It has been 2 years since I was off work for 3 months after having a bit of a breakdown/losing the plot/ dropping my basket/going a bit cuckoo – call it what you will.
I don’t think I have properly addressed why this happened. So this post could end up being quite the cathartic exercise. Read it. Don’t read it. I don’t care TBH but I need to write it.
Essentially it was school that broke me.
Feelings of imposter syndrome. Not feeling as though I was backed up by senior leaders. Children! The children! Oh man. Please people, if you are well aware (or pretending you don’t know) that your son/daughter can be an utter twat, please try and sort that shit out before they break someone else.
Teachers do not go into the profession to yell at kids or mete out punishments, keeping children in at breaktime and all that shite. They do it because they love working with young minds. They want to bring out the best in your children. To teach them and teach them well. It’s not about long holidays. Every teacher will tell you how much of their holidays they spend sorting out paperwork and planning for the next term. A lot of which will never be used to its full potential, probably because they end up wasting air giving the usual suspects a coating for fecking about, being rude, acting out and generally being a fucking nuisance. Meanwhile, the select few are sitting there patiently waiting to hear what they need to do. They want to work. They want to learn. We need more of those kids. Sadly, more often than not it’s just a firefight until it’s time to go home where you can cry into a gin and spend an hour on Indeed.co.uk wondering if it’s too late to retrain as a Prison Guard because god knows you already have the behaviour management strategies and restraint technique training*.
* do not push me, or so help me I will take you down before you even know what is happening.
I was not a soft touch. I could stop poor behaviour with a stern look. Not a Trunchbull. More of a Snape.
I’d split up fights, calmed situations down. Sure I’d had my glasses kicked off my face and my arm slammed in doors and been called every foul name under the sun. But the ones that liked me, still like me even though some are now in their late teens. Some of them hated me and will always hate me- probably because they were the little fuckers that continually needed to be given a toasting. I don’t give a shit about them.
Essentially, after always having suffered from the Black Dog but always managing to snap out of it and mask the darkness with humour, I was broken at the end by a request for assistance which went unanswered. Well, it was answered, but via a whiteboard message which told me to get on with it and deal with the situation myself. Thanks for that! I stopped myself having an actual hissy fit infront of the children. In my head though, I was trashing the classroom and slamming heads in the fire door whilst cussing like a sailor.
Day over and children out of earshot there followed a tirade of tears and screaming in the staff room and eventually being led to the carpark by a friend who drove me home.
I did not go back to work the next day or for many weeks. I stayed at home, signed off by my GP who pretty much took one look at me in the surgery and said “Nope! Here’s a note for 4 weeks sick and that’s just for starters”.
I did not often go out, sometimes not even to the bin. I got up in the morning to check my children were up and ready for school. Then I went back to bed where I often stayed until just before they were due home. I got up then, so they didn’t know I’d hidden in bed all day.
It had been building for a while if I’m honest. Like I said, I’ve always had bleak dark moods. I get it when I see it in others. Some people don’t. Platitudes such as, “Smile it might never happen” or “Chin up love” “What do you want me to do about it?” “Nobody died so what’s your problem?” etc – our standard ‘go-to’ phrases – are not especially helpful. but we reel them out anyway because other people’s mental imbalance scares us. This is why we need to talk about it. Especially men. Women do usually talk to one another about this shit. Dudes not so much.
Anyway, I’d been getting THE FEAR for a long time. I used to love my job. Love going into work. It was fun. I felt like I made a difference. Then people starting to leave. They moved on to better pastures. I felt left behind. The fun wasn’t as frequent and the poor behaviour changed. Sure, we weren’t wrestling on the floor with the little fuckers quite as much but it was worse TBH. More and more giving you lip. Walking out of class. Telling you to your face that there was fuck all you could do to them so essentially they could do what they wanted. They weren’t wrong if I’m honest.
I ended up dry heaving on the way to work daily. Had to change my route to work to delay the point when I would see the school building because the moment I did see it, the heaving would start, usually in the snicket next to the (open) gates. But you paint on a face for the kids, head straight to the loo and heave a bit in there before setting your face straight. Show no weakness or the cunts will take you down like a wounded gazelle. You get through it while a bit of your soul dies a little more each day, but sometimes you just come to end of your tether.
Depression lies to you. It tells you that you’re not good enough. It tells you that you’re useless and that the world would be better off without you in it. That your friends and family will soon forget you. They’ll crack on regardless and get on with life without you. At its worst, you might consider some kind of escape clause? Pills? A noose? Most of us don’t go to such an extreme but we all have those edge of the kerb moments. When you think, I could just step out into the traffic and that’d be that. But then you think, “I’d probably fuck that up aswell” so you don’t. But you thought about it. You think about it a lot. You’re not the only one thinking about it…
I was lucky. My family rallied. My husband was helpful and not critical. He took me out for lunches. He let me just sit around and do jigsaws. He did not judge. He made sure the children were doing the right thing. I drowned out the voices in my head telling me I was a waste of air by listening to Metallica a lot. Not my usual music taste but I found it helped enormously. Exercising helped get the old endorphins pumping.
At least once a month I had to go into work for meetings. This scared me. The children scared me. The staff who didn’t ask after me pissed me right off, even though I knew they were probably just feeling awkward about what to say (or maybe they actually didn’t give a shit?) Senior leaders were helpful, patient and kind. I wasn’t afraid to talk openly about how I felt and what meds I had been given. I did not feel rushed to return to work. I felt justified in being off. I was both irritated and amused in equal measure at the fact that school had to go through around 7 different supply teachers to cover my role because they kept leaving. SEVEN! And these were professionals with Qualified Teaching Status. Not a Higher Level Teaching Assistant like me being paid half as much for all the work. If they couldn’t cope and were saying “Fuck this. I’m off!” after a few days then I surely deserved some kind of medal for sticking with it for so long. It’s a sinch I hadn’t gone postal before and started taking hostages right?
No point shutting the gates. The nutters are already on the inside man!
What if I hadn’t had such an understanding and loving family. What if genuinely nobody had asked after me? What if my work weren’t so helpful and trying to ease me back into it? What if I didn’t want to be around for my girls? This is how it is for some people. I’ve always found it easy enough to talk about feelings. I’ve been blathering online on this platform since 2007 – a very therapeutic exercise indeed.
So thank you if you sent me a kind text. Thank you if you sent me a gift because you “saw this and thought of you”. If you checked up on me via Messenger with silly gifs and quotes about cunts because you know I love the word even though many people hate it. If you ran round to check on me because I hadn’t answered a WhatsApp straight away and the blinds were down and you thought I might have been swinging from the light fittings. Thank you if you saw me at the store or putting my bins out and jokingly asked if I should be outside unsupervised. I won’t lie, the staff ‘whip round’ for a ten quid M&S voucher was poorly thought out and a bit cheap if I’m honest. That’s not even a quid per staff member you tight bastards. Also, y’all have met me right? Do I look like a ‘Marksies’ kind of woman? and even if I was, I was off work living like an agoraphobic hermit, not waltzing around the fucking White Rose Centre buying cardigans.
I don’t really have any point to make with his post other than floating it out there. And if you are having an edge of the kerb moment or your black dog gets too big to keep on the leash, then like Terry Tibbs – Talk to Me!
I’m listening. I might make inappropriately timed jokes and try and crowbar the word cunt into the conversation but I promise not to tell you to “Man up” or “Pull yourself together” because us crazies have to stick together. It gets better but it doesn’t go away. I’m much better at the moment because I left behind the main source of the problem at the time but only because I was fortunate enough to have another skill to make a living from. (As a swim instructor just in case that wasn’t clear)
So buckle up MoFos, I’m still here and not planning on bailing out just yet. Enjoy the ride people because you never know when the theme park is going to close down.
PS. If you stuck with this post – well done. I probably owe you a drink.