Bloggy Moms

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What Happened Next?

A few weeks ago I wrote about my failed suicide attempt. You can read about it here.
As with any major crisis there is always the question, "What happened next?" Followed closely by, "Have things changed?"
 After my failed attempt, I worked really hard to get to a better place. I met weekly with our family therapist who helped me tremendously. I also took medication for over a year. I also knew that I needed to teach at a different site. Our teachers' union felt the same way. We, unfortunately, were not the ones to have the final say. For reasons unknown to me, my district decided to keep me at the same site in the same grade level.
In June of that summer, I had removed all of the items from my classroom in hopes that I would be teaching on a different campus in the fall. Two days before the school year started, I put everything back in.
I'm not sure how I put on a smile that first day back, but I did. It is in my nature to be forgiving and hopeful. I desired to move past the events of the spring. In my opinion, I was the only one in this story who wanted things to improve.
Our union legal rep had encouraged me to not file a grievance until I returned in the fall. Shortly after the new school year began, we filed it because the working relationship between my supervisor and I had only worsened. I was like the kitty holding on to the rope with every fiber of its being. No one ever sees what happens to this poor creature. More than likely he eventually falls. That's what happened to me.
A few weeks after the grievance was filed, we heard the results. The decision was that it was unfounded. I knew at that point I had to let go of that rope at least for a bit.

On September 30, 2012 I went out on stress leave with severe pain in my right shoulder. I believe it was stress related. I did not know that I would never return to teaching. Less than two weeks later, my daughter had her first hospitalization in a behavioral health facility 100 miles away from home.
Sometime during the first few days and weeks of my daughter's hospital stay, it became clear what I was supposed to do. I really felt God telling me to stop fighting so hard to stay at a job where I would never measure up. My child needed me to be her caretaker. It was as if she needed more of me than I was able to give her when I was teaching. At the height of the school drama, I was working upwards of 60-70 hours a week trying to be the perfect teacher. My daughter got the measly leftovers. Not what I ever envisioned when I signed up to be a mom.
One thing that I had trouble letting go of was the guilt at not being able to stick it out with my darling kindergarteners. Their kindergarten year is the  first year of their formal schooling, the foundation of the rest of their education. Eventually, I was able to move past my regret. In the years since, I have had the privilege of being able to see a few of my students from that year. Not one of them, nor their parents, has shown me anything but love and understanding.
Once I let go of the virtual rope that I had been holding onto for so long, I felt so much relief.
Life has not always been a bed of roses these last few years, but I am so thankful that I have been able to be so much more involved in my daughter's well being.
I never was able to work things out with my supervisor. After I left, we didn't speak to each other. On the day that I removed things from my classroom, she made herself sparse.
My doctor initially diagnosed me with anxiety disorder which later became PTSD. It took me many months before I could even drive the route to my school that I drove for over ten years. Every time I tried I would have a panic attack.
 So that's what happened next after I  planned to end my life. Things have definitely changed in the years since my failed attempt.  I believe everything happens for a reason. Out of a dark and painful experience, came something beautiful.

After I resigned from teaching, I felt like this little plant peeking through the concrete.
*Photo credit and quote courtesy of my daughter. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

We All Have a Story to Share

The other day I while waiting for mini van at the car wash I met a young mom. She had a young child who was sleeping in his stroller. My car needed a little extra TLC so I struck up a conversation with this mom. I shared a little bit about our journey. I started out talking about how my daughter is a miracle child because my husband had cancer right before we conceived. When I finished, she said that her two year old son was a miracle as well. She told me that she had hidden her pregnancy from her family. She had no prenatal care during her entire pregnancy. Her son was seemingly perfect in every way. Then she told me that this wasn't the end of the miracle. It turned out that her precious boy had spilled hot water on himself. She showed me his burns. She showed me his skin grafts. I told her how sorry I was for this unfortunate accident. We talked about how he had received fantastic care at a burn center at a hospital in our county. I asked her how long he had been at the facility. Two months was the answer. Then I inquired as to how long ago since this occurred. My ears heard, "We've only been home two weeks." My heart ached for this sweet mom. I could tell how much she cared about her son. Then she said something that shook me to my very core. She shared that she had been very depressed while her son was recuperating. She met a young woman who had third degree burns over her entire body.  The burn victim's own mother had tried to kill her by putting her in hot water on purpose. She gave hope to this mom by saying that, "If I can move on past my scars and have faith, then you can move on past your son's." I had to choke back tears at this point.
Right about that time my car was finished. I ended this encounter by telling her that my daughter and I would be praying for her. I too, encouraged her to move forward. I told her that people might say things, but none could be as worse as she already felt. She needed to continue put the past behind her and love on her sweet boy.
I share this story to say that we never know the stories that others have to tell. I took the time to listen to another's story. I'm glad that I did. I hope that I was one of many individuals who would offer this mother encouragement not shame or judgement.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

To the Employees at Wicked Waffle From a Grateful Mom

In April of this year my daughter and I had the extreme pleasure of traveling to Washington, D.C. to speak on Capitol Hill about mental health issues. On the morning of the first day of training for this event, my daughter and I stopped in a little hole in the wall called Wicked Waffle. My daughter has food challenges. There are many foods that either don't taste right or feel right in her mouth. As a result she often becomes anxious about trying new foods. From the minute we stepped inside this bustling restaurant, we were greeted by smiling faces who served up bits on heaven on a waffle. I'm not sure how the conversation got started, but my friendly, outgoing child quickly struck up a conversation with the cashier, Miss Linda. Miss Linda wanted to know what we were going to speak about on Capitol Hill. Princess told her in her own sweet way the topic and explained that she has bipolar disorder. (You can read more about our day on The Hill here.)
As we were leaving Princess made sure to give all of her new friends a hug. She also made me promise that we would come back one last time before the end of our trip.
After a day of trainings and another day on The Hill, our work in D.C. was finished, but we stayed a few extra days to see the sites of the city and surrounding environs. That Saturday morning Princess could not wait to go get her waffle at Wicked Waffle. She was equally excited to see her new friends so she could tell them about all of the important work she had done. Unfortunately the restaurant wasn't open as early as we were up. I had to convince my daughter that we would eat breakfast somewhere else, but that after seeing the sites we would return to her new favorite diner for lunch.
After sightseeing, I kept my word. Princess and I dined at our home away from home once again. We had the same wonderful experience as we had had a few days previously. Miss Linda was again ringing up patrons with a smile and a few kind words for all. I think if we could have bottled up this fine establishment, my daughter would have been the happiest kid on the planet.
The crowning moment was when Miss Linda and Princess took picture together. I used my phone, but made sure to text it to Miss Linda.
As we left on our merry way, we promised to try to return next year. Once again Princess gave a round of hugs to all of the employees.
Imagine our surprise when Miss Linda called us a few weeks later. Then she called again on Mother's Day and has called a least once a month since then.  Sometimes she has a fellow employee with her that we can chat with as well. She has made it her mission to check in and cheer my child on.
It had been a little while since we last heard from Miss Linda. I was thinking that I needed to call her to check in on her when she surprised us once again. She took time out of her busy day to call my daughter to tell her that she and her fellow waffle makers thought that Princess should talk to the Pope. My daughter made an impression on these sweet people. We were both humbled by the thought.
We are not able to see the Pope on his papal tour of the east coast, but who knows maybe some day my child will get a chance to speak to him and other important people about mental health.
Princess and Miss Linda

Friday, September 11, 2015

A Failed Suicide: My Story

In 2012 I was in a really dark place. I had a bully boss who was micromanaging my every move. I tried to measure up to her high standards, but I could not. I don't think that I would have ever been a good enough teacher in her eyes. In March of that same year, I contemplated suicide. I wanted the pain to stop. I erroneously thought that my life would be of more value if I were dead than if I were alive. I was driving on the 55 Freeway and figured that if I drove fast enough, I could smash my car into another car and end it all. Fortunately, I chickened out.

Let me take you back to the day that led to these horrific thoughts.

A few weeks prior to my failed attempt and months after months of harassment, I was working hard to become a better teacher. One of the things that I was asked to do was to have a mentor work with me to create a plan to improve my craft. My mentor and I decided on a few days where she could come help me. We notified my principal in writing of all of these days in sufficient time.  That particular day I planned on teaching for an hour then working with my mentor for a few hours and end the day collaborating with my colleagues. Apparently, my principal forgot about the days because the morning in question I was greeted by the office manager who asked me why I needed a 1/2 day sub that day. I informed her of the plan and told her that Mrs. B, the principal, knew of this plan. I went on my merry way, because it was almost time to get my students. About twenty minutes later, Mrs. B. burst into my room. She called me over and in front of my students lambasted me about the situation stating that I did not have prior approval as stated in the Teachers Who Need Mentors manual. I reminded her that I had previously turned in paperwork with the dates that I would be working on my improvement plan. A paper that she signed and approved of. As she walked out of the door, I stood there flabbergasted. I could not believe that I had just been yelled out in front of 30 five and six year olds. By my supervisor no less! I'll never forget the look of horror on those scared little babies' faces. One of them piped up and said, "What was that all about?"
I collected myself as best as I could and then returned to teaching my precious students.
A month later as I was recounting this story to my therapist, she wisely noted, "I bet some of your students see their parents act like this on a regular basis. This event just further traumatized them"
When the substitute came, she could sense that something was amiss, but told me to get on with my day. She would figure out what needed to be done.
I tried to calmly walk out of my classroom as I went looking for my mentor. As luck would have it, there were no empty classrooms that we could work in. I did not want to work in the teachers' lounge because I feared my bully would interrupt our planning time to yell at me again. We decided instead to go to my mentor's car to work. A few minutes after we got situated, my phone rang. It was the school, they wanted to know where I was. My bully had sent out the office manager looking for me, but she couldn't find me. For the record, I did not have to tell anyone my whereabouts. My students were cared for. I could have gone off campus if I wanted to. It probably would have been more comfortable instead of balancing my notebook and laptop in the front seat of a compact car.
When I answered the phone, I could hear my bully screaming in the back ground, "You tell her to get back in campus right now. She needs to return to her students. She does not have permission to work on her plan today." I immediately gathered my things together and reported for duty as my drill sergeant had requested. I stuffed my emotions for the third time that morning.
Whether I followed protocol or not, it is never Ok for an adult to yell at another adult in the presence of children. I will never know the impact that that day had on my students. I only know the impact that it had on me.
For days after that event, I was unable to sleep and started to lose my hair. Then one day on the way to work as those scenes flashed through my mind, I became overtaken with anxiety. I could not breathe. I parked my car, called the office and told them I would not be working that day. I then drove home in tears. The incident on the 55 Freeway happened a couple of weeks after that.
I could not see my future. I could not envision returning to that hostile environment. I knew that my family needed me to provide for them because at the time I was the primary breadwinner. I thought the only was out of this mess was to end it all. After those scary thoughts,  I arrived at my friend's house. I told her what I had been thinking. She encouraged me to speak to our family therapist about those thoughts. Later that evening before I left her house, my friend made me promise not to act on my thoughts.

When the therapist heard my story, she encouraged me to speak more to a psychiatrist to see about taking some medication. So I did. For over a year I took medication and I saw a counselor until I no longer was in that dark place. One of the things that my counselor told me was that children whose parents commit suicide are more likely to commit suicide themselves. I could not imagine my daughter killing herself, because she knew that's what her momma had done when things got rough.
I am forever indebted to my friend and my therapist for talking me out of that dark hole. I am also grateful for medication that was available to me during that time.

**I did eventually return to the scene of the crime so to speak, but things were never the same. I'll write about that experience in a few weeks.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Hold on! It's a Wild Ride!

In 2012, my husband and I thought we had things figured out. That's when our world came crashing down. Our daughter was hospitalized for six weeks almost 100 miles away. We decided that it was best for her if I resigned from my teaching job to care for her unique challenges. At the same time my husband was changing careers. It became clear that he was to go in another direction. He had always wanted to be a classroom teacher, but was not ready to teach up to that point. He started to substitute teach and coach. He taught PE and coached for a year at a small private school, but unfortunately they were unable to pay him enough for our family to live on. At this time he decided to pursue his teaching credential so that he could teach in the public schools. This summer the university he took classes through deemed him qualified to become an intern. This seemed like a perfect fit for our family. Unfortunately, he was unable to secure a teaching position. Since this was the case he started student teaching today at a local junior high. It just so happens to be at the junior high he subbed at on Thursday of last week. The chances of him being placed there are pretty amazing since he could have been placed at any number of schools in our county. Our school district even has three junior high schools. It turns out that some of his students are those that he has known since he was a substitute teacher for their kindergarten teacher. I don't think he was placed there on accident.
It's funny because even though I have been a homemaker for almost three years, I'm still trying to figure out how to do this new job. My husband is also learning a new trade. This is certainly not the path we thought we'd be on. We're both embracing our new found challenges with gusto and determination.