Feeling emotional.

I haven’t written a blog post for a while now. To be honest I’ve been feeling so well. I’ve been happy and content. I know I should be sharing this as much as the bad but for me my writing only ever seems to flow properly when I feel low.

I’ve been blessed to have a wonderful 6 week summer holiday with my two children and my husband (who is also a teacher). But the last two days I have felt absolutely pushed and pulled in all directions. I feel drained. I feel very teary. I feel uptight.

What’s the cause? I’m getting better at trying to think this through rather than leave it as a jumble in my head which usually disintegrates into depression.

1. My children are driving me crazy! I love them. They are my utter world. I would do anything for them. But right now I am seriously thinking of changing my name to Bob, anything but mummy. The last few days they have been so whiny, demanding, moany and not only that they have been winding each other up as well. For one hour this afternoon my toddler must have screamed at his brother every 5 mins.

I know they both have colds. I know they are both tired as they have been up at night with coughs. I know some days it’s harder to be kind to your brother when you are stuck in the same room of one house. But seriously mummy is struggling.

And the worst thing is they are so loud about it. We went out for dinner tonight for my mum’s birthday and the whole pub would have heard them whine at every little thing.

2. Today is my mum’s birthday. A day I now find quite difficult. So in the weeks before her birthday I usually now buy my mum a present from my dad as his Alzheimer’s means he can’t do that. I then have to somehow give it to him to give to her without making him feel like I’m taking over or him feel like he is useless. I then worry all day about how my mum will feel. Dad used to be great at birthday presents and taking her out on her birthday etc. Now she has none of that from him and I end up feeling bad for her.

It also always hits me hard on occasions like today how much of the dad I used to know I have lost. Sometimes it is easier to forget how things have changed as I like to block it out but today I can’t. It really hits home to me how difficult it is for my mum and how different my dad is.

3. Sometimes my husband drives me mad! I know he will probably read this blog post so it’s a risk writing this here but it’s not meant to be a criticism so I hope he doesn’t take it this way. We have a different way of parenting at times. He is loud and snappy at the kids at times where I prefer the softly approach. I’m not saying either is better or worse, there are probably times when one is better than the other. But today I have struggled with his snapping at the children and his demands on them. He is completely right to expect better behaviour than we have seen today but I just can’t handle anyone else shouting and screaming!

Also he is very short with me at the moment. Sometimes I seem to ask an innocent question and he jumps down my throat with the response. He is super defensive all the time and I feel on edge that I’m going to do something to upset him.

4. Finally work is round the corner. My glorious 6 weeks that I was desperate for and look forward too so much is nearly over. Im feeling sad. I’m gutted. Work isn’t too bad. I like the people I work with. The students are generally amazing. But it’s work. Back to juggling being a mum and a job. Having more to worry about on a daily basis. Having the prospect of the added stresses throwing my depression out again.

I know these aren’t major things. But for me life is feeling a little topsy turvey. I’m very emotional and just need a massive hug (minus the whinging or moaning that can come with it)

A good day but still poorly.

One good day can feel amazing! It can be so refreshing to be feeling happy and content with how the day went. It doesn’t mean that my depression has disappeared though. Today I just held it together better. Today lots of positives made life feel better.

Today has been rewarding for the head. I have taught lessons where I feel like I made a difference. With my year 13’s they seem to be enjoying the topic on the ethics in Luke’s gospel as much as I love teaching it. With my year 11’s it was a real pleasure to welcome to my lesson an assistant head who is Jewish and was willing to answer all my students questions about her faith. They loved her openness and honesty. They were engaged and respectful.

I was busy today. Productive. In fact I didn’t have any lunch because I was so caught up in jobs. But that’s ok because I felt like I got a lot done. A colleague of my leaves for maternity leave today and I sorted all the cover for her lessons th rat if this week.

Today I also supported a very angry and distressed student. After being asked to leave a colleagues classroom he became very angry and upset at the same time. The boy is only 11 and quite clearly very young and not in control of all his emotions. Half an hour later after a good chat outside on a bench we had resolved the issue. I had calmed him down and succeeded in exploring with him what had happened.

Today also involved two productive meetings with different bosses. I felt like I had managed to articulate myself quite well. I believed I got across my concerns and made progress with future decisions.

Finally I managed to talk myself into a run. Something I hate doing. I even invited along a colleague who is really struggling at work at the moment. It turned into more of a walk and run but I know it enabled her to vent and get things out in the open.

Tonight I’m exhausted. Happy. Content. Proud of my day. BUT underneath all of that is the depression bubbling. Bursting through the seems.

Some people think you can’t be happy when you have depression. Some people think you can’t have a good hour or good day. They are wrong. Depression isn’t sadness. It is a deep emptiness or abyss. It is like living in a black hole. But there can still be glimmers of light.

Today was a glimmer.

A shout out to good friends!

Yes I’m pretty low again at the moment. It always amazes me how some friends are so good at times like this. My mind tells me I’m worthless, everyone hates me, no one wants to know me so it surprises me when some rally around.

I wanted to do a positive post even though I’m feeling poorly. I want to say thank you to some friends. I won’t mention any names here, but I know my friends will know who they are when they read it. In no particular order:

Friend a: I might not have known you long, but I feel you understand me well. You are very kind and good at listening. Your hugs are amazing and alway lift my spirits. Our boys love to play together and I hope theirs and our friendship lasts for years to come.

Friend b: you have always said you don’t know much about depression. You always claim you don’t know what to say. You took the time to read my book to help you understand. Let me say you are amazing. The little texts show you care. The fact you are another teacher means you understand the pressures schools can be.

Friend c: over the last year you have been there through everything. Your late night chats have saved me from suicidal thoughts. At the moment I know you are struggling too. I wish I could help you like you helped me. I know things are tough in your life right now. I will always be there for you whatever.

Friend d: you sparked this post. Today you made an amazing difference. I always push you away when I’m poorly. But you are relentless (and annoying lol). You never fail to be there for me. You have seen me at my worst, been there at my lowest ever point. You probably understand my depression better than anyone as you suffer the same. I know I have helped you in the past but the friendship feels a little one sided right now. I’m sorry about that. Having worked at the same school at me in the past you have a good understanding of people and issues. It helps to rant to you. But most importantly your advice today was spot on, I just wish I had the courage to do it!

Friend e: finally this isn’t one person in particular but the collective! There are too many to mention them individually. But these are all those who listen, take time to support me, send me words of encouragement. I appreciate it all. It makes a massive difference. From the Facebook message from France to the what’s app message from a colleague to make me laugh.

Sometimes there is a lot of negativity around the support for mental health. I do feel it is lacking in many areas, that is a post for another day. But I want to recognise that many of us do have great support from friends and family and without them we wouldn’t be here, or we wouldn’t be coping half as well as we do. Thank you.

What’s going on in my head?

I’ve been very distant recently. Distant from family. Distant from friends. Distant from colleagues. Distant from my blog. I’ve been living in my own bubble of depression.

Things have got really bad the last few weeks. Progressively worse. Going downhill. Whatever you like to call it.

For the first time in quite a while work seems to be the trigger. There is an awful lot going on. It’s a stressful time of year what with exams for the students coming up. But it is more than that.

Essentially work becomes the problem when I feel like I’m not doing a good enough job. As soon as I feel questioned. As soon as I have to justify myself. As soon as relationships become strained. As soon as there are problems that can’t be solved.

One of the problem areas for me at the moment is exam results driven. Personally I have/am doing everything in my power to help the students achieve the top grades. For many reasons my department is struggling to meet their targets at the moment. I feel judged. I feel inadequate. I feel like leaders want more.

There is no more I can do! Revision every night. Intervention sessions at lunchtimes. Revision materials. Carefully planned lessons. Contact with parents. Practise questions. Additional mock exams.I even wrote a whole 150 page revision guide myself!

Yet I feel seriously under appreciated. I feel like I am expected to do more. I feel like there are so many factors out of my control that no one is prepared to accept.

Last year when I was off work for 6months I promised myself I wouldn’t start thinking like this again. I promised myself that I would keep doing my best and not care what anyone else thought. I promised myself I wouldn’t care about being judged for what is out of my control.

But it’s hard when judgement seems to have become a part of the main stay in many schools. It’s hard when my whole personality is about pleasing people. About making others happy. About doing my best.

It’s catch 22. I feel like I’m completely stuck in an endless loop. I try my best but my best just isn’t good enough.

So yes work is a major factor of what is going on in my head. This week:

  • I can’t sleep
  • When I do sleep I have anxiety led dreams which mean I wake up panicked
  • The self harm is out of control
  • The suicidal thoughts are back
  • The isolating myself is a problem
  • The deep self loathing is there
  • There is a lack of energy
  • There is over eating
  • I can’t concentrate for long
  • I lack enthusiasm or energy
  • I’m snappy and rude.

What’s going on in my head?

What I am most proud of in 2017.

It’s been a pretty difficult year in many ways so this is quite hard to write but I want to try and end the year on a positive note. I have been inspired by many people who I follow on twitter who have been doing posts of what they have achieved in 2017, so here I am following suit. So here are the three things I am most proud of this year.

1. Still being alive. At the heart of it this is my major achievement. In 2017 the depression has hit its lowest ever point. Earlier in the year suicidal thoughts became the norm. Planning ways to commit suicide gradually increased. Finally three visits to a location where I could commit suicide occurred. A multi-storey car park was very appealing. I have explained about suicide in previous posts so I won’t go into much detail here. But certainly I have fought a war with mental illness year and my biggest achievement is I am still alive.

2. Holding it together for my two beautiful boys. Of this I reflect and feel so proud. Never have I been so ill as this year. Lucky to be alive. But despite the illness I have managed to still be a mum to my boys. Most of the time they wouldn’t have known anything was wrong and I have fought so hard to get well for them. They are beautiful, intelligent, thoughtful and very loving. I am proud of the role I have played in their life this year.

3. Returning to work and enjoying it. Back in May/June time I was looking for a way out of my current role. I was so poorly I couldn’t consider going back. Unfortunately money wise I needed to look for an alternative, something that perhaps would cause me less stress. My union representative and I discussed getting a settlement with my employer so that I never had to go back. This was so appealing. So what I really needed in many ways.

But come June I returned to work. Come September after the long teaching summer holiday I returned back to my normal hours and responsibilities. There have been some ups and downs but mainly I have coped and I have actually enjoyed my job. I am proud that I have managed to not let the illness completely overcome me. That even though the illness tried to persuade me to quit my job I listened to friends who advised me to take my time when making important decisions.

So what are you most proud of 2017? Please feel free to share.

P.s. I’m also very proud of publishing my first book on kindle. From tomorrow -2nd January it is reduced to 99p. Please take a look buy and share. Becky x

Be there for me-my book on kindle

Positive steps for wellbeing

So on Friday my school had their annual wellbeing teacher training day. If I am honest I can be a little skeptical about it. Is it just a gimmick? A tick box activity to say we have done something.

So I was positively surprised. I was happy (especially after marking my year 7 books early before it started). It was nearly half term and I was looking forward to a week with my husband and my boys.

Department time was relaxed. Everyone was chilled out. I got a job done that had been needing to be completed for a while so I felt like I had accomplished something.

Then we had a speaker. His name was James ketchell @captainketch. Ocean rower, Everest summiteer and round the world cycler. To be honest I found him interesting. His stories entertaining.

However, there was also a part of me that wanted to scream. Just be positive he said. Yeah like it is that easy when you have a mental illness. Have a positive attitude and anything is possible. Hmmm. But something did stick with me. Follow your goals and your dreams whatever they maybe. That sounded like me of old.

Then in the afternoon a lovely walk in the countryside with colleagues. Lots of laughs were had. A strong sense of community was felt. Strength and support in numbers.

That evening it struck me. I want to do more. I have made a start on my journey to support people with their mental health but there must be more I can do. So what could it be? What are my areas of speciality? Teaching and mental health. Why not combine them?

I belong to a great Facebook group called time to talk. This group is amazing as it allows people with a mental health issue to share their current problems and people with listen and comment and help if they can. Was there a way of using this model to support those working in schools?

So I have developed a Facebook group called “mental health support group for teachers and those who work in schools”. It is meant to be a place to develop wellbeing strategies and offer support. I want to keep it professional so I have stressed there is to be no use of school or individuals names.

I have a great belief that teachers can help each other. Working in schools is very hard. It can drain our mental health. It can stint out wellbeing. Someone needs to do more. Why can’t we do it ourselves. If we want change. Maybe we need to lead the change.

If you work in a school please feel free to come and take a look and join the group: Facebook group mental health in schools

What I gained from taking the biggest risk of my life (so far) part 2 of 3.

Apply for a job at her secondary school?! Head of department?! Did she know I had absolutely no experience of teaching secondary age children? The oldest I had ever taught was one lesson of year 6 on a teaching practice.

She must be mad I thought. But I was desperate to leave my current job. Just come and have a look she said. See what you think. Why not I thought. What could I lose by looking!

I wasn’t much more sure after looking to be honest! Yes there were things that appealed to me. I certainly needed a new challenge and I had never shirked from hard work.

Speaking to my brother who was an assistant head of a secondary school at the time he reassured me. I was worried about behaviour management. He said it was all about developing positive relationships. I could do that I thought.

Preparing for the letter of application and then resulting interview inspired me. There was something about this new role. It was going to be massively different but it was worth a try. I could always go back to primary if it didn’t work out.

When I got the job there were a lot of shocked people. Friends thought I was crazy going to secondary. Their doubts filled my own head but I was determined to make it a success. I had read an article from the TES which said children loved school until they got to secondary school where it lost its fun. I believed i could change this and take my primary ways with me to make learning enjoyable.

It was one hell of a learning curve. It was like being thrown in the deep end and being told to swim without ever having any swimming lessons before. But I gained a massive amount of confidence from the fact I did it. Not only that I seemed to be ok at it.

The additional responsibility meant additional money. This ensured I could buy my first house on my own. I was finishing my masters. Teaching gcse and a level for the first time. But I could do it I had overcome the biggest change ever.

I spent the first year saying in my head I’ll do one year maybe two and then go back to primary. I couldn’t see me doing this long term. I didn’t feel confident enough . At primary I had always felt sure of myself, clear on what to do in every situation. Now i mostly didn’t know what to do and could often feel overwhelmed.

But i wasn’t aware that this risk would lead to more changes than a new career path. The second year into the role I discovered I had depression. In reality I believe I had it through my teenage years and on but I was always so goal centred I kind of ploughed over it.

Until this point I never even knew what depression was. I would have denied its existence as something people can just pick themselves up from and get on with life. How wrong I was! It hit me like a tonne of bricks.

But luckily the biggest risk I had ever taken insured that when it did take over I was surrounded by two colleagues and friends who knew better than most the true nature of depression and were able to support me through it.

Third year into my new job and my personal life would take another turn. This time the biggest risk of my life meant I was in the right place at the right time. I found love.

What I gained from taking the biggest risk of my life (so far). Part 1 of 3

So by nature I’m not a risk taker! I hate the unknown. It scares me. I hate being out of control. I am very much one for planning for everything. Therefore I can only think of one really big risk I have taken in life so far.

I can remember at the time everyone thought I was crazy. Colleagues were shocked. Many people were worried for me. Family and friends questioned my decision. To be honest so did I! And this questioning went on for many years!

I had always wanted to be a secondary PE teacher until in sixth form I complete a catechetics course and did some work with year 1’s at a local school. This changed the direction of my focus. I trained as a primary school teacher and spent 3 years teaching year 2 children.

I absolutely loved it. I have always seemed to be able to connect with children and going to work every day surrounded by 6 and 7 year olds inspired by the world was special.

I have so many happy memories of this time I don’t know where to start. Reading stories outside in the garden, doing art work, creating Christmas plays, coming up with assemblies, designing displays, leading swimming lessons, playing football with them at lunchtimes, leading the football team to county triumph. These just a few that come to mind.

I loved the school I worked in. My colleagues and friends were an amazing bunch. Supportive, creative, fun, it was a good atmosphere. I felt valued and believed I could work there forever.

So what changed? Several things. It wasn’t one huge event but a build up which made me feel like I was desperate to leave. After two years there my third was to be not quite as happy.

The headteacher retired. The head that had given me my start, had always completely trusted and believed in me and now is one of my closest and valued friends even though she is nearly as old as my Mum!

I broke up with my boyfriend. We had been going out for four years. It wasn’t what I wanted. I was devastated. It rocked my confidence and my morale.

The school changed. I struggled to get on with the head who took over the job. I found myself internally questioning his decisions and hating the way the school was going. It made me sad to see it change.

A colleague of mine who was also a friend was relying on me for advice and support with a personal matter. At the time I was happy to try and help but I realise now it had a very negative impact on how I was feeling. I worried about the consequences for those involved if what I had been told was ever revealed. I was only 24 and this was a complex issue for someone double my age.

Lastly the final straw. When I found out my friend and colleague who always supported me was looking to leave I knew it was time. I had just started thinking about other primary jobs when I got this weird message one day.

The receptionist thrust a post it in my hand. She said this lady called, this is her home number can you call her back. What was weird was this was my ex teacher. Why on earth did she want me to call her? Why give me her home number.

I hate phones so this and the not knowing what message I was going to receive when I called, meant it took several days to pluck up the courage to call. That phone call changed my life.

Depressed teacher-the self confidence is returning (slowly).

So it’s slowly been coming back. Today was always going to be a massive step for me. It felt like it was make or break. In reality it wasn’t as extreme as that at all!

This time last year I was starting to feel extremely unwell. The stress of work and home was becoming too much. The depression which I live with was starting to rear its head.

At this point last year on the day of my lesson observation I had a panic attack at break time.It was so bad. A friend and boss had wanted to send me home but I was determined to stay for my lesson observation period 5. I did the observation and it went ok considering how unwell I was!

This was the start of the end for me last year. It certainly wasn’t the lesson observation that made me unwell but looking back it signals to me the time of when it all started going wrong.

So today a year on and another lesson observation. The one I had been in a state about for over a week. The one that the pathological liar in my head had tried to pollute and poison me with negativity that I wouldn’t be able to cope with it.

Last night in bed I was telling my husband that I wasn’t going to work tomorrow. I couldn’t do it. I was going to fail. I am a rubbish teacher and a failure. Today I had a mountain to climb before the lesson had even begun. I had to persuade myself I could at least attempt it.

The classic “are you ok?” This phrase came from a number of sources this morning! Was I oozing doubt and worry? The classic “I’m fine”. I was far from fine but desperately trying to hold it altogether for fear of falling apart completely.

So the end of the day it’s all over! Relief is my major emotion right now. But I’m also so proud of myself! Yes I know that’s a miracle coming from my head! I have no idea what the lesson was graded I haven’t had any feedback yet but wow I was shocked at how well it went. My very difficult, loud and challenging year 11 group spent an hour on task. They really engaged in the carousel activities I set up. They worked as a team. They even drew in those who don’t engage well.

More than anything I loved teaching them. I can really see improvements being made. On a feedback sheet some of them were asked to fill in they were so

positive.

In the car on the way home (I still can’t drive so my husband picked me up) it was great to hear how happy he was for me too! He also put it all into perspective when he said think about this time last year. We agreed I was in a completely different place then. Things were spiralling out of control. It was the beginning of the deep depression that would consume me for most part of a year. Right now things are good. Yes I’m having lots of blips. Lots of lows. Lots of depression or anxiety points. But they are not continuous or deep. Mostly I’m managing them well. Mostly I’m keeping the illness in check.

So thank you for anyone who has stuck with me. Thank you for taking the time to ask if I am ok. I am sorry I am not always honest with my response but all I can say is it means the world to me that you took the time to ask and care. Thank you to my amazing department for putting up with me! You make me laugh everyday which really helps especially the chair episode today! Thanks to my friends and husband who reassure me through my constant self doubt. And finally thanks to the students I teach who inspire me to be a better teacher everyday.

Physical health taking its toll on mental health.

This is a hard one to write and share. My instinct is to bury my head in the sand. My head is telling me not to let anyone else in. Don’t drag anyone down. Don’t burden them. Don’t be honest.

I’m fine is certainly the stock response today. I’m far from fine. It’s hard to open up. Hard to talk. I feel like a let down. I feel like a failure. I feel like I have to prove myself.

But I committed to sharing what depression is like. Therefore I have to share what it’s like when it’s bad as well as good.

So what’s happening in my brain. Talking to my husband last night he said you are going around in circles. And that’s quite an accurate description of how I feel. Confused. Tangled. Overthinking everything. Questioning everything. And then repeat.

A few posts ago I said that for me I prefer the broken arm to the depression mainly because it can be fixed and there is an end in site. I stand by that but I had underestimated how much it would affect my mental health.

I’ve had the best summer. Surrounded by my favourite people I had begun to conquer depression. However as going back to work edged closer I could feel the anxiety levels increasing. How would I be at work? Would I manage it? Would the stress bring the depression on again?

Then to make matters worse I broke my arm. This has left me unable to do the simplest of tasks. I have never used my teeth so much, my handwriting looks like a 4 year olds and I can’t even change my youngest’s nappy. Hence feeling like a failure at home.

This has also increased the impending work anxiety. So as I said I was already worried but now I can’t even do my job properly because of my wrist. I can’t write, I can type very slowly and I’m going to have to adapt to the situation.

Will I manage? Will I cope? Will people understand there are certain tasks I just can’t do e.g. Marking! When my wrist is healed will I cope with the back log that will build up?

So many questions. So many unknowns. My head really doesn’t cope very well not being in control. My counsellor said just go in see how you feel and if you can’t cope or they expect too much just use the sick note the hospital doctor gave you. But even having that thought in my head fills me with guilt.

Good old catholic guilt. A friend of mine text me saying you definitely shouldn’t be going to work with a broken arm. But I can’t think like that. The guilt that I was off so long last academic year is too much. The fact that other people have coped with a broken arm make me feel I have to too.

My friend tried to say it doesn’t make any difference you were off before. The two are completely unrelated. She also said it doesn’t matter what others have done. The broken arm is affecting your mental health never mind if they managed. Plus they didn’t have two young children to look after at the same time.

This is what my brain is like. Never a moments rest. A constant war. A constant battle. Overthinking at its best.

So what am I doing? I’m going to work this week. I’ll give it a go. I’m going to pray my youngest doesn’t do a poo when I have him two days on my own (I can’t stop him rolling when I change his nappy one handed) and I’m going to try and take one step at a time like I promised my counsellor.

And thumb typing with my left hand is so slow!