Thursday, December 30, 2010

Same Auld, Same Auld

Get it? Auld Lang Syne? New Year's? Yeah?

Eh, I never claimed to be Shakespeare.

[Be warned, this is a pretty long post, and it's not happy. Fair-weather friends should stay away.]

2010 has not been the greatest of years for me. Oh, don't get me wrong, it wasn't as awful as that '06-'07 stretch, but it was no 2004 either. It pretty clearly splits into two halves (based on last school year vs. this school year), and the first half was significantly better than the second half (based on last school year being significantly better than this school year). In the first half of 2010, my job was difficult, but I didn't hate it - actually, I mostly loved it, and I especially loved my students. But in the second half of 2010, my job got way more difficult, and I have come to hate it. Not all of it - I still love some of it - but the part I hate has slowly taken over, like a cancerous tumor eating away at the healthy tissue around it. Similarly, I still love many of my students, but others? Not so much, unfortunately.

I know this is a big part of why I've been so depressed lately. I started the year with every intention of looking on the bright side and staying positive in the face of the new responsibilities I knew I wouldn't like. I celebrated the little victories and looked for the joys that might carry me through the rough spots. And most of all, I prayed. I prayed for patience. I prayed for wisdom. I prayed for strength and perseverance. I prayed for a miracle - that I might find a way to love what I have always hated.

Reflecting back, here is what I've discovered: There is no bright side. There are no victories - only defeats with fewer casualties than others. There are no joys, either; that is much too grand a word for the mild relief that comes occasionally between horrors. And they're never enough to sustain me.

It would be easier, I am certain, to endure my undesirable duties this year if I were willing to do a mediocre job. If I were the kind of person who could do just well enough to not get fired, and could accept that kind of blatant ambivalence towards the product of my efforts, I'd be just fine. But sadly, I have a real tough time accepting less than my absolute best, and on the rare occasion I do accept it, I rarely forgive it. I can't accept "good enough" - I only accept "excellent." Since no matter what I do in certain areas of my job this year I cannot do "excellent" work, I resent it for making me feel incompetent, and I resent my students for making my job so difficult.

I think it's fair to ask why I let my work affect my entire life and well-being as much as it does. So I hate my job (and not even all of my job; just enough of my current duties that it taints the whole shebang) - so what? Lots of people hate their jobs and still lead happy, fulfilled lives. Unfortunately, my job mostly IS my life, so when I'm unhappy there, I'm just plain unhappy.

The reason this is becoming more and more of a problem is that I'm reaching the point of absolute and total avoidance. Do you know how many of the last 24 hours I've spent in bed? 15. And it would have been more, except I'm actively trying not to let it get out of hand. I lie in bed with the covers literally pulled over my head, just trying to convince myself that it will all work out and everything really will be okay and my pile of work that I absolutely hate will not, in fact, overwhelm me like a tidal wave. And when I finally do get out of bed, I have a million other ways to avoid thinking about all the work I have waiting for me, including (but not limited to): spider solitaire, blogging, reading, watching TV, going shopping, and Facebook.

I'll be lucky not to be fired after my boss reads this. (Hi, B!)

If I take a moment to think rationally - because I am actually pretty intelligent, not that you'd know it from this post - I do understand most of what's happening here. One part of my job has become awful, and I really do hate that part. That part, however, has become so unbearable that it has started tainting the rest of my job. Thinking about any part of my job now reminds me of the stuff I hate, so I just don't want to think about any of it. Avoiding thinking about it means avoiding doing it, so then I end up REALLY behind in my workload (you should see my pile of grading), and then I feel guilty about being so behind, so that I avoid it even more because it makes me feel bad. Also, it feels insurmountable.

I feel like it won't get any better. I feel like I need a reset or something, which, sadly, isn't possible until June - I'm only halfway to reset.

[Disturbing images ahead - if you're sensitive to issues of cutting and/or easily suggestible with such things, please do not continue reading.]

Lately, I've had this scene keep popping in my mind - like a fantasy, or a daydream, though not with the traditional connotations those words tend to have. Here's the way it goes: I throw a huge glass vase on the floor of my kitchen so that it shatters into lots of pieces. Then I pick up a handful of the shards in each hand and just rub them up and down my arms until they're running with blood. Up and down, up and down, harder and harder and harder, until all the pent-up stress and anxiety bleeds out.

I get that this is not normal, nor is it healthy. (Although in my defense, I haven't *done* it, just thought about it.) But that's what my brain does naturally - it goes to avoidance tactics and destructive behaviors to deal with stress, anxiety, and depression. It does these because it doesn't know any better tactics to use - I don't know any better coping strategies. I see two choices: Force my nose to the grindstone and just get it done somehow, or destroy myself so badly that everything I'm avoiding pales in comparison. So far, the first strategy hasn't been working, so I keep thinking of the second.

This is why I should get to a therapist, I know. Because a therapist might be able to open up my eyes to other possible strategies that I'm not thinking of in my close-minded view. Because the strategies I've been working with so far are not good, so someone had better suggest some new ones. But I'm avoiding that too, because in the state I'm in right now, it feels like it adds yet another thing onto my to-do list, which is too long already with all my work tasks that I'm avoiding. Somehow, I have it in my mind that I don't deserve to take time for therapy while I still have a backlog of grading, because how dare I take time for myself while my students don't have their essays back? (This thinking would make more sense if I didn't spend so damn much time playing spider solitaire while avoiding said essays, but there's no arguing with the mind of Captain Crazy, aka ME.)

Damn, this is long and rambling and I don't even know what the hell I'm getting at. It's 11:37 and I feel like climbing back into bed and sleeping until 2018, when maybe things won't seem so bad. Instead, I'll try to get some work done.

Thanks for reading.


fjd said...


Mrs. Chili said...

Yeah, what fjd said...


Rachel said...

thinking of you, sweetie.

dawn said...

((((hugs))))--I know that doesn't help. But sometimes just knowing you aren't "alone" can offer some comfort.

Clair said...

Sending you hugs, and prayers. Lots of them.

BetteJo said...

I'm trying to figure out what to say. Because I know that what I want to say - is stuff you already know. You've been here before. You know that the longer you don't go for therapy, the harder it will be to go. And you also know that going for help will not help immediately, but doing something always feels better than doing nothing. You ARE smart Lara, that is incredibly obvious. You're so freaking adorable it's crazy, and I believe you have a whole life ahead of you to live. You know you don't want to go backwards so please - take that step and go forward. Call, make an appointment. Please.

Okay now I will add ((((hugs))))
I'll be thinking about you.

Still Jill B said...

Oh, love you, sweetheart.
You don't have to accomplish it all at once. Just one first step will be a huge relief.

A Lurker said...

Totally not to the point of the post, but -- awesome writing! Brutal honesty about what's in your head written as a very readable narrative.

"I am actually pretty intelligent, not that you'd know it from this post"

Au contraire.

Pull through.

tali said...

*Big hugs* (after a long time of just lurking - sorry that I'm so bad at keeping in touch). Also, I second BetteJo =)

Teacher Anonymous said...

This feels like a moment for the housekeeper from Father Ted, who'd make you have a cup of tea whether you'd like one or not. So, go on. Call the therapist. Go on, go on, go on, go on, go on.

Sorry. Too much BBC over the break. Go do what you know you need to do (though I know breaking through the situational inertia is the hardest part). Be well.

BetteJo said...

You a little bit okay now? Not?