Many have noticed I have been quiet of late. In fact it has been over 6 months since I started a post let alone finished one.
The reason for this is I haven't really had anything to blog about unless you want to know about daytime TV (It's awful) or the inside of hospitals, GP's and Occupational Health offices (all pretty scary.)
This is because I have been off sick. Initially I didn't think it was anything, in fact the GP was convinced it was that old chestnut 'work related stress' but I knew better than that. Something in my guts told me there was something really wrong and I pushed and pushed to be investigated further. I don't want to be too specific here as I love my anonymity.
Last week I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) (which used to be known as ME) and Fibromyalgia. Frankly I was not surprised. I know my body and I'm not a hypochondriac...for months and months my hands and feet have not been my own, at times I have no strength and objects get dropped, I can bearly hold a pen let alone write with it. Rings do not fit despite the fact there is no swelling (believe me I've been scanned to within an inch of my life!)
Sometimes I can hardly walk for the pain in my ankles...it's like carpel tunnel syndrome but in the tops of my feet.
Some days I wake up and I feel like I've been awake all night, I am tired to the point my eyes can hardly focus and basic things like making breakfast or taking a shower are tough...there is a good explanation of this called 'spoon theory' - the idea that you have limited number of tasks you can manage so you have to sacrifice some if you want to do others.
Some days I wake up and feel sort of OK.....I can get a few things done round the house then I hit the wall.....and it's a massive, nasty painful wall that knocks me over. It leaves me despondent and down, frustrated because I was OK and I want to get things done.
Exercise has been limited and the weight has creeped on slowly....walking is sometimes possible but I get very anxious about getting stuck so, along with the social anxiety I already suffer it leaves me trapped in the house more often than not.
I'm scared to bump into colleagues, I don't want them to see me and I don't want to feel I have to explain myself. Twice I've left the supermarket in a hurry because someone is in there and I don't want to see them....it has made me have panic attacks it has made me sick.
I'm not writing this because I want people to go 'there there' - I've had plenty of that and it's been great, I needed it. Not only my friends and family but the twitter community who have supported me through this using many of their own experiences, you know who you are....
No, the reason I'm writing this is to try and make people more aware that this is happening to teachers, maybe in your school. The ones who get all the bugs and don't really get better. The ones who are always tired, even after the holidays. The ones who seem a bit spaced out....just bear in mind that when they get home after school they might be falling asleep over their marking at 7pm to be found by their partners. That they are stressed out because however hard they try they cannot get everything done because they are so tired they can't concentrate. Maybe, just maybe they need to see a doctor.
For me, I am in the process of 'getting out' after 10 years. I am not well enough to teach full time and part time teaching is frankly a joke, I'm not prepared to spend my days off catching up with what I couldn't do at work - that is my opinion.
I am not prepared to do a sub-standard job, kids deserve better than that.
I don't know what I am going to do, but myself and my partner are willing to take the cut in my pay so I can get better and do something I can manage. Something that means I can have evenings, weekends, maybe even hobbies. It might be with kids, it might not be...right now I have no idea beyond the fact I need to write a CV and try and detail my transferable skills. This blog will probably become a journey into getting out of teaching and into something else....if anyone has any advice or suggestions they would be more than welcome!
Right now I am waiting for a referral to a hospital in London, there are no guarantees I'll be accepted. My GP said it depends on whether the county I live in can afford it. I hope they can help me because at the moment I don't know how to manage this. Therefore I don't know how much work I can manage. I've never been unemployed and frankly we could not afford for me to be so I need to get some information and soon.
I love teaching and I love working with children, at the moment none of this seems very real but it is an exciting and scary time.
All I ask is that you are aware, of your colleagues and teacher friends....don't let them get so far down the road they cannot get back....and remember, people with CFS don't look ill, they don't have obvious symptoms and they may not want to tell you they are struggling. Be aware and keep caring.
I'll try to keep you posted on what I do. It's going to be an interesting time.