I coughed and sniffled and had a bit of achiness and a wee fever, so I kept myself home for three days. Was I thrilled to be stuck at home when the weather was great? No. Was I happy to miss class again? No, that was another anxiety surge. Is it nice to read about The Global Pandemic while one is coughing? Yeah, no.
I was pretty brave, though, and truth be told, I enjoyed day one and some of day two, since I’ve been very social recently, and needed the recharge.
I had one day to return to classes. Both classes were unusually stressful.
In one, I had to report on an article about an issue I had a lot of personal experience with, and although everyone in my class is perfectly nice, sometimes I get my ego wrapped up in these things, my ego and my wounds. I can talk myself down, but my passion for justice runneth over in a way that can be both painful and useless, just encouraging a narrative of my life I don’t want to reinforce: suffering is out there, you’ve seen it, you know what to do, but no one cares, they don’t believe you, and they’d rather muse about what might, could and should happen, while people suffer and suffer, the perfect the enemy of the good.
My second class, I was teaching and being observed. I have had some doozy observations in my time.
It reminds me of Brene Brown’s idea that you should never take feedback from anyone who’s not in the ring. Teachers are often observed by administrators, or other people who don’t do classroom teaching day after day after day after day. And listening to them has wounded me repeatedly.
Some of my favorite feedback was from people who said, “This is a clusterfuck. I have no idea what to tell you, except to hang in there, and that you’re doing a good job.” A couple of counselors I asked for help told me this. I’m still thankful. One of them was Leah. I wish I could remember other names.
I have a deep-down need to have someone in authority in an educational institution confirm me. As “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” would put it, “Tell me I’m okay, Patrick.”
So I drove to campus (an indulgence), and walking from the car, I thought, maybe I wasn’t okay, took my sedative, walked toward class, seeing the Jayhawks on either side of the hall, behind glass. Focus on your senses. Breathe.
No I definitely felt worse. I turned around and went back to the car. I would drive to get coffee, then return for class.
Coffee place was closed. I drove home. I would go in, chill out, and then go to class. There was still time.
I put on a panic-management guided meditation, my cat lay on my tummy, and I petted her.
It was time to go to class, and I still didn’t feel safe leaving the house. I barely felt safe in the living room, rather than the bedroom.
I had already missed class twice. I was supposed to present. I had already canceled presenting once. I emailed my teacher that I had had a panic attack.
I watched “30 Rock,” and (more symptoms) I didn’t like that there was a doctor in one episode, and seeing Manhattan made me nervous, too.
It’s always good to write down the symptoms. They always seem so silly, though at the time, I was truly frightened.
I called a friend. I texted my family. I posed on Facebook. I called my doctor to make an appointment to rethink my meds. I can hardly believe I did this. That is some A plus functionality for me. When my mental health is shaky, calling someone on the phone is very, very hard. I can hardly make myself call people on a good day.
With effort, I drove to teach my class and be observed. I had to go pick up my students’ graded papers from the English department. I didn’t want to explain that I was or wasn’t okay again. Instead, I dropped in and said hi to the mentor who helped me through a previous health mess, and said, “Why is it that no matter how hard I try to take care of myself, I freak out at this point in the semester?’
She said she didn’t know, but this was common. That felt good.
I went to teach. My students were nutty, the last day before spring break. But I thrive with a challenging audience. I taught the crap out of them, every minute they were reading, writing, or talking.
Someone said, “What is this paper over again?” and I did not freak out, though that is a trigger question. I still do have that high school teacher toughness, see? When you teach high school, like five kids would ask this. And then the next group would come in.
I got myself home. Got some calories in my belly.
Then my cat started walking around the living room and squatting suspiciously. “No!” I yelled, and took her to the litter box. She tried to go, nothing. Left the box. Back in the box. Left the box. She ate a little more. Threw up. She sat on the couch with me and some terrible noise came out of her mouth, like she was making a shiv out of a plastic knife in there.
Again I have to say I was able to take some very healthy action: I moved cat stuff into bathroom, shut her in there. Her angry meows made me feel better about her state. I made some oatmeal and a smoothie. I went to bed.
Today, digging out day, saw my doctor and we adjusted my meds. Took cat to vet, and she’s getting checked out.
Why did my brain go zooming again? Stress about class? My brain interpreting the slight shakiness left from my illness as anxiety?
I told my doctor I’ve been doing yoga and meditating daily, and he was like, “That’s really good. I’m sure that’s helping.” He told me I was okay, Patrick.
I’m repeatedly bummed out that I can’t control my mood, my health, my world. But if Patrick says I’m okay, maybe I am.
Image: St. Patrick saying, “Are you fucking kidding me?”, aka “St. Patrick, Bishop of Ireland,” Jacques Callot, 1636.