Embracing myself

Doesn't isn't a word on the spell check in the post section. Neither is isn't. I guess they don't like contractions. Wait, the spell checker likes don't. Can't, isn't, doesn't, shouldn't, couldn't, wow. It only likes can't and couldn't. But wait, the red lines just went away. It must like all of them now. Strange.

Yes, I am writing around the subject.

Sis. Morgan asked me what caused my nervous breakdown, how it ended, and more importantly what it was like in the middle.
That's a great set up for the thesis statement of the following blood essay.

Thesis: My nervous break down was caused by my first day teaching kindergarten, it ended at the doctor's office, and there was a lot of vomiting, dry heaving, and hyperventilating in the middle.
The sad part: I'm not joking.

I get a job as a kindergarten teacher. I never wanted to be an elementary school teacher in the first place (see previous posts) but I never in a thousand years thought I would ever even consider kindergarten. I thought if I had to do it, 6th grade would be where I would end up. Can we get more opposite.
I work constantly for the 2 weeks before school starts getting my classroom set up. Long hours. Long hours listening to Gordon Lightfoot on my laptop singing about the Canadian Railroad. Gordon even inspires the theme for my very cool classroom: Railroads. I have trains everywhere. Train cut outs, train posters, my posted rules are the "Railroad Rules." I'm known as the Conductor. I even found a little train whistle to blow to get every one's attention. I laminate, I cut, I color, I paste. All the while Gordon's singing, "There was a time in this old land when the railroad did not run."

The first day of school: Nervous breakdown begins. I don't know what to expect from kindergartners. They come in nervous; they don't realize that I am more nervous. The girls are dressed in dresses and the boys in little khaki pants. One little girl is in a navy blue sailor suit with bright red Wizard of Oz shoes. I move and talk as if I'm dreaming. I play them a song on my guitar that I wrote myself about how "School is great, we're all ready to celebrate!" They stare at me, with what I perceive as boredom, but what was probably nervousness. I start talking about classroom procedures, but I'm too nervous to be happy, to be fun, to show kindness. I am not like my father... and yet. I'm gasping for air, but 20 other little entities are taking it from me.

Three hours later: Crying at my desk for the entire school to see. None of them are surprised.

That night: I cry. All night long. I feel as if I will throw up. I find myself running to the bathroom, but there's nothing to come up. But I go through the motions anyway. Maybe some of these feelings. These horrible, wretched, no-business-crowding-around-my-heart feelings will come out instead and dispel into the toilet. But they don't. The next day begins to loom. I panic. I can't go back. I can't. I physically can't. I cannot go back. It spins around mixed with the pathetic song that I composed myself, "School is cool, school is great." I am not like my father... and yet. I can't breathe. David is telling me to take deep breaths. That I'm hyperventilating. That I have to stop or I will hurt myself. Deep breaths.

I don't sleep.

The next morning: More throwing up. Trembling in the kitchen in my blue bathrobe. I can't move. David takes me to the couch. I tell him to go to school. He's already late. He has a test that week. I hear dialing on the phone and talking. I finally doze off.

45 minutes later: David wakes me up. He says that we are going to the doctor. I don't even care. We drive and I begin to feel sick again. I tell him to pull over. He says there's nothing to throw up so it doesn't matter.
We wait in the office. I recall all of the horrible doctors I've had in this place. The insensitive, know-it-all, I'm-too-busy-to-actually-care-about-you-or-your-problems doctors in this place. I shudder to appear before them in this state. I don't have another option. 20 five year olds are waiting in less that 2 hours.

A medical assistant checks my weight. For once, I don't even look at the scale. For once, I don't even care. He takes me into the room and we wait.

The part where it gets better: The doctor comes in. He has blond hair and glasses. He looks like someone I know, or he reminds me of someone. Somehow that makes me trust him. He sits diagonal from me. Not across, but diagonal. For some reason, that makes me feel better too. He asks me how I am feeling. He asks me about my first day of school. As I talk, I begin to cry. He puts down his clipboard and pen and looks at me. He looks like he actually cares what I am saying. He looks sad when I tell him about how I am feeling. All I can think about is, "I hope that he doesn't have any children who are about to go to kindergarten, or else he'll never want to send them to me." But let's be honest; I wouldn't want to send my children to me right now.
The doctor asks me more questions. He explains what he thinks should happen. I find myself agreeing. Agreeing to something I thought I never would. Agreeing to something I fought against for years. Agreeing that there really is a problem.
I walk out of the office expecting to feel defeated, horrified, and humiliated. I am not like my father...and yet.

There are parts of me that are. And I found myself finally embracing them.

Conclusion: I've always been terrified of myself. I denied that there was anything wrong--or even remotely resembling. When I realized that that was not the case, I fought. And I fought hard.
I fought against myself; I raged against myself. But really it was like driving my fists against brick--eventually only my skin cracked.

I realize now that there is a problem, but to realize for the first time that there is a problem was beautiful. To realize that it is a problem, but that I don't have to burn it out of myself like a wart or cut it out like cancer. It will be fixed, yes, but only if I take care of it. Not declare war on it.

And now I am trying to heal the cracked skin and hope that it doesn't scar. Because scarring, I think, is worse than the wound.

(Yes, the conclusion needs work)


E. Anona said...

Aah. It's so hard to post a comment in response to your post. And yet I feel like I have to because it made me cry. I can't say anything.

Sky said...

It's interesting that you start out the piece with not being able to type the word "can't." I'm glad you wrote this with such bare honesty (so difficult). How interesting that you make fun of yourself because this happened in front of five-year-olds(the scene with terrified kids watching you with your head down, crying, is movie-worthy}, but there's nothing funny about a surprise panic-attack, if that's what happened. Whatever happened was certainly very physical, and there's nothing worse than your body betraying you when you need it most. AND there's nothing harder to accept. If you had a broken arm, it'd be so much easier because that's "OK" in our stupid society and because you can see it with your physical eyes, but YOU WILL DEAL with any limits on your life--at any time-- because at your core you are strong as bright steel. You will learn and you will draw on the powers of heaven, even if you have to ask D. for a blessing twice a day for a year.
The piece doesn't end well because there is no closure yet. So, we will wait to hear, and you remember that WE love you very much, and WE HAVE YOUR BACK.

Jami said...

I'm with Anona. I can't even comment after that, but sitting here in my towel after a long shower and remembering my horrifying day in a "pre-school" (a glorified word for "day-care,") I can't help but say once again that I admire you and I look to your honesty for strength. It's okay for me to be depressed and horrified with these 7-15 month babies. Yes, everyone, babies. Me. I have to pretend to love them. It was a long day, and there's nothing wrong with admitting that. We love you, Julie.

Sky said...

No one knows what to say when a friend is in deep pain. That's why I'm VERY proud of Anona and Jami, because at least they said SOMETHING.
I remember falling through the bottom one night because my nerves failed me too much to go to my own son's wedding (I wonder what they did with my corsage?),and you brought out Pizza even though I said, "NO, I"m Not Hungry." You just sat with me through the twilight until the air in the room turned golden and the spirit inside me came back up from the underworld. And then we talked of horses, and mountains, and Cold Comfort Farm. Remember? WE ARE Here is what we want to say. (When you want to work your essay into publishing--we always leave out some of the core, like about your dad, etc. Small sentences that help the reader--let me know 'cause it's worth doing, and I'd love to help you. We'd move it to my private blog to do it because this sight--at times--gets pretty silly.) I hope you sleep well tonight.

Julie M said...

Thanks Sis. Morgan, Jami, and Anona--
Your words do mean a lot. It is a comfort to know that people are there. Even if you can't be physically by me, I know that you are rooting me on.
I'll be okay.
As for publishing, let me get a few months of this into the past and we'll works some more. It was just good to get it out.

Sarah said...

Julie, I have no idea what pain that would be, except that you did explain it very well & I felt like I was there at times. I am so sorry. I really hope things start to work themselves out.

Shani said...

Only once have I had such emotional trauma it made me throw up. I wrote a blog about it too... there's something very therapeutic about writing blogs, especially for people at the WC.

Speaking of blogs, I wrote a fun one. I put it on my jump drive, rode a moto-taxi (motorcycle driver who charges you 2 yuan ((about 30 cents)) to take you into town) to a cyber cafe, plugged my drive in, and... it won't read it. Blasted China. I love it here, but some days... as my husband keeps saying, "the problem with China is that everything is made in China."

Emily Poteet said...


Thank you for writing this. You have an incredible gift where, through your writing, you help us, even though you're going through difficult times. I don't know if that makes sense or not, but thank you.

We're praying for you and love you.