My #SemicolonEDU Story....Talking about depression and or mental health is a BIG taboo. It is just something we just don't talk about. In the field of education you really don't talk about it at all. People want to believe that teachers are these happy go lucky people who entertain, educate, and keep the little people happy. Teachers have it all! They only work 180 days out of the year, have their weekends, and holidays off. They get to see happy little faces, so why would they ever go through depression.
Almost 4 years ago I went through the roughest part of my life. I was having trouble breathing, constant migraines, and bouts of dizziness. I would keep all the lights off in my office or classroom since I was so sensitive to lights. I wore earplugs to dampen the noise, and when you are in an elementary building there is a lot of noise. I would avoid any stairs, afraid I would pass out while trying to climb them. There would be days my blood pressure would rocket really high then drop pretty low. I felt like I was ran over by an 18 wheeler who decided that the job wasn't done and back over me just to run over my again. It took the doctors almost a month to figure out what was wrong with me and when they did I had no time to think or to really plan. I did talk them into giving me a week to get my classroom prepared for me to be gone. I had to explain to them why I couldn't just leave my classroom. I had to find a sub, make a plan, provide lessons, resources, and activities for all the classes I teach. I was more worried about leaving my classroom for any period of time than my family. When I stop and think about now, I can't believe I was so worried about my classroom. My classes would have went on without me just fine and they did. I should have focused more on myself and my family. It took me awhile to learn that lesson.
On Sept. 30th at 5 in the morning I was taken into the OR to have my aortic valve and aorta replaced. I was born with a defective valve which over the 30+ years just couldn't function properly any more and had caused my aorta to balloon out. I had an aneurysm that had formed and was ready to rupture at any moment. Up until that moment when they were taking me back to the OR I realized I needed my family beside me before I went. It hit me like a rock that this may be the last time I get to see them and up until that moment I had worried about my classroom not my family. I cried all the way back to the OR, the nurses where crying and so was my husband. I didn't get to see my kids before I left and I was devastated.
The surgery took longer than expected. The doctors really didn't know the severity of the damage until they opened me up. The plan was to only remove the part of the aorta that was damaged and the new mechanical valve would already be attached to the root of the aorta. The damage was to severe and they had to completely replace the aorta. While I was in recovery I wasn't making it and was taken into the OR one more time. I can't imagine what my family were going through when they received the news I was taken back into the OR. During the original surgery some of my arteries were damaged so I received a double bypass.
I woke up three days later in so much pain and being told I was so lucky. I didn't feel lucky at all. It hurt to breath, to move, to sit, or to lay. It just hurt and I didn't want to cry because that made it hurt worse. I spent a week in the hospital all by myself. No one came to visit me other my husband and he would bring one kid with him at time. I think it was more for him to have company on the ride. Depression had sit in and I felt so alone and I was in so much pain. I was mad at myself for worrying about my classroom when I should have been worrying about my family. There were days I had wished that I didn't make it. I hated feeling the way I did. I hated that I worried about something I had no control over. I hated I didn't think of my family first.
The next 3 months were even harder. I was home all a lone, I only had a few visitors during that time, so I felt a lone yet again. When the kids came home from school I didn't want them to see me all in pieces either. I felt so broken it wasn't funny. I wasn't myself and that scared me even more. I pulled away from everyone. It took me two years to come out of that depression. During that time I got really good at hiding how I felt. I didn't want my students or family to see me broken and hurting. I had to learn to meditate, to find my inner calm, and to let go. Letting go and accepting help was the hardest thing for me to learn. When you are a mom, a wife, and a teacher you are the one who is caring, helping, and giving. It is hard to not be able to do those things. I think that is why teachers find it so hard to talk about depression or asking for help.
I was lucky that I didn't go too far down the rabbit hole that I couldn't get out. There are many that are not that lucky and they can't find away out. I've learned my story isn't over because I am not done writing it. I can't get a tattoo since I am on blood thinners and I have to take massive doses of antibiotics when I get my teeth cleaned so I've placed a temporary semicolon next to one of my scars. When the doctors pulled the veins for the bypass they damaged a bundle of nerves, so this scar is a constant reminder even though I go through pain daily my family needs me more. With their help, love, and support I was able to fill in the rabbit hole. They are my inspiration to continue each and everyday as well as my support to share with others. Hand in hand we take this journey together, one step at a time.
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