Since then I have, metaphorically speaking, slithered upon my belly in the mud. Clawed my way up mountains and fallen back down into the smallest claustrophobic potholes. I have dwelt in a dark tower and am presently clinging to the sheerest mountain face you can imagine. Amongst the deep depression and anxiety there have been events that have caused me to surface. Lately I have found out that it’s true what they say that whatever affects you mentally affects you physically.
Before “things” went wrong I used to think I was strong. I wasn’t, I was numb and in denial. I didn’t recognise it and I could not let out my feelings, being afraid of my feelings and what they might do. My “strength” was total pretence. I had I thought self-esteem that I had built myself, I thought I was a grown up. I couldn’t understand one of my colleagues who was either boasting or seeking reassurance. I do now. I wasn’t a grown up I was a child. I still am at aged 64. I didn’t know why I couldn’t be stronger …..
My world imploded in 1996. Everything went horribly wrong at the school where I was teaching. OFSTED were due to come in and an audit took place. The Head went off sick and it was discovered that the deficit we were in was twice as much as had been thought. I was left in charge for a while, a big mistake for me. I was ambitious, my children were getting older and I thought would soon leave the nest and I believed a career would fill the hole that was already opening in my heart. A big mistake as I was actually sacrificing my relationship with my children. My son was ill and I had been offered compassionate leave. I should have taken this, but no I had stubbornly carried on, going home at lunch times to check he was alright. The school was not far away. He was not alright because there is very little that can be done for M.E. I was conscientious with my work often staying up until midnight, but I neglected myself and my health. By the time the inspection came round I was fit for nothing. This sounds like an excuse it isn’t meant to be it is a matter of fact. I cannot say too much because it’s on,”pink paper.” Suffice it to say OFSTED made a few of us scapegoats and the school was put into Special Measures. It received a P.I.G. That is a Post Inspection Grant. A few months before I had attended a course by the Inspection Team where they had said, “Don’t be afraid to experiment and try something new.” In my naivety I did and it was a disaster. I like to think my P.E. lesson was pretty good though, but because it looked perfect and went very smoothly I was accused of showing the children nothing new. These were pupils aged four to five, well behaved, compliant and no accidents happened- my main concern whilst working in the gym! I believe I was teaching them something important – how to land properly.
Being part of the management team I was involved in writing the improvement plan this involved long meetings with Governors of which I was one. Working until 11 at night during the week and also having to write extensive lesson plans at weekends and then teaching in the day. I started to seriously neglect myself and was not even taking a break at break times, not having a drink and very little to eat. Perhaps punishing myself. I was even involved in the board who interviewed for a new Head. I felt ill during the interviewing and had a “funny” turn and told no one. Everyone was re- inspected. HMI came in. Then County- they left me until last I became more and more anxious. My job description became longer and longer. I didn’t feel I could actually teach properly because I was too tired. I had been too tired during OFSTED in all truth. As it was I had always suffered from a migraine on the first day back of every term. I began to get panic attacks, I’d had a few before and became very depressed, although I didn’t really know that’s what it was. I went to see the mental health nurse I told her that at times I would be happy not to wake up in the morning. Her reply was, ” You don’t need to see a professional.”
In 1996 I had to have a minor surgical procedure. I had a bit of time off, I then felt worse and worse. My mother and her husband had moved nearby and she would walk her dog passed my window. I would hide because I didn’t want her to know. I didn’t know why. I went to see my doctor and got some more time off. Then some more. The new Head didn’t like it, why would they? Less than six months later I resigned. There was something I didn’t understand why was it that most of my colleagues were able to continue, but I had fallen to pieces?
More to follow…..
Free on Kindle at Amazon from Friday 13th November for five days. You can get the kindle app if you don’t have a kindle. This is a collection about being in the dark tower of depression, but there are chinks of light that sometimes stream in….