ugh.
Grateful crap: bickery, whiny, sullen and infuriating children.
sorta good sleep
Testing time for my ELL students means I have REALLY easy classes to prepare for. And really easy class sessions. Today my biggest job was keeping one of my students awake. He would sign in with his name on the computer and then fall asleep before he managed to put in his password.
I am worried about... something. I guess still that I am not aware of ALL the things that need to happen. Ummm... right. I need to get a handle on the co-teaching science piece. The students have had a rough go of it.
This is the first year they have done a science class for level 1 students.
The ELL teacher that they had at the beginning of the year left before winter break.
Then there was a long-term sub for a month or so.
The science teacher (teaching biology) has not taught biology in the past and it is not her passion.
Now I am here.
Tomorrow we will be making revolutionary plans that will make this whole unwieldy things work.
Things I need to tie up still:
dropping off books and following up with some record-keeping at my last job
turning in forms for my NAMI talk
other things that I am not remembering
but I am not as panicked about that
because I have reserved most of my concern for my students and my family
This whole thing has really cut in to my beading time. However, I will be able to catch up during spring break. And this weekend when I am on a road trip with Grand Symphonic Winds. We will be playing a concert in Ames... the Athens of Iowa.
Grateful CraP: touch typing
time with family
not bringing work home with me
My family's schedule might not have quite been ready for me to start working full time, but I was ready to start working full time.
I am getting more sleep. Keeping more regular hours. Eating on a regular schedule. Watching less TV. Eating less junk food. Admittedly, I am not getting more exercise than I was... because I had started on the daily trips to the Y and at present I have only figured out two days a week that fit easily in to my schedule.
i might just abandon the children early on my Thursday night band practice nights to get in a quick workout... have to convene a quorum of parental units to achieve consensus on that plan.
Also, in terms of energy, I have more.
You know how introverts get energy from spending time alone? And extroverts get energy from being around people? Typically I describe myself as an introvert (I find large groups of people quite draining-- even when they are large groups of people I like).
However, Spouse pointed out this morning that I am more properly a teachervert. I gain energy from being around students, from being in a school, from being with other education professionals.
I preferred the teachervert nomenclature, because I was thinking of myself more as a "teachpire." You know, surviving off the energy I drain from my students. At the end of the day I am bursting with energy and they are completely exhausted.
Mwah ha ha ha ha!
Grateful Crap: doing what I am supposed to be doing
ate good food
got good sleep
did not spend a bunch of sleepless time worrying about crap that I cannot change
I am struggling a bit with the whole issue of stigma and openness and privacy and public good. I want to send the message the mental health care should be part and parcel of "health care."
You know, like women's rights are human rights. Part and parcel.
But while I feel no qualms about writing about the appendicitis of my children, or the fact that they got strep throat, or failed their eye exam...
I feel plenty of qualms over disclosing any mental health crap that may be an issue. But if I am being honest, and if I am trying to remove stigma, I think I will need to cover mental health issues the way that I wished they would be treated. Just without disclosing too many particulars. Because dealing with the mental health of the rest of the family has a pretty big impact on my own mental health as well.
So in the interest of preserving these dual purposes of this blog: fighting stigma and tracking my own mental health crap... I think I cannot ignore issues surrounding mental health of my loved ones. Crap.
I have three children. Among them I already have one diagnosis of Depression Not Otherwise Specified (meaning doesn't meet the specifications of Major Depressive Disorder), and one diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I feel like I am just waiting around tapping my feet to see what remaining neurotic gift will be revealed...
Here is the discomforting thought that comes back to me again and again - that bipolar people are far more likely than not to pass on crappy mental stuff to their offspring. Things like depression (check), anxiety (check), and other nebulous things that may be of grave concern or no concern whatsoever (check).
This worry means that when a child talks about something that no one else can see or hear, my go-to thought is that naturally my bipolar brain has delivered up a special helping of auditory or visual hallucinations. I don't think imaginary horses. I think real zebras. (Stupid occam and his stupid razor.)
I had a super hard time getting to sleep last night worrying and worrying and worrying about my genetic contributions to my offspring. This is useless worry. First off, it is a bit to late to worry about that. Second off, the fact that I had been through issues with Depression and Eating Disorder did not cause me to avoid procreating.
Would I have made a different decision with the bipolar diagnosis? I don't know. But I didn't know so it is completely worthless exercise (I just tried to spell that damn word four times. Some great English teacher I am. That's why they only let me teach English to people who already speak another language-- so they will have something else to fall back on when I fail to teach them proper spelling of common words).
But it's kind of like the fact that if I had known my parents were getting a divorce, I might not have gotten married (the divorce following my own marriage by less than a year). And I am super glad I got married. I think that would have been a wrong decision based on fear. And so would have been the decision not to have children.
After all, I have a perfectly workable and very nice life, thank you very much. Genetically dooming my children be damned. That almost made sense in my head.
When I am up all night worry worry worrying that I have failed my children and that they have received some terrible inheritance...
I need to remember that this is not my own personal activity. That all over the world, every night, since the beginning of time, parents have been up worry worry worrying about all the ways they have failed and are failing and will fail their children.
It's okay to worry.
And then it's okay to realize that you just need to get over your dang self and get back to bed.
By the way, job is still super wonderfully awesome. Still a fairy tale. Still feeling that I have found a place I belong. It is odd how many places I have found that feel like home, since so often I feel that I am... odd.
Grateful CraP: Children overjoyed at dog sitting for their canine "aunt"
told F/friend about my ridiculous worries
laughed about the perils of bipolar Quakers listening for the "still small voice within"
laughed a lot about this
she thought maybe it's why I usually sing in meetings
Oh, and meds. I have forgotten which one I am on and how much because it is so regular. So I am checking right now...
Ok it is Lamotrigine (Lamictal) and I am taking 2 pills (300mg? I think so. Dang, I just sent Spouse to get more and I can't immediately see the bottle and am too lazy to go find the dang thing and update this. So I will just have to amend future post if I am wrong. ONLY lamotrigine (which is a mood stabilizer - really an off-label use for an anti-seizure medication) and no antidepressants (which did not seem to do me a lot of good).
Friday I will be going to see a play about the Diary of Anne Frank with a group of refugees who fled from genocide in their home countries.
End of my first week back to teaching full time. First time back in K12 in thirteen years. Testing and standards and benchmarks have completely changed.
There is no way that I will possibly know everything tomorrow.
In fact it sorta seems like there is no way I will EVER know everything. Or even the very little part of everything that is involved in K12 education.
Here is what I need to remember: I am smart. I just need to allow my brain some time to absorb things and juggle them around and sort them out and it will all make sense. The fact that I have no idea what OLPA and MAP and MCA and ummm... something else stand for does not mean that I will not be able to teach my classes on Monday.
Oh-- but the national holiday does mean that I will not be able to teach my classes on Monday.
Off to a non-education related flashback tangent.
One year ago or thereabouts my kids were in a Chinese New Year performance. That's come around again now. Only last year I was really NOT DOING WELL. Can't remember why. Medication and anxiety. And just the whole blah of the season.
The next part is kinda scary, so close your eyes. And I don't think that I blogged about this. Because if I did, that was super brave or kinda stupid of me. Kind of like keeping this blog in the first place. Perhaps I should rename it...
Right. So here is the scary part. I was sitting in the balcony. Which is really scary for me anyway. Because I am super scared of heights. Like if I am standing on a chair I need help getting down. I feel faint at the tops of staircases.
So here I was on the second or third floor balcony. Alone. The rest of the family attended the morning performance with son number two. I worked, so I attended the second performance with son number one.
And as I sat there surrounded by strangers-- in the front row of the balcony-- I kept seeing was myself falling end over end over end right off the balcony. It was TERRIFYING.
So literally for the duration of the performance I had my feet braced against the cement wall of the balcony with all my strength, terrified that I was going to spontaneously fall from the balcony. And that people would think that I jumped. Only it wouldn't be jumping. It would be more like being thrown. Being pulled out of my seat and flung to the ground.
I guess maybe if you aren't afraid of heights this isn't that scary.
And really all my fear of heights revolves around the fact that am fairly certain that I am about to fall to my doom. The difference here was that I could SEE it happening. It felt real and inevitable and horrible.
When I heard one of the NAMI speakers with PTSD talking about seeing himself dying about 80 times a day, it reminded me of how I felt in the balcony. I cannot imagine walking around with that every day. It was difficult enough for the duration of the performance.
At no point did I ever WANT to fall out of the balcony. It just felt like some horribly inevitable conclusion that I would be plucked from my seat by some unseen hand.
Afterwards my legs shook from the effort of tensing for the entire three-hour performance. I am very certain that no one around me realized that I was completely paralyzed by fear or there is no way they would ever have asked me to stand up so they could get around me. I worried (of course) that one of them would accidentally knock me off the balcony since I was no longer anchored to the wall.
Looking forward to not being terrified for the duration of the show. It will help that I am not going on my own and the people I am sitting with would easily spot the... anxiety and just having them there is calming and centering.
grateful crap: distance, time, and support
got a job that is a good fit
working in regular sleep and exercise
eating real food (less coffeeshop "lunch" of cookies and lattes)
My days are longer. I get more done. I have more energy. I am smarter, faster, better... I can do EVERYTHING.
Yup. It's the honeymoon period. It is official.
I have no illusion that it will last.
But here are the things I have going for me (especially on the whole mental-wellness front:
I have to get up in the morning AND be functional.
I am doing something I love and find meaningful.
I am being financially compensated for doing this.
I have colleagues.
I have resources available to me.
I know what I will be doing and where I will be every day.
(Wow that one above sounds so basic, but it has not been true for some time.)
So I am tired at the end of the day.
And I go to sleep.
So I can get up.
And do the same thing the next day.
I went and got a bunch of healthy stuff at a giant Costco run this weekend, because shopping right before the Superbowl is not at all amateur hour. Ha! And I have been making and eating healthier things starting before this job. And making it to the YMCA.
It is almost like I am doing the things that are vital to keeping bipolar symptoms at bay, and my bipolar symptoms are... at bay.
"Their feet were bent, they were so sad.... then they fluttered about with joy!" (5yo narrating her drawing of a tiger with hummingbirds)
I teach English to people whose first language is not English. Most of my students came from other countries. Some of them were born here-- second generation born to families who fled in fear of their lives or after years of living in refugee camps.
I can count on my fingers the number of immigrants I have taught. Immigrants, who chose to move here, tend to be more highly educated, more likely to be literate in English. In their own language. I teach refugees, asylum seekers, and those lucky enough to have family planted here so they can grow in a place (that should be) safer than the one they fled. (Don't get me started on the fact that there is a "mass shooting" every day in the United States.)
I talked to someone once who was so angry that people who move here still speak their home language. They are in America; they should just speak English. I have a friend whose mother has lived here for more than thirty years and she still does not speak English. The trauma of losing her home, her family, her country had some lasting effects. And for some people, learning language doesn't come easily. What if someone said-- you should just be good at quadratic equations!
Wow, this is very soap-boxy.
I talked to someone once who didn't see how my job would not be obsolete within a few years. Because the people who had arrived in the US would already know English and their children would be born fluent right out of the gate, so to speak.
But here is the thing...
In order to make my job obsolete, first we would need to deal with all of the following:
human rights abuse
insufficient health care
All of this on the global stage-- not just here
And THEN I will be out of a job.
And perfectly happy.
Quaker, teacher, parent,