I know it has been a little while since I last posted, and there is good reason for it. I thought this exact topic would be a great one to discuss because I am sure it hits home for many of us, but still, it is stigmatized.
Anxiety and depression have been huge struggles of mine for more than just my adult life. The first time I ever experienced a panic attack was in high school. Shortly after that event, I began seeing a counselor to help with the problems I was having, and in college, I saw a counselor through the health services available to me. Once I finished college, I essentially stopped seeking help. It was not intentional, however.
For me, it starts out with waking up in the morning. I do not want to get out of bed, and rather than doing what I need to do that particular day, I will lay in bed, on my phone or my tablet, wasting hours away, just like I did this morning and many mornings this summer. Sometimes, I feel a lack of desire. And by lack of desire, I mean lack of desire to do anything, fearing the risk of failing or some other ridiculous thought in my mind that does not really exist. Perfect example: All summer I have hardly done anything for this upcoming school year, knowing that there is much to do. Every time I sit down and attempt to work on my curriculum, I get absolutely overwhelmed and unfocused. I fear the amount of work I have to do, and I have a very hard time taking on small tasks at a time. I see the big picture of what I need to accomplish and get very anxious, and sometimes, that anxiety turns into depression.
Almost a year ago, I began taking Lexapro for the issues that I have, but once I started teaching in January, I realized that the side effects from the medication (insomnia, weight gain, etc.) were not really worth the relief I was feeling. Sure, I was not feeling down as much, but I could never sleep, making teaching nearly impossible. I felt like I had to choose between my job and my mental health, which is something I feel that many young teachers feel today. Some days, I really do not feel like going to school, even though I truly love what I do. On those days, I am completely unproductive during my planning time, and I end up having to go home and do planning after school. Personally, I do not know how to explain to colleagues these types of feelings because I feel like I might be unaccepted or become the punch line of a joke.
One of the big reasons I decided to write this today was because of the wonderful art teacher I have as a mentor at my school. Yesterday, I was telling her about how I am dreading going back to school because I am completely unprepared and scared of starting a new year. She knows a great deal about the issues I have, and she gave me some excellent advice that I plan to live by this year and in the future. She told me about a big event in her life that affected her a while ago and how she did not really take care of it in the way she felt she should have back then. She said she still deals with this particular time in her life to this day because she did not take time for herself. She told me to always take care of mental health first.
Before this upcoming school year starts, I plan to seek treatment and help when I need it, and I hope that readers suffering the way I am do the same. Anxiety and depression can really consume you like the monsters they are, but we do not have to let them define us. Anxiety and depression will always be a part of who I am, but they are not what I am.
P.S. If you struggle from anxiety or depression and need someone else to talk to, please feel free to reach out. I am just an e-mail away!