Thursday, June 15, 2017

Dear Readers, we are about to get personal.

Here's what you may know about me:
*I am in love with pitbulls.
* That love is thanks to my two babies, Brooklyn and Boss.
* I have an entire instragram (@brooklynandboss) dedicated to my obsession to them.
*I'm a school counselor.
* My love of pineapples hit 100 thanks to HIMYM and Psych (counting down the minutes to that return).
Brooklyn and Boss
* I love working with students more than anything in the world.
* I was born in England.
* I am a tv addict.

Here's what you may not know about me:
* I actually love cats equally to dogs. In fact, until I got Brooklyn I was a die hard cat lady.
* My first career was actually in health and fitness (so many jokes associated with my last name).
* I struggle with depression...

Brooklyn keeping up appearances
Mental health, oddly, seems to still be a bit taboo. I still struggle with pretending I have my life together - the "keeping up appearances " pressure is real. (Side note: that's an excellent tv show).
This summer I am studying for the ASCA anxiety and trauma certifications. Trust me, the irony is not lost on me. I study and read and investigate, and I still can't seem to understand why this topic is so taboo. The stats and studies all tell me I'm not alone, yet I feel so alone.

So tonight I write this post, because I know I'm not alone.

Yuck- depression sucks
The last two years have been tough to say the least. I left a long term relationship, that despite my best effort continued to grow increasingly unhealthy and abusive. I finally started to acknowledge the fact that I had left my beloved school in middle TN and was living in a new place I had yet to accept- which meant I was alone. I fought my administration when they told me I couldn't see students or had to see them in the ISS room. I battled with staff who belittled me and my role. I cried over the loss of my dream home. I cried even harder when the Dept of Ed. decided not to honor 9 years of service and my payments for public service loan forgiveness. Thanks to Brene Brown (seriously love that woman- #idol) and Shonda Rhimes (#justsayyes) I got vulnerable and tried to date again- only to fall for a man that told me I was a 90 and he had been seeing someone else on the side that was a 92 and since he was looking for a 100, well you know.... I tried once more about poured my heart out to an old flame only to get stood up when I tried some dramatic movie moment of "meet me here" (seriously that's for the movies kids- he didn't meet me on the bridge like "Sex and the City" led me to believe he would.) I have gone on so many bad dates, I'm really not sure how they haven't cast me as a writer for the "Mindy Project" or at least given me a reality show. My car has broken down more times than I can count in the last few months....ok ok you get the point.

Actually, here is my point. I am adult. Not just any adult- a smart one. I have my Master's, I spend my free time studying for new certifications, I attend just about every conference I can, I listen to Ted Talks for fun, and I spend my weekends in bed reading self help books. I know everything I am suppose to do and I do it. Yet, I can't do it and so if I can't, can we really expect our students (and even staff) to?

My personal therapy dog
I journal, I do yoga/pilates, I eat right, I get active by participating in local organizations, I take a fun cocktail of meds, I help others by volunteering my time, I reach out to friends when I've hit day 5 of not getting out of bed, I have gratitude jars, I have soo many relaxation apps and coloring books, I snuggle with my dogs. I have my own counselor, because I believe that behind every great school counselor is a great therapist.
Seriously, if it's been suggested as a positive way to cope I do it or have done it, and yet I struggle.
I struggle to get out of bed and it's not odd for me to spend days in bed in the summer. I struggle to ward of panic attacks when driving past certain places or seeing certain people or heck I struggle to not randomly have one on a Tuesday afternoon.

 Like so many people with depression I get angry, oh so angry. I spend days being bitter and spiteful over heartbreak and in a haze of comparative suffering. I get angry for myself, but then I get angry for our kids. I get angry that at my school and in my state we label students kids "ED-emotionally disturbed" when they are struggling, but don't really seem to spend time or money on adequate training for teachers about mental health issues or take proactive stances on how we can help these students. I get angry at this label and how quick we are to put it on them, because if I were in school I would be one of them. I get angry when I'm told I can't help kids and not to see them, because I know I need as much help as I can get, so what is the purpose in refusing services? I get angry when I hear teachers complain that these students didn't do their homework. I want to scream- "they made it to school and that should be celebration enough."

The devil and angel that is depression- increased empathy but also increased binge eating!

I'm sure you're wondering why I went on a rant tonight. Here's why: our kids (yes our kids) are struggling- and they are kids and we can't lose sight of that. I am an adult with the skills and knowledge, but even I didn't make it out of bed this week. So when you are a looking at these kids who feel like all hope is lost or whose parents aren't around or are around just enough to pressure them into "bucking up" or going to an ivy league school, I want you to ask yourself what is realistic for them- what can they realistically handle? This week it was realistic for me to leave the house twice. Seriously, I went to work out and to see my counselor and I was drained. Emotionally and physically drained.  So when these students sit in your office and you know they have the world in front of them, just pause. Yes, they could go to college, yes they could make good grades, yes they could come to school. Yes, they could, but really can they? Is it realistic in the given moment?

Teachers I beg of you to pause. Perhaps they are celebrating one day of taking one step- maybe one hour without self depreciating thoughts or one day without cutting. Yes you want to talk to them about their future or why they didn't do their homework, but ask yourself, "am I belittling the battle they just so triumphantly won with questions about a future that doesn't feel attainable to them?" The reality is we need to celebrate the fact that they rose above the smothering pain and came to school. They showed up, they might have put on appearances or they might have thrown a chair across the room, but they are there in front of you. Like me, they probably want to hide from the world and it takes a courageous amount of vulnerability to be in front of someone- especially you. So smile, love them, and celebrate the victory- because it's not so small.

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