Headspace #12

Happy Monday everyone! I’ve got used to Monday’s being a slow day so I’m celebrating lots of positive actions today. I’ve been working on giving myself managable, achieveable tasks and ticking them off a list so I can see how much I’ve achieved. So far today I’ve managed to tick off half of my list and go to the gym. Small victories! I’m also enjoying one last day with my beard and hair before it gets chopped off tomorrow for charity – I’ve even letting my wife have free reign to make it over tonight – I’ve been promised there will be glitter. If you’d like to help a great local charity you can donate at https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/antonyjcbutcher  You can read why I’m doing this here. I just want to thank everyone who has donated so far – £650 and counting!!

Today’s blog follows on in a way from the last two blogs – one on struggling to cope with life after university (Headspace #10) and one on a mental health experience of someone working at a University (Headspace #11). This week, we hear from a friend who has recently trained as a teacher, and how their anxiety affected their training and their NQT year. Many of my teacher friends have got in touch to talk about their mental health – I hope to share more in the near future. If you enjoy this post give it a like, share it, or even subscribe!

My anxiety doesn’t define me

“But is the therapy actually helping?”

The words concealed the disbelief but only just. Knowing the people closest to you don’t believe you have anything wrong with you is hard. Dismissing the things that you worry about daily doesn’t seem like a big deal to them. But what they don’t realise is what a big deal it was for me to even admit I had an issue.

I have suffered with anxiety for approximately 4 years, but I’ve always been a worrier. I’ve had two major meltdowns in the last 12 months both stemming from work stress, and after my last one in March I had a lightbulb moment and decided I couldn’t keep doing it. I couldn’t cope.

By major meltdown, I mean a large scale panic attack. One which lasted for several hours, took me on a tour of symptoms and left me exhausted. Most often my panic attacks occur randomly, from something which I cannot control; the thought/memory of my knee dislocating. Even writing that makes me squirm and feel queasy. They can strike at any time. My breathing becomes rapid and shallow, my heart pounds and I cry uncontrollably. The major meltdowns are worse, more intense and also include feeling the need to be sick, compulsive scratching or my arms or picking at my fingers, and being physically unable to stop shaking.

I began to struggle around this time last year when I began teacher training. The pressure was immense; like nothing I had experienced before. Before I knew it I was having crying fits or small panic attacks almost on a daily basis and consistently felt like I was going under. I was drowning in a sea of marking and planning and my own inadequacy. I spent most of the last year feeling like there was little point in completing my training because I was never going to be good enough. I’m not very good at dealing with feedback even if it’s positive. I tend to think they are being kind.

I have very low self-esteem and am usually anxious about how others perceive me, or about what others may say about me. One of the senior members of staff on my training programme however managed to make me feel more anxious than anything else, simply by talking to me. She was the reason for my two major meltdowns. Whenever I started crying in her presence she would say “I understand how you are feeling but…”, and I would internally scream “No! you don’t!”. How could she possibly understand that all her training in mental health first aid means nothing if you don’t understand panic disorder or Generalised Anxiety Disorder. But ultimately, I gained qualified teacher status and was rated a Good teacher in my final report. Proof enough for me that I had failed but not everyone thought so.

I was employed in a school that said they wanted to support me through my first year as a teacher and I believe them now. They want to support me. I started attending cognitive behavioural therapy and have been referred for further sessions. I am approaching my NQT year in a more positive and prepared way. It’s still stressful (Oh boy is it stressful!) but I love it. My partner is my rock, and I don’t think he realises how much of my teaching qualification is down to him.

“But has the therapy helped? Surely, your problems are practical things you can deal with?”

Yes.

And no.

My problems are not my workload, or being overweight, or hypermobile. My problems are in my head. But the important thing I have realised in the last few months is that my anxiety doesn’t define me.


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