So. I can honestly say that April is NOT better than March. Not by a long shot. This past week has been one of the most challenging of my life, and I have been struggling to figure out how to put it into a post (or a hundred) because there are just SO MANY LAYERS.
I have been talking a lot with my students about reading, and how yeah, we could blow through a book pretty quickly just doing the physical part of the reading, but that books have LAYERS and reading like a critical thinker involves discussion, and connecting to other books and events, and digging deeper into the whys and what ifs and what-would-you-do-differentlies of characters and events. That I want them to be deep readers, not shallow ones. But, you can't be a deep reader if you don't get the plot, the basic timeline of events.
So today I think I will put the plot out from this week, and delve deeper into the incredible onion that is what my life has become...later.
Probably easiest to do bullets, a bit of a summary of the clusterfuck that was this week.
- Monday started at 3 am. As in, I woke up at 3, lay there in the dark hoping to fall back asleep until 4, and then finally turned the light on and read my book. Bryce was sleeping downstairs because he coughs all night and was trying still not to get me sick, so it didn't bother anybody. At 4:40 I felt so nauseous and icky that I thought maybe I needed to eat something. So I went downstairs and ate a banana and had a glass of water, in the dark, over the sink. I tried to go back to sleep at 5, but by 5:45 I realized I was just laying there in the dark and I may as well get up, so I did.
- I was SO TIRED all day, and a little loopy. The day was okay, just a bit of a runaway train where I didn't feel I had a second to catch my breath. But I came home, and made a delicious chicken enchilada casserole, and went to bed early hoping that tomorrow would be different.
- I slept a little better and made it through another fast-paced school day.
- We went to get our taxes done, and I did not leave school in a timely fashion so that I could have a nice quite moment at home first, so I rushed through feeding the cats and eating a snack and grabbing the folder of paperwork for our CPA.
- After our taxes, which were relatively uncomplicated due to a complete lack of psychotic medical bills from IVF and no adoption placement (we keep track of our adoption expenses every year for when the credit comes later with the big fees, hopefully -- we can't take advantage until we have the whole sum due to our individual circumstances). We went to get Indian food as a treat.
- Mmmm, delicious Indian food. I did not get it spicy. But alas...I started having the heartburn issues that I'd hoped the Prilosec would avoid (and up to this point, it had) from the Prednisone.
- The heartburn got worse and worse until I couldn't go to sleep until after midnight, because it felt like my ribcage was being crushed. A heating pad and some massage helped, but I was so uncomfortable. And so I didn't sleep well.
- I showed up a week early for Literacy Committee, which means I got to school early after a bad night's sleep (but then had time to get ready for the day in a more relaxed way).
- Everything started to go wrong in the library, where we were doing booktalks for the last round of the independent reading assignment for the year for the English class I push into.
- I was feeling sweaty to begin with, and I had gotten an extra cup of coffee at lunchtime because I was so tired (mistake), so I was jittery from the meds and the caffeine.
- The librarian who is in for my friend who just had her second daughter introduced the author visit we have coming up by showing a picture of her smiling and looking pleasant and then said, "You might think she looks like a MOM! Well that's because she IS!" (Uh, what the fuck does that have to do with anything? How do you LOOK like a mom?) and then at the end of the period a book was booktalked involving people in a protectorate who have to sacrifice a baby girl to a witch in the woods every so often for their community's sake, and I might have leaned in to a student who has asked me about "my baby" frequently and whispered, "Maybe I need to go be a witch in the woods, maybe then I can have that baby" and instead of looking at me horrified like I was starting to lose my mind, he said "I can start that rumor for you, Mrs. T" and then I backtracked and said "On second thought that might not help my case." (This is the first unraveling)
- I went to lunch and heated my food and cried while I relayed what on any other day would have been a stupid comment I could ignore.
- And then someone well-meaningly asked if we had considered international adoption. And she was the seventh person in five days to ask me "What about international?" or "What about an older child?" and every time I get asked that question I feel like I have to justify my choices and explain because it seems that to others we somehow made the WRONG choice, and it shaves a slice off my soul. Because WE MADE OUR VERY WELL-THOUGHT OUT, RESEARCHED CHOICES FOR A REASON. And DOMESTIC ADOPTION IS OUR CHOICE. And IF THAT DOESN'T WORK OUT WE ARE DONE AS A FAMILY OF TWO. That is the part people are having a hard time with, that there could be an end to this whole journey without a baby. Except I can bet that it's way the fuck harder for us.
- So anyway. I was not set up well for a repeat performance of the library shenanigans, and I lacked the cojones to go tell that nice library leave replacement that her comments felt stabby to me, so I just went and thought I would dissociate a bit, and think on my own book talk I'd give.
- It did not work. I was already getting sweatier and sweatier (thank you, Prednisone), and she decided this time to say the mom comment but when she said she was in for my friend it became a whole thing where a student said "I thought she already had a baby" and I said "This is her second baby" and the librarian said "I have FOUR babies" (who are all adults by the way) and I may have said louder than I intended "I HAVE NONE." (unravel unravel)
- I made it through my book talk although was pretty speedtalky and I could feel that I was literally sweating through both my shirts. So after that, when I could see myself passed out on the floor, I left the reading room and drifted into the main library and asked the wonderful ladies who staff the desk for help. "You are NOT okay" one of them said. "Nope." I said. "I think I just need to sit in front of a fan." And so they set me up in the corner with a bottle of water and a fan and I tried to dry out my sweater and not look so sheeny, and they made me stay until the end of the period when I felt I needed to help my students find books.
- I went to the bathroom during homeroom and discovered I COULD SEE MY PULSE in my eyeballs. Which isn't normal. I felt dizzy, and lightheaded, and sweaty, and my lips were numb.
- I went to teach my 9th period class and said, "I'm just going to set things up here and then go down to the nurse I think," and one of my students said, "Um, maybe you should go RIGHT NOW, you don't look so good." and my lovely teacher's aide agreed and so I went to the nurse.
- My blood pressure medicine has been working great, but it was not working on Wednesday. It was 157/95, and when the school nurse does the stroke tests on you over and over again, it's a little disconcerting. My pulse was high and she thought I was hyperventilating. She was concerned about the high levels of Prednisone for so long. She had me call my doctors and call Bryce to come pick me up and I tried to relax and lay down and she asked if maybe I was feeling anxious and I unloaded a lot of grief on her. To some extent, when people say "I had no idea you had so much going on" it can make you feel better, but I am at the point where I feel like "That is because I HAVE BEEN SHOVING IT ALL DOWN AND PRETENDING TO BE A FUNCTIONING HUMAN. Ha ha, you fell for it."
- Bryce picked me up and we went home. Poor Bryce, he has missed so much work thanks to his own health (he's getting better, just really slowly) and my eye. And now this. Oh, and I was supposed to have my post-observation conference at 3. Clearly that was canceled. My assistant principal took a look at me and said, "Do you need a sub for tomorrow? Why don't I get you a sub for tomorrow?" and I said, "Nnn...YES. Yes I will do that." And then I rattled off all the students who I needed to get in touch with and who were in some form of crisis and he stopped me and said, "Sometimes I tell teachers to care a little more about our students. I'm going to tell you to care a little less. Just a little." Obviously I can't NOT care about my students, but he was like, "um, you first right now."
- My primary care doctor called and said they wanted me to go to Urgent Care for an EKG, just for peace of mind. (How an EKG could be peaceful is still unclear to me.) So we went. Luckily Bryce had his laptop for getting a presentation done, because the EKG went swimmingly but my blood pressure was now in the 160s (it had dropped to 130s/90 by the time I left the nurse's office), I was still sweaty, I was dizzy, all the heartburn and pressure...it made them uncomfortable enough to say they wanted me to go to emergency. Because it was probably the Prednisone, but wouldn't it suck to drop dead of a heart attack in the night because it wasn't? OH HOLY JEEZUM. I said I was hungry and hadn't eaten, could we stop for a quick bite first, and she said, "No. You need to not eat or drink. Go straight there. We'll call ahead and let them know you're coming." Because THAT'S not concerning at all.
- I got pulled into triage pretty quickly and guess what? My blood pressure was 178/108. Bryce was in tears at this point, I was all freaked out, and then there were a whole bunch of bloodtests run to make sure even though my EKG was great that there weren't enzymes that would indicate a cardiac thing.
- My veins suck (actually, I'm supposed to say "my veins are shallow" according to the nurse), and thanks to all the opioid epidemic I don't want people thinking that my veins suck because I shoot up (um, no). So I told the nurse my shitty veins were due to five and a half years of IVF. And then while she was drawing blood and attempting an IV that eventually went in my forearm she asked me... "have you thought about international?" And I found myself explaining again, justifying again. And then she said, "Well, I hope you both know that there's a plan, you just don't know it yet, and there's no reason why nice people like you shouldn't become parents." (unravel)
- And then, even though she was sticking me with needles at the time, I took a deep breath and I said, "Actually, we could be really nice people and this could not work out. We are actually SO VERY FORTUNATE in so many arenas of our lives, that I wonder sometimes if we have TOO MUCH and it almost wouldn't be fair to have a child, too -- that we have the beautiful life just not this piece of it. You don't always get to have everything. Everyone doesn't get everything." Thank you, Loribeth, for recommending The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy because it really stuck with me and those her words. "Everyone doesn't get everything." The nurse didn't really know what to say after that other than to say "Well, you have a great attitude" and then I realized Bryce was crying on the other side of the partition. Because when your everything is in pain and in the ED, life is scary.
- Quick summary on ED stay -- nothing was cardiac, it was all gastric side effects of the Prednisone, and so they gave me this cocktail of Maalox and lidocaine and benadryl (unfortunately at the same time as pushing some pepcid through the IV, which resulted in some hard nauseau not unrelated to the fact that my bed was in the hall next to the MEDICAL WASTE room and so buckets of shit and vomit were paraded past us every so often and the smell was so bad the nurses took to spraying every five minutes) and pushed fluids and then I got sent home with instructions to follow up with my eye doctor. And then they said that they did not think I could lower my prednisone dose because scleritis is so serious. That I would need to talk to them about what I could take to mitigate the side effects, including increased anxiety.
- I slept like a rock for 7 hours.
- I recovered at home. I read and watched some episodes of "13 Reasons Why" which I highly recommend (the book and the TV series). I graded tests. I talked to my eye doctor, who said that she could have me taper maybe every 5 days instead of every 7, but if I saw ANY redness whatsoever, I was to bump it back up. I'm on all these steroids so that the scleritis inflammation doesn't come back, because if it does we have a problem. And I will be seeing a rheumatologist. So they REALLY want to kick it for good now. So, I am stuck with the steroids although for a slightly shorter time period, although it is a little nerve wracking to think that I could be shaving time off at the expense of my eye. But I cannot, cannot function like this with the side effects. Did I mention my ophthalmologist was on vacation when she called me?
- The school nurse called to check up too, and was a little horrified that I have to stay on the Prednisone with what it's doing to my body, but of course for the sake of my eye continue.
- I got a lot of texts from my teacher friends who were worried about me.
- I spent two hours on the phone with a very special friend, who knows first hand what it is like to have your life not quite go the way you had so carefully planned as she lost her husband, who she'd been with since her teen years, to cancer last year. She told me about a book called "The Body Keeps the Score," about the effects of stress on the body. That she fears this autoimmune flare is my body saying it can't take any more stress. What stress? What is stressful about living in limbo for nearly a decade? For hoping and having that hope crushed, over and over and over again? She suggested maybe I should take a few days, take some sick time, honor that my body is shutting down in response to all we've experienced and how hard I've worked to "be okay."
- We went to pick up my gastro cocktail at the pharmacy and got some pizza (non-tomato based for me because I was scared of heartburn) and picked my car up at school. The conversation was very much about how out of balance everything is. How if pursuing this goal is going to cost me my health, maybe we should revisit timing and D-day. No stress there.
- I did not sleep well.
- And here we are, at the point of ultimate unraveling. I should have listened to my friend. I should have called in. BUT, I didn't. And there are some things to take away from that.
- I helped Bryce get up early as he had a business breakfast event thing to go to and (gasp) had to leave before 7. So I got to school around 7:15ish.
- I had anticipated being barraged with "how ARE you" and concerned questions, as schools are not good places for secrets, and I wasn't really keeping any of this unraveling a secret anyway. The physical part at least. I wasn't disappointed. It was all with love, but it took me 30 minutes to get to my classroom to set up and I ran out of time before needing to go down to Guidance to work with a student who is highly enjoyable but also highly challenging. I was exhausted.
- I ran into my principal in the hall, who reached his arm out and said, "hey, I was filled in on what happened Wednesday, are you okay?" and I just froze. "I...I don't know how to answer that anymore. I don't think so. No." He pulled me into his office and let Guidance know I wasn't going to be able to work with the student, and then I completely fell apart.
- He was amazing, and this is a topic for a different post as it was involved and highly personal, but the upshot was that he said how strong I was, how much I've been through and yet I still come in every day (well not lately apparently) and give everything my all, that I am a truly gifted teacher and seeing me with kids is something special. (Um, holy shit that was very flattering and validating for this piece of my identity.) But that when it looks like I am struggling, something is very, very wrong. And then everything came tumbling out. How great I am at pretending to be a human-like-substance. That I fill everything up so I don't have to think about all my losses and grief and the incredible pit that is this piece just not coming together, not yet. That I utterly destroyed my body in the IVF part of things and I wish wish wish we had started adoption sooner because my stamina is just not as strong as it once was and I don't know if I can keep doing this to myself. That I am an actress and probably missed my calling because every day I come in here and put on my mask that says "I am SUCCESSFUL! I have GOT THIS! I can DO! IT! ALL!" when really I am a pile of goo inside and now my mask has shattered and I don't know how to put it back together or if I really should even try since it is pretty much a lie. I AM NOT OKAY.
- Now you might be like, "oh shit, she's going to lose her job," but that's not the case. I LOVE my job, and he said they LOVE me in it. He wants me to figure out what I need to do to be okay. He did not tell me "DON'T GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAM!" He just hugged me and held my hand and said "I'm so sorry this is so unfair, I'm so sorry you've been through so very much." He got it. And that was a beautiful gift.
- He told me to go home. Like an idiot, I said, "Imma negotiate with you." I wanted to teach my 2nd and 3rd period classes, my small Reading and English classes. Because I am in two new units AND I AM MISSING EVERYTHING. And I wanted to reassure them I was okay. He agreed, but only because I was adamant it would make me feel better and I could do it (and I took a deep breath and reconsolidated my goo and put my mask back on which must look pretty damn creepy from the outside when you've been let into the fact that I pretend daily). So I did.
- We were in the library, and I had students picking out their last independent books. I had worked with the librarian (who was out) and one of the other staff to come up with 6 books for each student, and I set up that they should browse and get to know their books for 10 minutes and then take out the one they want (or talk to me about a new one if we were way off base, which we weren't). They wanted to know who the new librarian was, and I said "well, you know Mrs. __ is out because she had a baby, so we have a new librarian for the rest of the year!" and one of my sweet, sweet students, who is so excited at the thought of me "getting my baby" said, "And soon YOU will get your baby and we'll get that call and you can all hang out together with your babies and everything will be great!" and then one of my other students said, "Why is Mrs. P crying?" and I couldn't look behind me because my lovely teacher's assistant was leaking her feelings out of her face. (unravel unravel unravel)
- I survived that though, although before the kids came in I had taken to singing and jumping around to the LEGO movie song "Everything Is Awesome," which has sort of been my sarcastic mantra for a while but now I was full on cheer-dancing it and singing it at the top of my lungs...which gave some people pause.
- Anyway, I survived the library and my kids all got awesome books and there were minimal tears shed.
- English was a little more frenetic as I tried to do more with my new unit on The Crossover, following the most depressing yet beautiful book ever Out of the Dust. I think my oozy cracks were showing a bit by the end of 3rd and while we accomplished a fair amount my level of energy was, how shall I say, overcompensation-level.
- And then I completely fell apart.
- I found that you can't make jokes about having your Britney moment and "keep me away from the clippers, HA HA HA HA HA" because people will take you seriously. I love my hair too much to do that to it but I suppose there is some truth to feeling like everything has just spiraled out of control.
- I will have you know that Prednisone is the devil and it amplifies everything bad. And my level of sadness and anxiety and sense of loss of control (that I never really had) came to an incredible fireball of crazy yesterday. I had a teacher come and take those tests off my hands because I was almost done grading them but wanted them done before I left... And then they had someone make sure I really left. I heard the words "You have been so strong and I think it's all catching up to you" more times than I can recall. I was told it is amazing I haven't dissolved into this goo sooner. I may have said really loud and shouty, "You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have BUTTERFLY MEME well you know what I CAN'T! BE! STRONG! ANY! MORE! I am OOZING all OVER the PLACE!" There were no students present. Just being clear on that. I was told if I used the word "ooze" one more time there was going to be vomit and so I said "at least I didn't say MOIST" and then off I went to go home.
- Except they wouldn't let me drive home. I was driven and our school psychologist followed and I got home and they wouldn't leave until someone agreed to come stay and I didn't want Bryce to miss more work so I called my special friend from the phone call before and was like, "Guess what...should have listened to you and stayed home an extra day..."
- I discovered that I scared a lot of people. In a "we are worried about you" kind of way. I found that just as scary as the stroke tests is when people are SERIOUSLY asking you "do you have thoughts of harming yourself?" The answer is NO. I may have spirally thoughts and I may have had the most erratic day of my life, but I LOVE MY LIFE and my brain is not lying to me and telling me not to. If anything all this is making me realize that I need to reevaluate things so that I can actually live my life better and balance hope and reality in a way where HOPE DOESN'T TRY TO KILL ME. So I was getting frustrated with those sort of questions, but as the school psychologist said, "If it was just you, I wouldn't be worried, but it's the Prednisone. That turns your brain into an enemy sometimes. That is what is worrying me."
- So I spent the day talking with my friend and eating the delicious salad she brought and lighting candles and listening to classical music and coloring from my amazing Jenny Lawson book, You Are Here, which when I bought I bought because I love her and liked the drawings and then realized it spoke to me more deeply than I wanted it to and then yesterday I think it was instrumental in calming me the fuck down. See beautiful handiwork:
- Bryce came home and we ate the delicious Mexican restaurant food that my friend had brought for us, heated up in the oven, and he said YOU SCARED ME and I think what he meant is I AM STILL SCARED and I assured him, don't worry, I scared myself too. Everything has just built up until all these threads in the past few weeks came together and unraveled and I haven't even talked about half the shit that led to what I am fairly certain was an anxiety attack amplified by the Prednisone on Wednesday. I need to get this under control. But the good thing is, I am throwing away my mask. Clearly it is doing more harm than good. I am going to figure out what I need to do to deal with all this. I am still strong. I can be broken and strong all at once. I just need to stop lying to myself. I need to stop feeling this tremendous pressure to be okay all the time. To do all the things and smile when really I just want to curl up in a ball and cry for an hour or two, for all that I've lost and all that may not get to be. For the pieces of my identity that are stilted and withered. For the mothering I have inside me that has no child to give it to.
And there you have it. What a week, eh? I can say that I am not okay, but I am okay, or rather I will be okay, eventually. Just something's got to give.