I need help. Again.

Warning— this is not a funny post, or uplifting, or positive. When I first started this blog, I wanted to open a dialogue for anyone dealing with mental illness and provide some insight into regular person (me) who has dealt with this and will continue dealing with it for the rest of my life.

Sometimes depression goes into remission, but then it comes barreling back.

It’s back.

Over the last several weeks I’ve been denying, ignoring, rationalizing and negotiating these feelings and why they’ve returned, but as usual, that doesn’t work, so now I’m admitting that my brain has become reckless and ruthless and I need help to stave off its lies.

It’s really uncomfortable and upsetting when you have no idea what your brain is going to tell you every day. And it can switch at a moment’s notice.

There are days when it lies to me from the moment I wake up. It says that I’m useless. That nothing I do matters. That no one would miss me if I was gone. Yeah, they’d be sad, but they’d get over it and move on because life is for the living.

It asks questions like what is the point of existing? We live, we die, and more people come to take our place. It reminds me of the ee cummings’ poem, “anyone lived in a pretty how town” that expresses the monotony of everyday life and the lack of impact people have in the world. I’m not curing cancer or discovering new worlds or saving lives or really doing anything worthwhile.

Except raising my kids.

They are the ones who I know need me. The ones who I HAVE to be here for. The ones that make me need to fight my brain.

I KNOW with absolute certainty that no matter how broken I am, I’m better broken than non-existent.

But when I’m driving or up at night and it’s just me and my brain, we don’t always get along and it gets tough to tell it to shut the fuck up.

And it gets so confusing because I’ve always relied on my brain and trusted it. It’s my sense of humor, my intelligence, my drive, my skepticism, my ability to see things from multiple perspectives and I LOVE my brain.

Until it starts being an asshole.

A lot of people have asked me what depression feels like, and I can’t speak for everyone, but this is the best analogy I can make for how it feels right now.

Imagine that you have a gallon of milk without the cap, and from the time you get out of bed until the time you go back to bed, you have to carry that gallon without spilling a drop. At first, it’s not bad. You figure out how to drive to work and maybe congratulate yourself for your strength. Maybe you even mock people who say that this is a difficult task.

Then you get to work and start your day and your fingers start to get numb. So you switch hands. Then you notice a ridge of plastic that’s cutting into your fingers, so you reposition the milk to avoid it.

As the day goes on, all you can think about is the milk.

You can’t concentrate, or do your job, or experience joy because all you can think about is how painful the fucking milk has become and you know it’s just milk and you shouldn’t be such a baby, but no one else has to do this and you hate them just a little bit because don’t they see how much you’re struggling?

So now you’re obsessed with the milk and you hate the milk and you wish you could just dump the whole damn thing and just end it but you know you can’t for real, but you think about how light you would be without the milk, and how the pain would stop.

But you manage to make it through the day. But you’re exhausted and have a headache and your stomach hurts and you have no energy to do anything and you’re irritable and impatient and miserable to be around.

You finally get into bed.

And the milk goes on the side table.

And you think of all the mistakes you made, and all of the strategies you’ll try tomorrow and all of the guilt you feel because you could only focus on the milk and you finally fall into a restless sleep at 2am.

The alarm goes off at 5.

Time to carry the fucking milk.

So, I’ve started the process. Again.

I’ve come clean to Bill and emailed my doctor and requested an appointment.

I’ve researched if the meds I’m on lose their efficacy over time and what can cause a recurrence, and I’m doing what I can do be nice to myself and trying to ignore my brain that says I don’t deserve to be nice to myself.

And right now, in this moment, I’m ok.

But I’ll apologize now for saying no to plans, or making a quick getaway, or changing my mind at the last minute, or staying in my house and cuddling with kids and animals rather than talk to humans.

And I’ll say thanks for reading, and hopefully understanding.

Official diagnosis— crazy (mouse saga part 2)

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse.

I entered my classroom at 7am ready with elbow length rubber gloves, bleach-infused cleaner, and a roll of paper towels.

It was time to disinfect and re-claim my desk drawers. I felt like a Bad Ass Martha Stewart.

I removed the drawers, hoisted them onto a front desk, pulled the trash can close by and prepared to remove all rodent feces and urine.

After the first few paper towels, I heard it.

*scritch, scritch*

*scritch*

Behind my mini fridge, a brown blur disappeared.

Are you fucking kidding me? Not today, sir, NOT TODAY!

Then it ran behind an empty cardboard box.

Without thinking, I pushed the box against the wall to trap the bastard.

Its little head stuck out from behind the box, its beady eyes watching me.

I was on prep, alone, and shouted for help. And shouted again. And again.

No one came.

I grabbed a hold of my phone with one hand and called the office and my work wife.

“I need you! I have the mouse trapped!”

But when people came, and set up traps on both side of the box, I pulled the box away from the wall, and Dasher fell over sideways. Dead.

And then I cried.

My principal wrapped him in a plastic bag and there were only 8 minutes until my prep was over and classes would begin.

It was the only time I have been grateful for standardized testing because I could get the kids started and just zone out.

I was numb the rest of the day, grossed out, sad, disgusted, panicked, depressed.

I slept horribly that night, but returned the next morning to finish cleaning.

Halfway into it, my arms started burning and a rash appeared.

In exasperation, I trotted to the office to evoke sympathy for my NEW calamity, when our Health Occupations teacher, an RN, took one look and said, “That looks like a strep rash. I’d go get tested.”

I needed no further prodding. I grabbed my stuff, arranged for a sub and left.

Then my brain took its twisted journey into crazy-ville.

What if I have something from inhaling the spores from the shit and piss? Hantavirus– potentially fatal. Leptospirosis. Lasso Fever. Lymphocytic Chorio-Meningitis!!

Maybe I should go to the ER! Maybe I need to call Bill! Am I dying because of mouse shit?

I decided that the normal thing to do was go to urgent care first and then they would probably admit me or send me to the ER to treat me. Wow–thank goodness I was informed about this ahead of time! I could save the doctors all kinds of time by explaining my exposure and symptoms and history and could avoid death!

But this is how the convo went.

Doctor (kind of? I still think he might have been an imposter): Well, you’re not 9 years old, so I don’t think it’s a strep rash and if you’re worried about mouse droppings then you might as well never eat at a restaurant or drink a canned soda or eat canned food because they’ve all been contaminated by mouse droppings, and the only thing you can catch from rodents is the plague, and we wiped that out hundreds of years ago.

Me: (internally shouting) What about hantavirus, huh? What about leptospirosis? (actually verbalized): You’re not helping me by saying that.

“Doctor”: Well, we’ll swab you just to put your mind at ease, but I really think you’re fine.

I got swabbed, but the “test”was complete in less than a minute.

“Doctor”: All normal! Go home and rest.

Me: (embarrassed and ashamed): ok…

I went home exhausted and developed a migraine that put me out for another day.

The only bright spot was that Bill came home with a bag full of presents.

Mouse traps.

I can’t make this shit up

About six weeks ago, the week before Christmas vacation, a potential new student showed his face in my classroom. He was small and shy, but had a clever air about him. He didn’t tell me his name, so in the spirit of the holiday, I christened him Dasher.

Now, mice don’t really bother me, but I’m also a realist that understand that this is how epidemics of the plague start, so I reported him to the proper authorities, “Hey, Megan, I have one in my room,” made a meme, added some jokes and I never saw him again.

Fast forward to last Friday.

The weather was temperate, the sun was shining, it was the end of the first week of the new semester, and I was all set to proceed through my lessons and have a nice ease into the weekend.

I was so fucking wrong.

Being in my awesome mood, I thought, I haven’t filled my mint basket in a while. So I opened the bottom drawer of my desk grabbed the mints and some leftover suckers I had.

And then I made the most audible gasp ever that interrupted my class while they took a quiz.

Is that… MOUSE SHIT?!?!

Oh, but that’s not all. I pulled the drawer all the way open.

This fucker, who I had NAMED and deemed HARMLESS had unrolled the plastic bag, pulled the candy out, unwrapped it with his little paws, ate it, and then MADE A NEST OF THE WRAPPERS.

Forget Bear Grylls. This kid’s a real survivalist.

The bell rang, and even though I was nauseous, I went to lunch to decompress and plan my next move.

The next hour started, and I explained to my students what was going on. I had some gloves, so while they started working, I began emptying everything from the drawer into the trash. All was tolerable, but then I decided to check the drawer above it.

And that’s where I lost it.

I was done, it was over, I needed to go home, I needed a Silkwood shower.

I grabbed a huge trash can and dumped everything. I lost boxes of pens and pencils, clipboards, student work, surveys, speakers, and even a pair of gloves I kept in there for days when my classroom is 64 degrees. All of it eaten and shredded.

The best I could do was borrow a vacuum and suck up the dried pellets.

I apologized to my class for not being a teacher that day, and I hope they understood.

In all of my college classes that were meant to prepare me for educating young minds, this was never mentioned.

Fucking out of touch professors.

When you’re in the darkest dark, an ember lights your way

Darkness has been closing in, in many ways, through various forms.

Some are derived from the usual sources.

News headlines.

Judgmental eyes.

Weather.

But lately, they have been accompanied by an avalanche of stories.

Tragedy.

Hopelessness.

Futility.

Pointlessness.

And they link, and spread, and envelope, and engulf, and overwhelm, and suffocate.

And you think, “Why keep breathing, when it’s such a struggle?”

You see no one, hear nothing but your thoughts.

And they lie.

Tears roll down your cheeks and you have a tinge of relief that you still feel.

But that’s part of the problem.

You feel.

For the dogs left outside to freeze. For the little girl tortured and killed by her mother. For the girl in class who is hungry. For the strangers you never met. For the loved ones who are struggling.

And it becomes a swirl of black and gray and indigo and it’s chalky and it gets in your eyes and ears and mouth and nose and lungs and you choke and sputter and almost relinquish and stop fighting.

Then, inexplicably, the corner of your crusted eye sees something.

It’s so small and weak you have to stare intently.

It glows.

A tiny ember.

And you stare, afraid to blink, afraid to scare it away.

You sweep your hands through the darkness, trying to get closer.

The closer you get, the larger it becomes.

It is warm.

It is a beacon.

You reach it and stretch it and pull it around you like a blanket, tucking your arms into yourself and curling your legs to your chest.

You feed from the light.

Slowly, your eyes begin to clear. The chalky darkness begins to fade from your body. Its inky blackness drains from your mind.

And at last you see the full picture.

The rescue group saving the dogs. The prosecutor guaranteeing this mother will harm no child again. The offering of food. The people who are helping the strangers. The outpouring of love and support for loved ones.

So you hold on and keep breathing. And you take notes, remembering this experience. And you realize that there is always an ember there when you need it.

Even in your darkest days.

Always, always search for the light.

It’s there.

I love Christmas, but it can be tough

Anxiety doesn’t know that the kids are excited for Christmas, and it doesn’t give a shit that you have a million things to do. It pops up unexpectedly like a jack in the box without the lyrical cues.

Last night I texted my dad asking what time he and my mom were planning to come over today. It was 9pm, so of course I was texting from bed. I played a few games on my phone, went to turn out the light, and saw the clock–9:40.

No reply.

My dad always replies and he goes to bed later than I do. So I did want any sane person would do. Various scenarios of them dead began to play in my head.

They have been having some remodeling work done on the house, so of course one of the workers broke in, robbed them and bludgeoned them to death in the process. The scene was gruesome. The police came and carted them off to the morgue and I was called to identify them. I would have Bill stay with the kids and tell them I just had to run an errand. I would get there and the drape would be pulled back and I would see their swollen faces.

What would I tell the kids? Not the truth because they would be afraid of the same thing happening at our house. It would have to be an accident of some sort until they could understand when they were older. Would my brother be able to get a flight home? Probably not right away because it would be Christmas Eve.

And we’d have to postpone Christmas. I would have to take weeks off of work for the trial because I would want to know every single detail of the case. Which prosecutor would take the case?

What would happen after? I’m not ready to lose my parents. They are finally enjoying the retirement they worked so hard for. It’s so fucking unfair!

STOP THIS SHIT

Finally, my other brain breaks through.

My conscious self says, This is bullshit. You are tired, stressed and overwhelmed and are vulnerable to this crap.

You need to STOP. Right now.

I take a deep breath. Notice my heart beating visibly through my T-shirt. Feel tears release from the corners of my eyes. Unclench my fists and feel the divots from my fingernails. Ginger stares at me.

I inhale

1-2-3-4-5-6-7

Hold

1-2-3-4-5-6-7

Exhale

1-2-3-4-5-6-7

I remind myself where I am. Concentrate on the weight of the sheets and blankets. The breeze from the fan.

I tell myself they are probably watching a movie. The phone is on vibrate. They are talking to my brother.

Sometimes after an episode, I feel really stupid. Ashamed. Weak.

Sometimes after an episode, I feel confused. Shaken. Weak.

I scooch over to Ginger, pressing my leg against her body and feel calmer.

I look at the clock.

12:37

I love the holidays. But sometimes it’s hard. And sometimes it’s hard for different reasons. I’ll have my mental armor on tonight, and will wear it for the next several days.

Just in case.

If you’re struggling, you’re not alone.

If you think you have everything handled, and you’re good, and then suddenly something happens and you’re not, it’s ok.

You can get through it. We can get through it.

Merry Christmas, everyone. Be sure to give yourself some love, patience and care.

The twelve days of Christmas— teacher style

It’s hell for just about all classroom teachers right now. The kids are insane, the classroom heaters are either blowing 97 or 7 degrees, administrators are trying to squeeze in evaluations, and the school board took away the secret Valium lick in the teacher’s lounge.

So for all of my fellow teachers, here is a little song to help you make it to the break. Because vodka doesn’t translate in this format. And because no one has time for the full thing, here’s the countdown from twelve. Enjoy!

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my students gave to me: twelve new gray hairs

Eleven whiny whiners

Ten tardy passes

Nine late assignments

Eight stomach ulcers

Seven hours of grading

Six stupid questions

Nasty stomach flu!

Four copied papers

Three parent emails

Two eyes a twitching

And a headache that needs some Aleve!

Hang in there, everyone!

My Christmas list is too fucking long

I am brain fried. Mentally spent, physically exhausted.

All because of this list:

This is everything that will need to be done in the next two weeks.

I just finished 120 essays tests for English 11, and I’m numb. Many kids did well, but for some kids it’s like they weren’t even in class for the last two weeks. So the emotional roller coaster of “They got it!” to “What the FUCK??” has been running all weekend.

And now I’m nauseous. With heart burn.

My fellow teachers can relate. We’re all desperately trying to wrap things up before the two week break because once we come back, exams start seven days later.

And some of the kids are driving me insane.

“Umm, I’m going to be gone that week before break because that’s when we’re going to Jamaica, so can I have my work?”

Umm, no because I don’t have my shit together enough to even know what we’re doing tomorrow. And let’s be honest. You’re not going to do it anyway.

“I was absent. Can I get my work?”

Absent?!? I think you mean truant. You’ve been out 38 days. And now your 16% has finally caught your attention and you want to make up all the work? Good luck.

*explosive sigh* “Why don’t we ever do anything fun? Can’t we have a free day?”

No. My job is to make you as miserable as possible and never allow even a smile to escape your lips. And for the record, I never charge. Every day is free, fuck you very much.

Maybe I’m just getting too old for this shit. Maybe I need the break more than I thought. Maybe my inner Scrooge is just a little too visible. Maybe I just need a drink and a big nap.

The only thing I want for Christmas is an empty list. No tasks, no jobs, no to-dos.

That would make a very merry Christmas.

My uterus is being an asshole

Any woman “of a certain age” will get this.

Stages of assholery:

Fuck with hormones to create a fatigue that would overwhelm a meth addict. Make it impossible to stay awake and impair cognition. Fall asleep in chairs, at red lights and during conversations.

Relive labor pains with contractions that are just a few minutes apart. Call for anesthesia and realize there is no epidural to save you. Down bottles of Aleve and Motrin. Kill liver. Decide liver is already dead, so pour vodka down throat. Rage at children for atrocities such as whispering loudly and laughing while playing nicely with each other. Secretly imagine husband’s face being torn off by eagle talons because he is placidly watching football and tapping on his laptop.

Decide everyone sucks and retreat to bedroom to hate everything the world has ever created, except dogs and cats, and then dissolve into rage tears because you are aware of what a horrible human being you are and a rush of guilt and love and appreciation sweep through you like a Noah flood and all the rage you had at everyone else is now pointed at yourself.

Google “home hysterectomy” and consider it. Seriously.

Fall into uneasy sleep and dread getting into a vertical position because now the Noah flood is all too real. (Sorry, not sorry, guys. You all suck.)

Eat 10,000 calories. All carbs. In an hour. Hate self for lack of control. Eat 10,000 more.

Be cranky, tired, angry, sad, hopeless. Be cranky, tired, upset, depressed. Be cranky, tired, happy to notice the sun. Be amused at Bob’sBurgers, alive enough to wash hair, awake enough to consider a run.

Wonder who the hell you have been for the last few days.

Repeat anytime between 21 and 30 days.

Asshole.

This actually fucking happened and I need to just crawl into a hole now before I hurt someone

Mondays are crazy. Two practices at two different times means dinner options are minimal. But on the way home, inspiration hit.

Panera.

Yes, clean food, fresh ingredients, no preservatives– it’s like I can claim I cooked a decent meal instead of running through Wendys. Again.

But this encounter is just a hint of what my entire day was like.

I walk in, and make sure I stand toward the back, not at the counter, while I text Bill to see what he wants. Eyes still on my phone, I hear, “Whenever you’re ready, I’m ready.”

Unsure if this was some kind of mating ritual at Panera at 3:30 in the afternoon, I glance up and see the cashier staring at me.

Umm… I’m just waiting for my husband to text his order back to me.

More staring.

More staring.

Fuck it, Bill, you’re getting a turkey bravo.

Hi, this order is to go. Can I get two grilled cheese sandwiches?

Uh, hold on, I think we’re out of white bread. *yells to guy three feet away* Hey, are we out of white bread?

They are out of white bread.

How can you be out of white bread?

Uh, we’ll, is there another bread that you want?

Do you have honey wheat?

*yells again* Hey, do we have honey wheat?

They don’t have honey wheat.

Tell you what, just tell me what bread you have.

Uhh, *yells again* what bread do we have?

No lie, the guy replies, Sourdough and THE OTHER ONE.

Umm, what’s the other one?

*yells again, although the guy can clearly hear me* what’s the other one?

Sesame. Like white bread. With sesame seeds on the crust.

MAYBE START WITH THAT ONE????

AND WHY ARE YOU OUT OF ALL THE BREAD AT 3:30?!?! Your name is Panera BREAD for fuck sake! Are you out of flour? Water? No??? THEN MAKE SOME FUCKING BREAD.

Ok, so two grilled cheese on sesame.

Do you want drinks?

No… and a quart of chicken soup.

Do you want drinks?

No… and a goddess Cobb salad.

Do you want drinks?

*FUCK NO I DON’T WANT DRINKS!*

No… and a turkey bravo.

Do you want drinks?

My head plays this:

IF I WAS IN THE FUCKING SAHARA DESERT FOR SIX MONTHS AND WAS DYING OF THIRST AND YOU WALKED UP AND ASKED ME IF I WANTED DRINKS I WOULD TELL YOU WHERE YOU COULD PUT THOSE FUCKING DRINKS!!!

This is why I need to wear a warning label at all times.

WARNING: This person is unstable and may blow at any moment. If you are a slow driver in the left lane, someone who repeatedly jams the copy machine and leaves, or repeatedly asks stupid questions be aware.

I’m having a rough time, but who isn’t?

I can sense it, feel it, almost grasp it. The depression is lurking near, waiting for an opportunity to materialize. Right now it’s a transparent fog. This time of year always beckons it.

The days are shorter, the rain is more prevalent. The workload is overwhelming, the activities are draining. Monotony sets in, motivation stumbles.

I say yes to invitations and bail at the last minute. I make promises to exercise and make excuses not to go. I go to bed early and pledge to catch up on sleep and wind up with excruciating dreams and lonely midnights.

So it’s calling me. Coaxing me. Trying to lure me.

It’s so easy to give in, much harder to fight. Easy to just stop planning, caring and producing. Just let the darkness take over, keep everyone out, slide into nothingness. Why struggle?

I self care. I get a massage, text with a friend, make jokes, plan lessons, hug my kids, take naps, have a drink.

I self-sabotage. I am irritable, snap at others, dwell on the negative, skip showers, eat too much.

Which way to go?

Of course, I know the answer. The only answer. To fight, struggle, bite, kick, scratch and maim my way to wellness.

But it’s so fucking hard sometimes.

And sometimes I just want to give in and allow the darkness to swallow me whole, without resistance. But there are two sources of light that keep me from giving in.


The only two.

It’s a rough time of year. For a lot of people. I know I’m not alone. I’ll do my best to be there for you. In fact, I’m a better cheerleader for you than I am for myself.

And if you are struggling as I am right now, take solace in the light that pulls you away from the darkness. Whatever form that takes. 

We’ll make it.