Bear with me…I’m trying.

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I haven’t written much over the past few days. Things have been pretty hectic, traveling all over Atlantic Canada for medical appointments. Traveling can be the worst, especially when you’re a neurotic worry wart such as myself. Also, I’m trying to come to grips with some things I’ve learned about myself. As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently went for a psychological assessment. I’ve received two main diagnoses: Conversion Disorder (Functional Neurological Symptom Disorder) and Somatic Symptom Disorder. I’m struggling with understanding what all this means.

atlantic-canada-map
Atlantic Canada- We’re on top of Maine.

So Functional Neurological Symptom Disorder (FNSD) is not a new diagnosis for me. It does fall in the spectrum of Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures (PNES) although the acronym is not as much fun as saying Pee-Nes (get it, it sounds like penis.) Other terms like Conversion Disorder, Dissociative Disorder and Pseudo-seizures are used interchangeably by medical professionals, but they all mean the same thing. Although I have a “normal” brain (what is “normal” anyway?), there is a problem with how my nervous system functions (https://fndhope.org/fnd-guide/). Generally, my brain has some communication problems. Ironic, really, since I consider myself to be a very good communicator. It results in involuntary face contortions, tremors, seizure-like episodes (I say seizure-like because I don’t pass out.) It presents differently in different people. Some people may fall on the floor and have an all-out seizure that looks epileptic in nature, but they are not, in fact, epileptics.

Somatic Symptom Disorder is where a person focuses on physical symptoms and has high anxiety about health concerns. Well, yes, I do have some anxiety about my physical symptoms. Who wouldn’t? Somatic Symptom Disorder seems to be just a nice way of saying I’m a hypochondriac. I’m not going to dispute that. I do worry about my health excessively- the seriousness of symptoms, and I probably spend too much time worrying about it- as maybe I am in this post.

But the main thing for me is the FNSD. I unconsciously (this is in the report; I feel the need to add this because if it’s unconscious, how would I even know that I have it?) have striated muscles and tension when speaking about topics that cause me distress. I have unconscious anxiety (again, in the report) which leads to fuzzy thinking or cognitive dysfunction. I also have an inability to deal with conflict. So yes, I’m fucked up.

The most surprising thing I discovered is that apparently I am unable to express feelings. I have a basic mistrust of people. Do I? I didn’t even notice. I’ve often been told I am too trusting. But when I really think about it, I’ve always valued logic and reason over feelings. I do try to detach my feelings when making decisions. And because I do hate conflict so much, I don’t share how I feel. At least not with the people I’m in conflict with. I’ll rant about them later, behind their backs. You know, like a back-stabbing bitch. Not on purpose though. I’m not a back-stabbing bitch on purpose, I’m just a coward.

Funny thing about feelings though… I have them, I think we all do. But I can’t accurately identify my feelings. I know, it sounds weird. I keep thinking about my assessment and multiple times the psychologist asked me, “And how do you feel about that?” and each time, my response was, “not good.” He pressed me to be more specific. Did I feel angry? Sad? Whatever. And some of the time, I gave the answer I thought I should give; I thought, well, I should feel angry about that, so I’ll just say angry. But how did I really feel? I don’t know. “Not good.” I don’t know if it’s angry, sad, irate, hopeless. As I write this and I try to even think of feelings to write down, I can’t even think of very many feelings. I just know that I want to feel happy. Maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to comedy- laughing feels good and it pushes down the pain.

Next step for me is to go for some psychotherapy. I guess I need to learn about feelings, how to feel and how to express feelings in healthy ways. If I can do that, maybe I won’t spaz out anymore.

I invite you to join me on my adventure of learning about feelings. Boy, doesn’t that feel like a good topic for a children’s book. Maybe I can write a book for children after this. It will feature me represented by a chihuahua and it will be all about the different feelings people should have and how if you don’t express them, you’ll be like

shaky
Shaky the Chihuahua

Shaky the Chihuahua. Shaky will be joined by Bellowing Bear who yells all the time because he’s angry. Bellowing Bear gives Shaky the shakes all over. All the different feelings can be represented by different animals. Any children’s book editors out there? You FEELING this? Contact me. I’ll be ready to write it by March 2018. I’m supposed to have gotten all of my feeling training by then.

Bear with me. I’m trying…

Much love (that’s a feeling!)

OH

 

 

Chihuahua image:

Alexandra. “7 Things that make Chihuahuas an Amazing Breed.” Animals.com. <https://animalso.com/breeds/chihuahua/&gt; November 25, 2017.

Atlantic Canada Map from Google Maps.

I am a teacher.

I’m a teacher.

It’s a phrase that sometimes makes me proud and sometimes makes me want to keep as a secret. Of course, I live in a small town, so I can’t go anywhere without being recognized. When I go grocery shopping, to the drug store, for a coffee, to the movies, you name it, there is always multiple people who will call out my name. I can tell when I taught them by whether they call me Mrs. Hayward or by my maiden name. Some of them get so excited as if they are experiencing a celebrity sighting. It’s like they don’t realize that teachers are people too. No, I don’t live at the school and yes, I do have shits and have to buy toilet paper.

So when I’m home I can’t go unnoticed. I have tried, of course. Sometimes if I’m feeling lazy or sick, I’ll put on a baseball cap and sunglasses and try to be anonymous. Sometimes I wear a scarf. Sometimes I isolate myself in my home and pull a Greta Garbo just trying to get some privacy. The worst is if the students figure out where I live. I try my best to protect myself from that. You can be the best teacher in the world, everyone’s “favorite teacher,” but it only takes one student with a hate-on for you to result in having your car egged. And yes, my car has been egged before.

I am always a teacher when I’m home and I can’t fly under the radar. But when I leave this town, I have the opportunity to be truly anonymous. In the summers when my husband and I travel, it’s absolute freedom. I have the choice whether or not to disclose my profession.

This leads to very interesting outcomes sometimes. Such as this past summer, when I went to a party with my husband where most of the people did not know me. Overhearing conversations people have about teachers are sometimes the most fascinating things for someone who is a teacher. So it’s time to debunk some myths. Below are some actual things I have overheard while “undercover.”

Heard at the summer party from a lady in the private sector: “Those lazy teachers get paid on snow days, and I have to work for my pay.”

Okay, first of all teachers are not lazy. Anyone who ever says this has no idea what a teacher actually does. If you’ve ever had to give a presentation, you should know how much preparation and effort goes into that. Likely, if you have given a presentation, it was maybe 10 minutes long at the most. I have to prepare for five 1 hour long presentations a day. It’s A LOT of work. However, preparing for the presentation is not even the half of it. I have to make sure that those listening to my “presentations” have actually learned from them. So I have to create assessments, have the students complete them, read all of the completed assessments to ensure understanding, give feedback and I have to do that for 150 students. My day starts before the students even arrive, preparing in the morning, and ends long after they leave, staying late at the school making copies, and going home with bags of marking. I get an hour of paid prep time every other day. I often work through lunch and stay after school giving extra help. And I haven’t even got to the extra-curriculars like sports and teams that teachers volunteer to do on top of all the other things related to their jobs. During the school year, I work days, evenings and weekends. My home turns into a scene from hoarders because I’m so physically and mentally exhausted that I often neglect cleaning. So I get a few snow days off during the school year- I need them. It is one of the few perks that gets me through the school year. It allows me to clean my house, do laundry, and get caught up on school related work too. Furthermore, teachers don’t get “personal days,” because we have March Break, Christmas Break and Summer Break, so we are expected to do anything related to appointments, vacations, etc. during those times. So we get a few snow days here and there where we’re paid to stay home, and that’s only if we’re lucky enough to get a snow storm that’s bad enough to close the schools. We deserve them.

Heard at a restaurant from a parent to a child: “Be a teacher when you grow up. You’ll have the summers off, as well as Christmas and March Break and get paid for them.”

Really? Okay, so technically, no, I don’t have to report for work during the break times. But I do work during those times. The only difference is I can make my own schedule. For example, I don’t get paid time to set up my classroom or clean it up at the beginning or end of the year. These things have to be done, so I go in during the summer to do these things. I also generally get new courses each year, so I spend my summer reading curriculum guides and textbooks so I can plan for September. Yes, I can do that reading on the beach if I want to, so that certainly is a perk. That covers part one of the comment.

Apparently, teachers get paid for the breaks too. Nope. Not true. Teachers get paid for the school days in a year, depending on how many school days there are in the district or region where they are employed. The number of school days are different in every province and/or state- they can range approximately from 185-210. Most places where there are a lot of snowy days tack on about 10 extra days to compensate for days that school closes for snow. But teachers are only paid for the school days worked from September- June. In many places, it may seem that teachers get paid all year because the pay they get for the 185 days (or whatever it is) is prorated to ensure the teacher gets a pay cheque over the breaks. If my gross pay were, say, $45 000, my daily rate of pay would be $243.24 (before taxes.) So let’s just say I win a vacation for 5 days in Mexico during the month of April. There is no April break so if I want to go, I have to take 5 unpaid days if I actually want to go on the trip. Five unpaid days= $1216.22. It wouldn’t even be worth it to go, because that comes off my next pay cheque. So no, we don’t get paid for those breaks.
I could go on a lot more about the so-called “perks” of my job, but I won’t for today. What I will say is this: we all have good and bad aspects about our work. No one has a perfect job. What’s important is to enjoy your job and to have purpose. Even though I work really hard and am exhausted much of the time, I am satisfied with my job because I feel like I make a difference every day. For me the biggest “perk” of being a teacher is that I change kid’s lives every day- I help them read and write, I help them deal with anxiety and depression, I listen to them when it feels to them like no one else understands, I buy them lunch if they don’t have anything to eat, I encourage them to be the best person they can be and to follow their dreams.

I am a teacher.

Words: A Love Song

Words. I love you.

I love how you can express all of my feelings, thoughts and stories.

I love how I can arrange you however I want onto the page.

I can place you in paragraph form and make you into prose, explaining exactly what I want to say like a sign-post. I can spell it out for the reader, making it easier for them to see what’s in my mind by using you. I can change the order, and change the meaning. You are a slow burn. Metaphors, similes and juxtaposition- just a few of my favorite devices.

Or.

I can place you wherever I want on the page

Like poetry

 

The key is the words, 

the words are the key.

 

But then, you can be so ambiguous,

I think I mean what I’m saying,

But maybe what I’m saying means something else altogether,

you know what I mean?

 

Oh words, why are you so coy sometimes?

Just come right out and say it.

Do you love me like I love you?

Your power overwhelms me, drops me on the floor like a wrestler

 

The words drop on the page like sweat and tears

Creating images

Feelings

Ideas

 

I choose you like picking up shells on the beach

Is this one pretty enough?

This one is ugly but maybe I want it anyway.

I pick some and discard others,

Leaving them for those who walk behind me

Footprints in the sand

A path

 

I have to be choosy. I can’t just pick any words. They have to be perfect.

I mull you over in my mind, turning you over, this way and that, like a tornado of thoughts, selecting some words to keep and others to destroy.

Is this the right word? Are these arranged in the best order for the reader to understand the nuances, uncertainties, purpose and meaning?

I tell my students.

The repeated words are important,

Important words are repeated.

Don’t ignore them.

 

And.

If a word appears on a line alone

It’s heavier

 

Pay attention if a

Word

Is alone on a line

 

The arrangement of the words matter.

 

Take what’s here and interpret it, but don’t add more than what is here. I chose my words carefully. With purpose.

 

I want you to see with me.

I use my words to help you see.

Do you see it? My point.

 

Words, I love you

Ocean Hayward-