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.