Over a week ago I sat in my doctor’s office, she and I trying to determine the cause of the recent bout of illness I had. In spite of the nausea, vomiting, and aching joints, I was a completely healthy person; all of my tests came back negative. Looking at the pile of school work I had brought to grade in the waiting room, she put two and two together and said, “I’m going to ask you some questions. Don’t analyze the questions or the answers, just answer the questions.” She proceeded to barrage with me thirty questions tied to anxiety. The only one I answered “no” to was the one about suicide. At the end of her questioning I burst into tears. I knew what this meant. We had a long discussion about anxiety, depression, and stress, and I couldn’t deny that I had been feeling anxious, on edge, and had a limited focus. Everything had become TOO much. She recommended a low dose of anti-anxiety meds and suggested I seek counseling. I agreed. I needed a break from myself.
Back in college I attended Humboldt State– a school and area renown for its pot use– one of my roommates remarked on my non-smoking habit, “You know, Amy, even if you were willing to try it, I wouldn’t give you any. It would make you stop thinking, and you might like that too much.” My husband has often told me that I’m always “on” and should learn how to “turn off”. I once had a student put his hands on my shoulders and told me to calm down and others who asked me if I am okay. I wake up at odd hours, my mind running and spinning, worrying over trivial issues that seem enormous in the dark. My dark passenger takes over, and I feel on-edge, ready to snap.
It’s been one week, and to be honest, it’s nice to have a break from myself. Last Monday I felt like myself for the first time in a long time; my positive outlook and sense of humor returned. On Tuesday I voted and was relieved by the outcomes. In class there were some stressful events that always tax my patience, but I was able to handle both calmly. One was the collection of my seniors’ research project, an event that is always time consuming and nerve-wracking since none of my students are ever prepared. Typically they take 20 minutes of class time putting together their drafts, peer reviews, annotated articles, speech drafts, and what-not in order. This is seriously a huge waste of time and aggravated me to no end, since I needed to go through all of their stuff to make sure it’s complete. This time I gave them their envelopes to turn in everything two days early and told them they needed to turn them into me complete and in order at the beginning of class at the door. Never in my history of teaching had I experienced such an orderly turn-in, nor had I had such a high rate of organized and complete packets. Because of this I could quickly go through them and had time left over to watch the ending of Pride and Prejudice with them. Instead of being angry and annoyed, I was thrilled and they were thrilled. In my US History class, I gave them less daily work, but instead gave them a project to work on all week. They had to create museum exhibits for the 1950s, and the quality and creativity of their work blew me away.
On the home front I’ve been doing more of what makes me happy– predominately reading and sleeping. Even though I have all of those research essays to grade, I spent yesterday on the couch reading Michael Steinberger’s Au Revoir To All That: Food, Wine, and the End of France, an interesting look at how France lost its claim as the culinary capital of the world. Steve catered to this lazy whim of mine by making me both lunch and dinner and taking off my glasses when I fell asleep. I haven’t been blogging– mostly for having nothing really to report.
My goal lately is to do not all that much and to decide how I can cut back on things at school. The biggest harbinger of my fatigue, besides my recent illness, was during our trip to New York. In the city that offers so much to do, my greatest desire everyday was nap time and bed time; all I wanted to do was burrow into the pillow-top mattress, down pillows, and down comforter. It’s not right to want to actively sleep in the city that never sleeps. Another revelation was a day a few weeks ago when I was able to leave school at 2:30. I got home at 3:20, when normally I get home at around 5. I was in shock. There was still the majority of the day left to do what I wanted to do (for someone who goes to bed at 8, an extra hour and a half is not insignificant). Getting home earlier is something that I want to cultivate in my life.
So I’m using this time to replenish myself, figure out what I want to do, and scale back. I’m taking a break from myself to find myself again.