As my mom pulled into the parking lot, I was willing myself to keep all the medicine I took that morning down. Those pills were much too precious to let the nausea win, despite how hard it was trying.
The internal battle wass still raging war inside me. I had no clue how I would survive this day, but as a new teacher with no sick days left and no reputation to stand on, I felt I had no choice but go to work. My character was at stake. My students needed me and as their teacher, I wanted to set the best example for them as possible. My coworkers would have had to pick up the slack in my absence. “I HAVE to go to work.” The anxiety consumed me, stealing my breath and again forcing my heart to pound through my chest.
I took a deep breath, gathered my emotions and belongings, opened the car door, and stepped out of the car-immediately losing my balance and falling into the open door and seat of the car. Tears filled my eyes, lips started to quiver. “I have to go to work…but…I am so incredibly nauseous, my headache is blinding-sounds and lights make it worse, I’m in the middle of a panic attack, my whole world is spinning, I can’t even stand-let alone walk, I have double vision and can’t focus, I’m deaf in my left ear except for the very loud whooshing/ringing, and I can barely mentally focus on anything besides just remaining upright. I CAN’T go to work.”
But I did.
I thanked my mom and told her I loved her. I regained composure as I weaved like a drunken sailor across campus to my classroom. I forgot to turn on the computer or put the date on the board, or any of the other things that are just routine and typically happen out of second nature.
The worst part of it all was my own voice; but with classes of 30+ 6th graders, lots of simple reminders are required. I did put a desperate/guilt trip note on the board to try to cut back on my need to repeat instructions. It could have totally backfired, but I’ve got some pretty sweet kids. I spent most of the day tripping over students, desks, bags, and absolutely nothing. I had to have kids read everything for me because I couldn’t-whether it was on paper, projected to a screen, or on the computer. They had to take attendance. I kept making stupid mistakes (which the kids can’t help but call you out on). For instance I kept saying “Be sure to put your name and date on top of your paper. 8/28/15.” It was 10/28, which they all shouted…every. time. I misspelled things on the board, easy words, like “where”. I’d forget the “h”-which is a big deal for me. So frustrating. Most of the kids genuinely made an effort to be quiet and on their best behavior, but the day itself was still absolutely horrible. When the last student from my last class left, I lost it. I collapsed and just cried silent tears.
All I kept thinking was, “I could do this if it was for just today, or 2 days, but I don’t know how long this will last. I can’t do this forever.”
I got it together once more and made the decision that I had to go speak to my principal about the situation. I was embarrassed and ashamed to be taking time off especially without her knowing me well as a person or employee-without her knowing my character, but there was just no way that I could repeat the day I had just survived.
On my way out of my classroom, I had a quick meeting I had forgotten about with another teacher who was super sweet and understanding, and then I weaved my way across campus one more time.
I was pleasantly surprised and frankly a little shocked at how supportive my principal was. Coming from a school where there was very little support and a situation like this would have been frowned upon, even met with judgement so you are made to feel guilt and shame, it was such a burden lifted when my principal said “Sometimes you have to take sick days you don’t have yet. Go home. Skip this afternoon’s meeting. Take Thursday and Friday. I’ll enter the sub request. We’ll figure out lesson plans. You just worry about feeling better.”
Even just typing it now, I can’t believe it. It’s just so night and day compared to my previous school. I’m sure that played a MAJOR role in all of the internal conflict. For the past 3 years I had been conditioned to worry about my administration looking for any excuse to judge, belittle, and criticize me and my genuinely amazing coworkers. ❤
From day one at my new school I told all my former coworkers I had found my “home”. It breaks my heart that October 28th was the last day I was there. I’m still hopeful I’ll get to return eventually, but if that’s not the case, I’m glad that this situation restored a little hope in what my last school convinced me was so dissolute and despairing.