Conflictions

My health and my education are colliding again, or rather my training to be an educator and my health/morality surrounding my health are colliding, conflicting.

In class on Tuesday, we learned about classroom management. I looked at the list of scenarios, two back to back. One student who is a model student, stays in class, participates usually is looking a little pale, has their head down. They ask to go to the nurse. The answer is you let them, they’re not feeling well. Another student asks to go to the nurse. They go to the nurse often. And they’re not looking particularly sick. The answer is you tell them to sit back down, they just want to get out of class.

I had to hold my hand down, grip the edge of the table until my fingers turned white. Seal my lips shut. In retrospect, I should have spoke up. In my mind I’m screaming.

WHAT IF THIS CHILD HAS AN INVISIBLE ILLNESS? WHAT IF THEY HAVE A HEADACHE OR A MIGRAINE? WHAT IF YOU CANNOT SEE THEY ARE UNWELL? Visible illness are not the only illness.

I’ve only been on one side of that conversation, the side of the student. I’ve been told no, that I couldn’t go to the nurse. I knew the assumption was that I was trying to get out of class. That ‘no’ cuts so much deeper. That ‘no’ tells me I’m well, that I’m not sick, that the pain in my head isn’t illness, it isn’t real. It tells me that I’m wasting time, I’m wasting the teacher’s time by asking, that I’m wasting the nurses time by going to her office. I’m wasting my own time, my precious academic learning time. All my time in class was wasted anyway. My head constantly hurt. From when I woke up to when I feel asleep. The only time I seemed not to be in pain was when I was unconscious. I would chase that pain free feeling by swallowing pill after pill.  After being denied the nurse, I would bring in my own medicine, a bottle of Aleve sat in the bottom of my bag, stuffed with tissue so it would not rattle. Having medicine without a prescription was against school rules.

While sitting in class, a small voice in my mind replied.

Well, they would have an IEP. (indivudalized education plan for students with disabilities)

But I didn’t have an IEP. My headaches and migraines were woefully undiagnosed. They did not interfere enough with my school work to warrant one. It affected my attendance to the point where I would need piles of doctor’s notes. I couldn’t miss a day of school for anything less than a headache because I needed those days for headache days. But everyday was a headache day. I had to save the days off for the days where the depression was so bad and the pain so bad that I couldn’t move out of bed. I couldn’t make the short few steps to the bathroom or the kitchen, let alone out the door to school. The days where I would cry and cry and roll over back to sleep.

I would just sit in class with my eyes glazed over, my head on my desk, hiding in my sweatshirt or sweater. My teachers would never say anything to me. Never.

Sitting on the other side, in their position. I was probably just a write off. I did well enough that there were more students to worry about. The ones that deliberately cried out for attention, the ones that challenged the teachers, the ones that were failing. My solid B average meant that I was ignored. It was assumed I was okay when I wasn’t. You don’t notice someone who isn’t there. You don’t notice silence.

We’re constantly told we need to build relationships with our students, at least a little bit, we need to know them a little bit, at least something. I try, I do try when I’m at the middle school.

I’m bitter but I realize I am a means of change. I hope every student with migraines has me as their teacher. They need someone who understands. I’ll send every kid who says they have a headache to the nurse because I was never allowed.

Thoughts on Depression and Anxiety

It’s two conflicting feelings, cycling back and forth. I either feel empty, hollow, like there is a black hole in my chest, sucking everything around me in and obliterating it from existenance. My eyes are heavy. Or I feel like I’ve been sucked into the black hole and there is pressure on every inch of my skin, pushing me, squeezing me. That’s the stress. The black hole is depression. The pressure, stress.

I have a few days off for Thanksgiving this week. I am idle, sleeping until noon and staying up until 2 or 3, doing nothing. Being idle makes me anxious, itch and I feel like there’s pressure every where.

My head is nothing but a low hum of pain. Enough to ignore, enough for everything else to flood in, anxiety and depression. When the pain takes a step back, the other two race ahead and become the show runners.

I’m stuck between the two, paralyzed from doing anything.

I decided to take today off and I am just more anxious because I did nothing today.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. The weekend is for work.

After that is the last week before finals and then finals week. I am anxious.

Seasonal Affect Disorder has set in and I’m feeling it’s icy grip tightening around me.

Conversations

She is talking about her day, interacting with students for the first time, telling me of the high lights of her morning. All I can think about is the pills in my wallet and if I had time to sneak them and if I didn’t, what would my co-op say. I lean forehead and rest my head on her shoulder. She stops talking, stops eating.

“What’s wrong?” she asks.

I roll my forehead on her shoulder, “I’m tired and have a headache.” The frame of my glasses digs into my forehead, I close my eyes. Taking a small break for a moment.

I stand up and take a deep breath. The pain fades. I’ll feel better after eat. I promise myself.

The hollow, tired, expressionless eyes say it all. “Attention! Emily has left the building.” When the Cymbalta came in with their billy clubs to kick the headaches out, the headaches took Emily too. They hogtied her and put duck tape over her mouth, carried her out with all their other belongings. The Cymbalta was too proud of their victory to notice that the space they cleared was nearly vacant. The depression still lingers. It was in the next room when the Cymbalta broke up the party. The depression makes it self at home, turning on the TV, the volume blasting, spilling it’s drink and food all over the carpet and furniture. It will clean it up later, if it ever does. The windows are left open so later, the headaches sneak back in. They throw Emily back in the closet, to shut her up. No one can hear her muffled screams. The Cymbalta is long gone. The pain is back but there’s no one to care.

Enough

I had to cancel on a friend on Friday, then again on Saturday. All week she was bugging me to come over Friday evening, to hang out at her apartment. All week, I told her that “we’ll see” and “it depends on how I feel.” I felt awful saying these things but I was being honest. With the way things were going, I was going to feel pretty good. I think she interpreted that as confirmation, a promise. When I was feeling down on Friday, hollow and empty from the cymbalta, she asked me what was wrong and I told her. I felt tired and headachey. I wanted to go home and curl up under a mountain of blankets, block out the world and curl up in a warm ball. She looked disappointed. I would have been too if there was something beyond pain in my skull.

On Saturday, I canceled nearly as soon as the words were out of my mouth. “Do you want to do something?” I asked, feeling okay in that moment. Somewhere in the back of my mind, the pain nudged me but I ignored it. “Wait, nevermind,” the nudge turned into a bloom. “I’m going to not feel well later.” I say. It sounds like a lie, I know it does. I wouldn’t believe it myself if I wasn’t experiencing it.

How long until they have enough of it? Til they stop asking me, until they know that I never feel well. How long until they turn on me like before? How long until I stop seeing them all together? When will they become fed up with it, stop believing me and just move on?