Waiting for the School Bell

As I write today, I realize why my moods have been introspective, and I have had to fight the Bad Critic when I thought I have been experiencing a reprieve. I woke up Sunday morning, and like two big globs of dark jelly, depression hit me hard in the face.

There’s no reason for this, I thought. I don’t have to go back to school to teach. My summer can continue for a bit. Of course, I remain a grad student, but I have no books to stack, no pencils and pens to stash and no bulletin boards to dream up.

Can we do a big Homer Simpson “Doh!”

I have been going back to school every year since 1990. I knew this moment was coming, but I thought I wouldn’t be affected. I remain a student. What’s up with this, Bad Critic?

By Sunday afternoon, I retreated to my safe place, where I don’t have to think. I napped for three hours. Three hours? Seriously, that cannot be healthy. But the reality is, my world has changed over the summer, and I walked out of the classroom. I said good-bye and cried a little, but I wasn’t expecting the Bad Critic to show up two weeks before school even starts here in the city.

I guess it all goes back a lot of years to when I was a kid, jumping up and down and anxious for school to start. New everything: clothes, lunch box, papers, pencils, everything. I mostly loved school all of my life. Regina, who lives next door, told me she was excited to go school shopping, too. I asked her if she would miss summer, and she said, “No! I’m sick of my brothers!”

Okay then. I’m going to be just a little school-sick, instead of homesick.

When I know why I’m feeling the way I do, I can get out of the depression easier. For example, when I was driving alone on the highway last Sunday, I yelled, “Get out. Leave me alone!” And you know what, it worked.

Happy Back to School, and listen to the school bell (buzzer). You might miss it one day.

Changes: Personal

Never think you are too old to have big changes happen to you!

Ten years ago, I left the teaching assignment and school in which I thought I would stay “forever.”  (Insert Big Change)

A few weeks ago, I left a second school. (Insert Big Change)

Two years ago, I had my personal life turned upside down unexpectedly. (Insert Unhappy Big Change)

Last summer, I bought my own home for the first time. (Insert Scary Big Change)

And today, I am writing from my own office. (Insert Nice Big Change)

Sometimes, I think about what might be coming next and whether it will make me happy or sad or a some of both. I wonder if I will leave this earth, having done my best for my children, husband and family. My depression disorder has changed my personality in the last two years. That Bad Critic in my head fights me every day to stay sad and negative, to sleep too much and accomplish little. He makes me cry. He gets me paranoid about things that haven’t even happened yet!

Did you know that wild crazy thinking is part of depression? It’s usually the “worst case scenario.” Did you know that raging anger at yourself and others is part of depression, too? I have been in the anger phase for many months. I am trying to recognize when I get mad and turn it off, or sometimes, I recognize it and stop right in the middle of a conversation that is not going well. I try to apologize. It is me. I’m not blaming my behavior and reactions on a disease that I can’t always control.

For so many years, I wore the mask. I think I’ve taken it off and put it away, but if you see a rabbit scampering down a hole, that will be me, hiding.


Natalie Goldberg: Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within

Natalie’s book is in it’s thirtieth year. I started to read it a long time ago, but she wanted the reader to write, and I wasn’t ready to. Sounds stupid, but that was me. I have pushed back against this force inside of me that is tempered by the Bad Critic, the force that is against my trying to burst out and write. No, I don’t really hear a voice in my head, but it is a continuum of negative thoughts like this…

You should keep a daily journal. “Why, who’s gonna care?”

Try to write a story about your childhood. “Don’t bother. No one believed you then, so why should they now?”

I need to get up and moving. I can’t sleep too much. “Why? You don’t have anything important to do.”

I need to get out and get fresh air. “What? It’s hot/cold/raining out there.”

That person really hurt my feelings, but I shouldn’t take it personally. “Of course, you should take it personally! Think about it a lot and replay it over and over……”

That’s the Bad Critic, actually the voice of my depression arguing with me. No, I’m not bonkers. The voice is mine, and I struggle to push back against the negativity.

Sometimes, I get angry. Sometimes, I cry. Sometimes, I sit and do nothing. Sometimes, I refuse to accept invitations from friends or family. Sometimes, many times, I isolate myself and hide. I have pushed people away from me. I have hurt people. I have made myself a loner, a hermit. There are times, when I actually go outside and think, “Gee, there is another world out here beside the battle in my mind.”

If this sounds unbalanced to you, that’s okay. You’re not me, and I hope you’re not battling a Bad Critic, but if you are, here are some words from Natalie’s book that you may like. She refers to writing, but you can change it to fit your situation.

“But I was determined to meet who I was, to put down what I honestly saw and felt, letting my mind have free range, no curtailing or censoring. Little did I know I was breaking a paradigm of how writing was understood and taught in this country. At the time no writing sections thick with books of instruction and inspiration lined store shelves. I was struggling on my own to muster the courage to trust my mind and to place one word after the other on the page.”

from Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, Introduction.

Writing a journal is good practice for anyone, but for me it was a necessary fight with the Critic. You will find an Editor because everyone has one to some extent. But you can just swat him/her away and keep going. If that doesn’t work, stick your tongue out and say “Go Away!”

Keep a notebook anyway.