This morning, I woke up at 5AM. Those that knew me before I became a teacher, and before I became a mother, would be shocked by this. I have never needed a lot of sleep, but waking up naturally before dawn was never my thing. I’m a night owl, and, thankfully, so is my TA. This kid can stay up as long as you allow, just so long as you let her sleep in the morning.
It is unnecessary for me to wake up so early today, though. I am not going to work. My daughter is going to daycare, to minimize separation anxiety down the road, but I am going to a coffeeshop to make phone calls. I wish I were going to work, so I am making calls at a coffeeshop, rather than at home, to get myself and my daughter out of the house. I’m not doing well, you see.
I was not renewed at my former school, and CPS closed a gazillion schools. The job market was bleak, and I considered myself lucky when I found a job at a turnaround school this year. It was the only job I was offered, and I vowed to do my best. The school year began wonderfully, and then… well, life happened, I guess.
On September 20, there was a huge gang fight at recess. The tension and anger continued during the rest of the school day, and it resulted (for me) with a student punching me. She threatened me several times, and then carried through with her threat. And then she promised to do more.
I tried to be a good teacher, I really did. I went back to work the following Monday, but on Tuesday of that week, I had a horrific panic attack because I couldn’t break up yet another fight. I was too afraid of getting hurt to protect my kids. I took that Wednesday off, to heal. I spent a lovely day with my grrrl, and believed that I would be better.
Last week, several things happened: On Monday, I learned (through eavesdropping) that some of my kids with challenging behaviors are doing drugs at school. On Tuesday, I took the 7th graders on a delightful field trip. We all had a fantastic time. The next day, a 6th grader, known to be a drug abuser (who steals drugs from his parents), lit a fire in my classroom, during class. On Thursday, the 7th graders exploded into my classroom and began stealing and breaking things. I’m told it is because they heard I was passing out failure notices.
I left the building, and told my principal I was requesting a leave of absence. I am an anxious mess. In the foster care community, foster parents are always talking about the fight-or-flight response in their kids, and how that is expressed in behavior. I can understand this viscerally now; as a child, I often felt as I do now, I just didn’t know how to express it. It is as though something bad is going to happen at any moment – I could get in a car accident, I could get hit by a car, someone could hurt my child – and my body, whether or not I want it to be, is totally ready to either get the hell out of dodge or fight to the death.
I can’t sleep, and when I do, the nightmares are horrific. I think it wouldn’t be so awful if it weren’t for the school shootings; I’m having reoccuring nightmares of school shootings, and always it involves preschoolers, my TA, and teachers. Last night, I slept for about 2 hours at a stretch. This is a victory, even if it meant that I woke up screaming.
I had a doctor’s appointment last Thursday, and I have another on Friday. I was hoping to medicate this anxiety into oblivion, but it isn’t working, and I don’t like medication anyway. So I’m going to ask for a script for a psychiatrist/psychologist, etc. I don’t need a script, as I have a PPO, but I want the documentation.
I can get through this. I know that I am strong enough to process this and move on with my life and let it be an experience – NOT a definition or a turning point. Interestingly, I still feel happy. My grrrl makes me smile and laugh and grateful as much, and possibly more, than she ever did. I love autumn, and we have been spending tons of time outdoors. And today, today I am taking a step towards stopping the spiral: I am leaving the house all day. This is huge for me, because I find that when I start to spiral, the first thing is that I start spending too much time at home or very, very close to home, and I’ve been doing that the past few days.
I will heal, and I am not broken. I’m just a bit of a mess, and that is ok.