First off, I’m shocked at how much time has passed since my last blog. So much has happened. I got my shoulder treated (finally), had a major concussion, quit teaching yoga, got married, went back to school part-time, fractured my foot in two places, had my marriage fall apart, started full-time school and had other weird and random health issues.
Now on to stress…
I’ve been through some pretty stressful times. The murder of one of my closest friends when I was 14, divorce, the death of my Opa, just to name a few. However, my current stress seems to be the hardest. I’m back in school full time and a single parent again.
I’m in a constant battle to get B to his various activities, do housework and getting my homework done. It’s been a huge adjustment. For the first month of school B and I lived off of pizza and Chinese food. The laundry keeps stacking up too. I’ve had one good night of sleep in the last month and, to be honest, it was only because I smoked a little pot that night. It’s not something I do regularly. Smoking pot is quite dangerous for me but that’s a topic for another blog.
My Breaking Point
The stress has been so high that I almost dropped out of school. While I have a tendency to leave projects unfinished, school is something I’ve followed through with despite major challenges. When I was working on my legal secretary certificate I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. During my paralegal certificate, I got pregnant, had B and got divorced. This time the pressure seemed too high and the sacrifice to my family and mental health was overwhelming.
The guilt of not being as available to my son weighs heavy on me. In our recent parent/teacher interview, I was hit with the realization of just how much life has changed this year. Last year we worked on reading and spelling every day after school. He progressed quickly in reading and was acing his spelling tests. This year he’s shown no improvement in reading and is not doing as well on his spelling tests. It is truly heartbreaking. I feel I have failed as a parent.
I spend four to five hours a day doing homework. I put an enormous amount of pressure on myself to do well. I read slowly due to issues with concentration from both fibromyalgia and mental illness. There is a lot of reading in my program. Some of my classmates have admitted they do not do all the reading but I feel compelled to complete each reading assignment carefully. The times I have not completed the reading I have been disappointed in myself.
Then there are writing papers. At this point in the program, I am writing a paper almost every week. In previous programs, I have spent a tremendous amount of time writing and rewriting papers. In the past, it was not uncommon for me to edit my papers four or five times before handing them in. This semester I edit my paper once and hope for the best. Because the work I’m submitting is below my normal standard I have anxiety over my grades. What’s worse is, despite maintaining a high GPA, I get down on myself for the reasons I lose marks on assignments. It’s a constant battle between time and achieving a perfect mark.
The Stress of Self-reflection
In addition to the regular stress that students feel, the mental health and addiction program comes with the stress from constant self-reflection. It can be triggering. I had a meltdown after a class on grief because it brought up memories of my Opa and reminded me just how much I miss him. I cried for a good half an hour.
Ironically the hardest assignment so far has been a paper on stress. Even before I started the paper I was anxious. I was scared that reflecting on my stress would be like opening Pandora’s box. The adjustment to being a single parent again and do well in school was something I did not want to reflect on. I have attempted to write this paper four times now. Despite the realization that I have an amazing support system, it’s been tough to relive some of my past experiences and take a hard look at my coping mechanisms and lack of self-care.
The Necessity of a Time Out
I find it difficult to take time out for me. I have become better at setting boundaries for myself in relation to how much time I spend helping others but I struggle with actually doing something for myself. The lack of self-care is what brought me to the point of almost dropping out. My body physically shut down. For a few days, I could not get out of bed. My mind was spinning out of control with guilt and disappointment. I fell into a depression. I’m still struggling with the depression.
Facebook – The New Support Group
The turning point came when I started adding classmates on Facebook. This made me realize that I was not alone in my struggle. Some of my classmates have also been struggling with pressures of life and school.
Since adding classmates to Facebook I have received some much-needed support. Because of the self-reflection component of our program, there are unique issues that I feel are only fully understood by my classmates. Sharing about how some classes and assignments have been triggering has been validating.
This isn’t the first time I’ve used Facebook as a coping mechanism. I’ve used it as a means of reaching out. One of the biggest reasons for not asking individuals for help is the fear of being rejected in my time of need. Facebook allows me to reach out to numerous people at once without the sting of rejection. So far I have always received support when I shared my struggles on Facebook.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
Each week I am finding new ways to manage my time and responsibilities more effectively. Something as simple as ordering groceries online relieves a huge chunk of the demands on my time. I’m slowly starting to take time out from homework to spend quality time with B and to get back into yoga. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel again. I’m also getting better at asking for help. Next semester is also looking a bit easier. I may have 8:30 am classes each day (I do not do mornings well), but I’m also on campus only three days a week
Slowly my chaos is yielding some great changes.