#136: The Mental Health Day

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In continuing my trend of discussing personal issues, such as my health, I’ll today be discussing mental health and what it was like last year, when I decided to take better care of my mental health.

When I used to work in Milford, I would make sure to take time off for my mental health. Little did I know that working in that place would actually deteriorate my mental health to the point of an actual breakdown and collapse of sanity, but I’m sure my decision to take mental health days contributed to the preservation of my sanity in a temporary sense. Taking mental health days helped me stay afloat, basically.

I highly recommend you make the decision to take mental health days for yourself. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and for some reason we only equate sick days with being physically ill. If someone is mentally ill and is in need of immediate help, then taking a day for yourself is a great way of getting back on track and resetting things. Not just for yourself, but for the good of others, too. If you’re mentally ready for things, the people at work will benefit from your aptness. If you’re not mentally ready, you risk alienating and making things worse for yourself and others. Think of it the same way you think of physical health!

I’ve tried to convince Alex to take more days for herself, similarly to what I did, but it hasn’t been super successful yet. It’s still a work in progress for sure.

Plus, above all, I get to spend days with Angus, my best friend and greatest companion of all. Nothing compares to the benefit of mental health bestowed by being with a dog companion.

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#115: Stress

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Stress. We all experience it, one way or another. Stress over work, stress over school, stress over relationships. It’s normal to be stressed, unfortunately, despite it being so toxic and corrosive to our mental health. There’s always been talk about how stress and challenges are essential to learning, that in order to be truly engaged or challenged in a task, there has to be some degree of urgency associated with it.

In some ways, I agree completely. How can I ever expect to learn how to handle stress, for example, without having experienced it in a more constructive, educational way in school? School is and has always been a reflection of life after school, but with handlebars and the bumpers up. Teachers are dictators, at least according to kids, and counselors are helpful, guiding friends. School has the makings of a microcosm of life itself, and the lessons learned in school help students in that they can apply those lessons when they reach adulthood. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to be. I don’t claim that this is what everyone’s school experience was like, or even mine for that matter, but I hope I can convey a sense of idealism, not realism, in this.

So, looping back to stress and the factors that go into it. I am somehow who gets stressed easily, and the second a student says one thing that’s slightly disrespectful, I am taken aback and reeling all the way home. My mind absorbs all the emotions and energy of the room around me, internalizing it all. That’s the life of an anxious mind. But in order to overcome stress, I like to think some advil and World of Warcraft does the trick. (That’s partially a joke; I do play WoW to unwind, though.)

Breakdown

Nothing wrong with a little
concern, a couple Q’s
about life and work,
she says,
excuse my inquisitive side

I say, breaking down is like
watching a horror movie in
slow-motion,
uncontrollable dramatic irony
steps into view and
watches you slowly until
you open the closet

I say, forgive me
for not reaching out when
I was at my lowest,
my deepest regrets are more
debilitating than I thought
and I forgot to say “Hello”

Hello
I had some troubles
last year, summer to
fall to winter to now,
you don’t think during a
breakdown, no one thinks
no one

#70: The Rust

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Inevitably, time attracts rust. Nothing avoids it, except for ample preparation and productivity. Yet not everyone has access to those traits. Let’s talk about how corrosive unemployment can be, how it eats away at your mind and leaves you with a relic of what you once were, so that when you do inevitably return to work, you are a shade of your former working self. It takes time to rebuild habits and routines, rinsing and repeating. It takes time to make yourself a worker again, to build yourself back up after months of tearing down your self-esteem and happiness. Once a mountain erodes, it takes centuries to reform.

Being unemployed means you are always searching for a way out of being unemployed. At no point during my unemployment did I think, “I would rather stay this way than work again.” I had fun memories with friends that I wouldn’t have been able to have otherwise, but reliving my college summer vacation schedule while no one else is “on break” is not as fun as it seems. Every hour I was scrolling through and resetting my inbox to see if another application got back to me, or to hear back on an interview. There’s patience and madness in expecting an email that never comes. There’s doom and gloom in never receiving the validation you need. Being unemployed takes persistence, and it takes heart, and it takes your mind away, bit by bit. Slowly but surely. Sand castles build in your head, and they disintegrate upon close inspection; when you zoom in on any preexisting mental structure, its foundations appear shakier than they initially seem.

And yet there is always rust. After being away from work for months, actual months, is there any surprise that work can feel alien? Anxious minds gravitate toward worst-possible outcomes, as a natural way of things, and so prior to restarting work, I felt anxious that I wasn’t ready to go back, that I needed more time to prepare myself, without realizing that the longer I wait, the more rust that will build up around me. Rust from not working, from not being a 7-3 guy every day, from experiencing deep sleep and waking up whenever you feel like it, from going to CVS during the day and traveling to White Plains to get my prescription in the afternoon. So many things no longer possible, but thankfully, that phase of my life is behind me. It is time to move on, and the best way to move on is by releasing inhibitions and anxieties and just pushing forward. Pushing and pushing until something breaks.

#65: The Employee

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You read it right. Anthony’s a newly-employed man. After a couple months of job searching, and a previous few months of deliberation and summer vacation, it feels surreal to say that I’ll be returning to work again on Monday. To put things in perspective: I went to a conference and workshop over the summer of 2018 and even attended a few curriculum development meetings, too, but for the most part, my summer was barren of work. Then, a day after school resumed session in August, I took a sick day to see my therapist, spent another few days adjusting to my head and new medications, saw family and updated them on my status, and signed up for an FMLA. That first day rocked me to my core, and put me in complete collapse. A month and a half later, I decided to resign from my job, knowing fully well that I would be saying goodbye to that world I was briefly a part of in Milford. There was sadness attached to my resignation, and I would feel, in the coming weeks, overwhelming guilt, regret, and nostalgia towards that job. It’s impossible to replace the feeling of being a teacher; even through all the negatives, the positives still found ways to be front and center in my head. The more I failed in my job search, the more I returned to happy memories from the very same job that put me in a mental health crisis in the first place. It didn’t make sense, obviously, to beat myself up so much over a decision I made for my health, but when it comes down to it, we do what we have to to survive.

Now, I begin work at a new school, in a new role, fulfilling the duty of a Literacy Interventionist. It is a responsibility I feel ready for, and I hope that I have the same success here that I did in North Haven.