Saturday, December 7, 2013

Just Three Weeks

Three weeks.  I only needed three more weeks to complete the semester.  One more semester after that then student teaching.  My original goal was to teach social studies at the high school or junior college level.  My husband said I was crazy (HA!) but I even liked the idea of teaching history at the junior high level!  I wouldn’t just teach out of a book, reading, blah, blah, blah…but we would reenact battles!  Reenact moments that changed the world!  Make videos, interview the great minds of history after researching together…it would be an interactive class.

After moving to Poplar Bluff, in order to obtain the degree needed to teach social studies I would have to attend school at Cape Girardeau.  For those who don’t live in the Bluff (that’s what we locals call it, the Bluff), it’s an hour and a half drive.  I was dealing with depression pretty well at that time, thought I’d kicked it’s butt, but I had a family to consider, and occasional dangerous driving conditions.  So I settled.  The requirements for an elementary teaching degree were taught by two different universities on the campus of the local community college, Three Rivers College.  (Do my Cali peeps see a connection with the whole “Three Rivers” thing?)  I decided to complete my courses with Southeast Missouri University (SEMO).  I could get a cross categorical degree that would allow me to teach elementary education and special education.  Even better, I wouldn’t have to take college algebra.  I’d literally seen adults in tears over that class.  SEMO it was!

Teacher ed courses are taught in blocks and all the classes for a block have to be taken at one time. Block I went well.  I was taking the regular elementary ed classes plus the special education teaching courses and was loving it.  It was a lot of work, but I enjoyed it.  Block II started well, then I began to slip.  I didn’t see it, but it was happening.  I found myself studying into the early morning hours then sleeping late into the day.  I know now it was a survival mechanism.  I just couldn’t deal with everything but had to take care of school.  By adjusting my hours I could avoid the household needs but keep up with the school load.  I pushed myself Monday through Saturday then collapsed Sunday and slept almost all day. 

I’m not proud of this, but anyone who’s ever felt depressed can relate.  “I’m busy, busy, busy so don’t have time for…” whatever it is that needs to be done.  I did cook most nights, or put something in the crock pot on the nights I had class, but it fell to my hubby to take care of the kids, do the laundry, do the housework.  I felt ashamed even as it happened, but didn’t know what to do.  I just didn’t have the strength for it all and had too much invested in school to quit. 

Three weeks left to go.  Just three weeks.  And suddenly I didn’t think I could finish it.  My father had died a few months earlier, other family matters were affecting me, the workload of Block II with the addition of the special ed courses was intense, and there was the worsening depression.  I had become dependent on Darvocet prescribed for my fibromyalgia pain and I began abusing it, needing the relief it brought mentally.  That’s something else I’m definitely not proud of, but anyone with a mental illness can likely relate.  Self-medicating is a common theme.  Whether through alcohol, street drugs, or prescription drugs…anything for a change in outlook.

But I knew how to put on a good public face.  I’m kind of a champ.  My psychiatrist at the time was in St. Louis, a two and a half hour drive.  Oh, that’s right!  I haven’t told you about having a psychiatrist yet, have I?  Well, I had one, and have one, and now you know.  There’s something called “presenting”, a term docs use to describe a patient’s appearance.  For psychiatrists, it’s a clue as to the patient’s well-being.  Only once did I go up there to see him without doing my hair, make up, and dressing nicely and that’s when I had a melt down after the first ice storm I experienced in ’07.  A quick call, need to see him, it’s an emergency, and off I went in sweats with barely combed hair.  We had no electricity for water (we have a well), and I was told to be there in an hour and a half.  I flew up there with ice on the windows an inch thick.  Seriously.  The ice looked like those thick glass blocks.  I felt like I was driving a giant shower.

In that case, I looked like I felt, but usually at least looked like I cared.   And when I went to school I also “presented” like someone who felt well, was full of confidence, and cared about her appearance.  Until those last three weeks.

Somehow I made it through those last three weeks.  Then I crashed and burned.