Tomorrow marks my return to work after nearly a year off. Whilst many have experienced the lack of work due to covid, my journey with it began much earlier. As the rest of the country and the world were settling into their days of being home and without work earlier this year, I was already a pro. Last year, I found myself approach my 2nd sobriety birthday with some potentially lethal thinking around my friendships and relationships. With the gift of hindsight it’s easy to reflect on that period of time and to be grateful that it happened. Without alcohol as a constant source of chaos in my life, it was abundantly clear that the issue really was just me. A series of trips to A&E as a result of self harm and suicidal ideation lead to a diagnosis or EUPD (Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder). Yes the one that Winona Ryder had in the movie that time.
My journey with EUPD and seeking help around it is best left to another post. But needless to say, September through to December last year was a period of time that I hope never to return to. We can survive something and live to tell the tale whilst never wanting to return to that level of hurt and sorrow and I pray I never do. During that time, I felt that my mind was my enemy and I would wake up and race out of my flat as quickly as I could. I would then fill my day with activity after activity to keep myself busy and to keep out of my own way.
But Tanya on the 31st of August last year had no idea what lay in wait over the next few months. She had put a lot of effort into the new academic terms’ schemes of work and was rearing to go with it. There had been some incidents of emotional disregulation that had lead to self harm over the summer but the school year was beginning and that had to be done with.
I’ve never addressed my mental health at any point in my life. Whilst embarking on my sobriety journey could be viewed as addressing my mental health, it was initially a real fire-fighting mission and didn’t particularly feel like an act of self-care. So as a teacher embarking on an academic year, the last thing on my mind was my mental health. Teaching is a great career to choose if you’re looking to abandon yourself whilst being hailed as a wonderful worker. I’m sure many parallels can be drawn to many other careers but teaching seems to be a profession for martyrdom – if we’re not crawling by the end of the term, we haven’t worked hard enough.
As my first week back at school came to a close, it became clear that my anxiety and suicidal ideation had taken hold such that I couldn’t show up to the job and didn’t possess the capacity to do much more than not kill myself. After a Saturday morning of wresting with thoughts of self-harm and spening 7+ hours at A&E at Charring Cross to come back to myself, all parties involved were in aggreeance that Tanya could not teach, not right then anyway.
The story of my year off work and my year of returning to myself is also a tale told in bitesize chunks. Spoiler alert – it got a lot worse before it could get any better.
So why reflect on all that today? Yesterday, fears of whether I was ready to return to work and cope with the pressures of full-time employment flooded me and left me floored. The day was spent coming down from a minor EUPD episode in the morning and doing lots of impromptu crying. Draining doesn’t even cover it! But today, with all that out of my system, I’m able to look upon the unknown with a sense of clarity.
Tomorrow will see me starting at a completely different school, with completely different staff and pupils. But also a completely different Tanya. Setting aside the year of amplified growth that I have had, we are always moving forward whether we like it or not. Even when we feel as though we are regressing, it is impossible to do so whilst we have the information that we have learnt thus far stored away in the corners and crevices of our minds.
So my message to myself and anyone else who needs to hear it in this moment: you are not the same person you were yesterday, last week or last year. You have grown, you have evolved and you are far more capable of handling discomfort than you realise.