Saturday, 9 April 2011

The times, they are a-changing

So, the worst term of the year is finally out of the way and I am now on Easter holidays. The spring term is always difficult, as it is a short term and it's also when all the stress of preparing Year 11 is at its peak. This is when teachers are often up to their eyeballs in reports, coursework marking and moderation and after-school catch up sessions. In three words, it's not fun.

But when I consider where I am now, compared to a year ago, I can see that I have made leaps and bounds in my own self.

Last March, I tried to resign from my job. Not just my job, but teaching altogether. I could no longer cope, I thought, and the best way to deal with this was to find something else. Something that, yes, paid less but was closer to home. So, I went to see my then-boss. She sent me home to my doctor. He tried to sign me off for depression and anxiety (I was already on a small prescription for this and had been, on and off, for two years). I refused, I needed to be in work. So I took a doubled prescription instead. I also agreed that I would begin to work part time, from September, as a way to deal with my depression.

I worked hard. I didn't miss a day of work, even on those days where I thought I would never get out of bed or where I couldn't face standing up in front of a class. Unlike a lot of jobs, teachers can't really just hide behind a computer. We have a myriad of guidelines telling us how a lesson should be, that if even one child is off-task that that would be considered a failure in OFSTED's eyes. But on the other hand, if I didn't go in, I would have the nightmare of having to set cover and worrying that my exam classes wouldn't have what they needed. So, I went in and I pushed myself to the edge of exhaustion. I struggled. I cried when I got home. At the same time, I was also in a redundancy pool. Life was, to be honest, a bit rubbish. Benn would come home to find me curled up on the sofa, mindlessly watching TV. I didn't knit or interact with the cats. I just stared.

I began to work part time in September and loved having the day off, but soon came to realise that the old feelings of dissatisfaction and the issues I had were coming back. The only difference was that I had one less day to deal with a lot of stuff and was still just as stressed. However, by this point I had thrown myself into my writing, made sure that I saw my friends and just tried to forget about work, even for a little bit. I made time for reading, I researched my family history. I soon found that I was forgetting to take the tablets, the very things that I had relied on to get me through the day. Eventually, I stopped taking them, through sheer forgetfulness. This time, I had no bad side-effects, as I had had eighteen months earlier, when I'd stopped them too quickly. I just didn't need them anymore.

Today, I am happy. I still haven't taken any time off from work, except for a funeral and this stands me in good stead when I apply for a new job. I am planning a wedding and I am getting fit and healthy for a sponsored event in July. My writing is in fits and starts, but at least I am writing, even if no one ever reads it.

It annoys me when people who have had no experience of depression claim that people use tablets as a crutch and that, although they themselves are depressed, they won't take the tablets as they don't need them. That's fine for them, but gross overstatements are completely out of line. The first time you have that prescription in your hand, you do feel a little shell-shocked and you do question whether or not you are mad. But, as my grandma (who worked as a mental health nurse as a young woman) said, "If you had a broken leg, you'd wear a cast, wouldn't you? These tablets do exactly the same job."

And she's right.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing such a personal story. I just realised that not having my contract renewed might just be one of the best things to happen to me. While the work I'm doing now is not exactly my dream job it's at least appreciated by my colleagues. And I might ask if it's possible to get some communication related tasks after my holiday. Depression sucks and it's almost impossible to explain to people who haven't experienced it.