Tuesday, January 30, 2018

My Not-So-Chemical Romance

I often like to picture myself in the ocean.  Any ocean will do, but ideally, it's warm and the sun is shining on me as I float on my back in the serene water.  It's my safe place.  It's the "happy place" people tell me to go to whenever I feel stressed.  It's also the best way I can describe my depression and anxiety to someone.  While the ocean is a holy place for me, it's also a metaphor for my demons.

Imagine floating along the current.  The sun is out, the water is the perfect temp, and life is good.  Suddenly, the clouds turn gray and begin to hover over.  You hear thunder in the distance.  You try to open your eyes, but waves appear out of nowhere.  You struggle to orient yourself with where you are, but can't seem to find the shore.  What once was an outline of sand and coast is now a distant memory.  You can't seem to get your balance, catch your breath, or get your footing.  Everything hurts.  Your lungs hurt from trying to yell and breathe.  Your arms hurt from trying to fight the weight of the depth.  Slowly, ever so slowly, you just feel like giving up.  You just want the water to slide over you and sink beneath, because maybe...just maybe, you'll find some peace.

The darkness.  That's the depression.  And just like the ocean, it comes and goes, ebbs and flows fighting the tide.  Some days are floating, sunshine, and happiness, but some days are dark, cold, and lonely.

But if the sinking represents the depression, the constant waves represent anxiety.  Trying to swim and catch your breath, but the waves keep coming up.  Over and over and over.  That's how my thoughts are.  They can't be turned off.  Every time you come up for air and feel like you can breathe, the wave builds up and crashes over you, sending you under with salt and water in your nose.  You sometimes feel like all the water is filling your lungs.  They keep on coming, they keep on building, they're relentless.

Anxiety is like trying to enjoy a sunny day at the beach but being constantly worried or transfixed on every single thing that could go wrong.  Did I pack enough sunscreen?  Are those waves too high for that kid that I don't know?  Did that person glance at me weirdly - do I have something wrong or misplaced on me?  Am I going to have enough time to do the thing I need to do next week?  All the sudden, in the middle of what should be a glorious day, your heart hurts so much and your brain hurts so much, you just sit there.  You just sit in the middle of beauty feeling empty and overwhelmed.  That's when you head to the ocean to either sink or swim.  Find one of the two above mentioned options.

What I've learned about depression and anxiety is that it's different for everyone.  My feelings and how I deal with it are completely different from how another person deals with it.  For a long time, I just refused to deal with it.  It's only been in the past few years that I've really been able to verbalize and understand it.  And as a great life mentor told me, sometimes you just have to own it.

I've had anxiety for the better part of 14 years.  I remember the day my doctor mentioned the idea of having anxiety and depression.  I balked at the thought (I was 17 at the time).  Sure, high school was tough...sure, I was terrified of all these changes, but depression?  Anxiety?  No.  That wasn't it.  About a year later when the same feeling persisted and another doctor mentioned it, I finally agreed to talk about it.  I suppose that was the start of all of this.  But, on reflection, it probably went back much further than that.  Back then, I felt like the stigma of mental health was one where you swept it under the rug.  I didn't know anyone with anxiety, and I certainly never heard anyone talking about feeling anxious and definitely not depressed.  I think that's why I was so sure that my doctor was ridiculous to suggest that anything like that was wrong with me.  I couldn't be grouped in that category that was never discussed...almost taboo...

For a long time, I tried to hide all of this.  In my 20's, I was still understanding what was going on in my mind.  I felt like to be a "good" student in college, a "good" friend, etc, I had to fit this certain image.  I would go on medication, start feeling better and then stop.  Go to therapy, start feeling better...stop.  Obviously, all this starting and stopping didn't ever end well.  But, other than my closest friends, I never talked about it.  I chalked it up to being moody and being in the depths of college and then starting my teaching career.

Here are the tricky parts of my mental illness and me:

1. I want to be this "normal" person who doesn't have this label attached to me.  Hence, wearing the masks.
2. Some days, some periods of times, I feel great (which is fantastic), but right when that happens, I think...I don't need anything.  I don't need meds, therapy, appointments.  My mind is a tricky thing.  My actions never result in positive outcomes.
3. Sometimes it's so incredibly hard to verbalize how I'm feeling, I just don't share it.  Holding it in is worse than just trying to talk about...which leads to...
4. For the longest time,  I didn't want to burden my friends/family with my problems or feelings, so I just didn't talk about it.  It took several friends (and several years) saying, "YOU DON'T BURDEN US" for me to break down the barriers and let them in.

I'm still struggling.  I think I'll always struggle.  Do I have faith and hope that one day this will be better controlled? Yes.  But I also think that it's going to take awhile for me to figure it out.  Like I said, it took a long time for me to even want to talk about this with my friends and family.

Things that help:

1. DOCTORS - this has been a HUGE struggle of mine.  Because I've moved to several cities over the past few years, finding doctors have sometimes been a headache.  Finding one that fits is hard.  Going through the initial talk and discussion about everything is frustrating sometimes, but it's so important to get this kind of help.
2. SUPPORT - my goodness...in the depths of my depression, the thought of my friends and family pull me out.  Their love and faith and support is unreal.  Pep talks, texts, phone calls, letters...they never, ever let me down.  I sometimes feel guilty and think that I'm too much - they're the ones waiting by the phone when I don't answer for 24 hours and they know I'm in a hole.  They're the ones who have to give me constant advice and love.  I think about the burden of it all.  But I'm realizing it's not a burden.  It's what they're there for.  I love them more than I could ever say - they have literally saved my life.
3. THERAPY - this goes along the lines of doctors.  It's hard to find the right one.  When you do, it's wonderful.  This is a struggle of mine to continue therapy, but it's a valuable tool.  I've been in and out of therapy for the past decade.
4. JOURNALING - this has helped me tremendously.  I write and write and think and jot down thoughts and ideas and poems, etc.

Regardless of what helps me, it might not help everyone.  I'm still not quite sure what triggers my emotions.  I struggled to write this.  It stayed in my draft box for over a week.  I asked several friends whether or not I should publish something that was so incredibly personal.  But owning this is my way of freeing myself from this struggle.  The stigma of mental illness is one that I see so much.  I think it's gotten better over the past several years, but people (myself included) don't like talking about it.  I spent years holding it in, being scared to admit what was wrong with me, scared of people thinking I was different because of it.  But they don't.  It's just like having any other illness.  You've got to take care of it and take care of yourself.  That's the bottom line.  It's okay.  It's okay.  It's okay. You are loved, loved, loved.  And it will get better.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Current Books and TV Shows: October Edition

I haven't done a book post in awhile.  I decided to add a few of my television indulgences as well!

Date: Monday, October 24th, 2016

Recent and Current Books: 

1. I just finished reading The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer and it is HIGH-larious!!!  I laughed during each chapter several times!!  I wouldn't necessarily recommend this to EVERYONE only because she drops the f-bomb quite a bit and is pretty vulgar at times, but if you know Amy Schumer that shouldn't be super surprising.  Definitely hilarious and worth the read if you're into slightly inappropriate, but hilarious memoirs.

2. I also just finished The A to Z of You and Me by James Hannah.  My friend, Laura, and I are complete book addicts and bought this one on a whim at Target.  We both just finished it, so it was nice to be able to discuss it with someone.  The book was pretty good.  It wasn't AS good as I thought it would but, but I enjoyed it.  I really liked the setup.  The protagonist is in hospice and his nurse suggests that he plays the "A to Z" game.  He must associate a body part with every letter of the alphabet.  While he does this, he flashes back to different points in his life and tells his story that leads up to his illness.  The source link goes to a really good blog post discussing the book.

3. ONE of the books I'm currently reading is titled The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin (I actually started this one back in July and got book ADHD).  I love historical novels and this is perfect.  It discusses Truman Capote's time with several of New York City's most famous socialites during the 60's and 70's.  Her descriptions are filled with imagery that allows the reader to feel like they are right there in the midst of all the drama.  I'm about a 1/3 of the way through the novel, but recommend it from what I've read so far.

4. The book I'm actually reading at the moment is My Grandmother Told Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman.  It was another "buy at Target on a whim" book.  I was drawn to the book because of the title and really like the book so far.  It's about Elsa and her Granny and their adventures.  There have been several sentences in the book that have made me tear up because they sound so much like the relationship I had with my Granny.  I'm eager to continue the book and see what adventures Elsa goes on that her grandmother tasks her with. 

Current Netflix Show:

Again, technically am in the middle of a few, but the main ones:

1. "The X-Files" - the thing about this is I am not watching the show from start to finish, rather watching an episode here and there.  I don't watch the "mythology" episodes.  I stick to the "stand alone" episodes that explore different "mysteries" and what not.  I love the acting, symbolism, mystery, and overall atmosphere of the show.  Sci-fi mysteries are totally my guilty pleasure!!


*This is the site I've been using to peruse my episode selection!

2. "Stranger Things" - because everyone else did, right?  I finished this about a month ago, and totally loved it!!.  Loved the 80's feel to it and the acting was really good.  The show had a lot of twists and turns.  Every episode left me hanging with a "what is going to happen next" feel!!  It has a Stephen King/sci-fi feel, and as I stated before those are my guilty pleasure shows.  

3. "The 100" - Oh. Em. Gee. I just finished the third season.  Season 1 and 2 are on Netflix, but I purchased season 3 from Amazon Prime.  My cousins got me started on this, and I'm so glad they did!!  I devoured the first two seasons then tried to take it slow for the last season because it's not coming back on until next year!!  My cousin described it as a mix of Lord of the Flies meets "Lost" - and she was definitely right.  The show is set about 100 years after nuclear bombs wiped out most of the earth's population.  Spaceships were launched with people on them to save the next generations of humans.  Fast forward and there are some issues on "The Ark" that holds everyone.  They decide to send 100 teenagers who have been in juvenile detention to go down on earth to see if the ground is ready for people again.  The first season is about "the 100" discovering what earth is like currently and who was left there.  There's something for everyone.  Lots of drama and action, but some funny parts, too.  I love the characters, but it's one of those shows (like "Sons of Anarchy") that you can't get attached to any of the characters!!  It has a sci-fi feel to it (jeez, I have a type), but is well rounded in other areas.  

4. "Glee" - I watched most of "Glee" while it was on tv.  Recently, I've been watching an episode here and there.  I watch it mainly for the musical numbers, but watching it has reminded me of what a killer show it was!  I loved the characters and most of the stories (some of them got to be kind of silly to me) are good.  The first three seasons are my favorite.  I love the mix of humor, drama, and music.  Just a good show to watch here and there and enjoy!

Catching Up on Life!

I have been terrible with keeping up with my posts.  I always have so much to say, so much on my mind, so much to write...yet, I never actually go through with it and blog about it!

Here are the biggest things going on:

1. SCHOOL - I've been back at Freedom (my alma mater) for almost three months.  I've really been enjoying my time here.  The department is wonderful, the kids are (for the most part!) sweet, and it still smells the same!!  I'm actually teaching English I in the same classroom I was taught English 1!  It's been a full circle experience!!  FHS is about 1,000 students lighter than it was when I went here.  The class changes are much easier!  When I went here it was impossible to go from class to class without bumping and crawling along to each class!  Overall, I'm really happy with my move and pray that I continue to enjoy my time here.

2. BABIES - One of my best friends, Lindsey, is about 2 weeks out from having her first baby!!  I'm so thrilled for her and so excited to hold our newest GG baby.  We threw Linds and Baby K a shower in early September.  Linds isn't finding out the gender, so we went with a neutral "hot air balloon" theme.  Everything came together really well, and I think Linds enjoyed it!

I've also been able to spend a weekend here and there with my other "babies" - who aren't really babies anymore!!  I went up to my sister's house in TN last month and then Thad came and spent the night with me at the new house a few weeks ago.  We played legos, ate McDonalds, and watched tv - total auntie night!!

Last weekend, I was able to visit with Kelly, Casey, and their two kiddos, Brooks and Wyatt!  I always enjoy seeing the boys and it's been such a treat seeing them grow up!!

3. HOUSE - The biggest thing that's taken up my time is fixing up, going through, cleaning, and getting my grandmother's house ready to move in.  I've actually lived there for a month now.  It has been the most challenging, but rewarding adventure I've personally done in a long time.  In some way, shape, or form, all of my family has been there to help me get everything together.  My mom has been the biggest help.  She has cleaned, packed up and unpacked, redid floors, etc for almost two months now!!  I'm so thankful for all her help.  I'm also thankful for all of my family and friends who have helped me get everything together. I'm going to write a separate post detailing all we've done.  I pray that my grandmother would approve of all the changes and like them.  My cousin and I were saying last night that we wished we could've done some of this while she was alive so that she could've enjoyed it.  I hope she is watching over and protecting the house from above!

I will try to update more regularly.  I *think* things are starting to slow down a bit....maybe? Thanks for following along with me!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Wanted: Days of Yore

All at once tonight, in the midst of a good Facebook scroll, all the change in my life hit me like a huge truck and I couldn't figure out why or what was going on with my emotions.  Was it just the dust getting into my eyes that caused them to get a bit teary?  Was it just the exhaustion that a week full of go-go-go workdays hold?

No...no, I feared it was all stemming from that dirty word...change.

As I was doing my last Facebook skim for the evening, I noticed several of my Facebook friends (who are in education) were writing about their Open House night at the various schools they teach at.  Their statuses were indeed glorious, sweet posts about the general excitement this night brings.  Statuses brimming with smiles discussing seeing old students and how they're getting back into the swing of the life they have created at their school.  They wrote the post I would have written if I were still at one of my previous schools.

But...I'm not.

So, for the second year in a row, I will not be seeing my sweet former students who boost my confidence for the new year.  I will not be greeted by, "HEY MS. B!!" or "I MISSED YOU SO MUCH!!"  I had a good 5 year stretch of those sentiments.  Rather, tomorrow night, I will be greeted with new faces and see a hallway full of big kids with smiles, running to greet their former educators.

I don't know how this post sounds.  Maybe I sound bitter...I'm not.  Maybe I sound mopey...I'm not (okay, I am a bit).  I don't, BY ANY MEANS, want this to sound like I regret my decision or I'm not so, so excited to begin my journey within the halls of Freedom, I most definitely am.  I just miss those little things that working at a school for a number of years bring.  I have "mourned" my status as a veteran teacher within a school for the past two years.  It was hard last year and it's hard this year.

The thing is...life takes different directions.  I would've never guessed this time last year that I would be sitting in Morganton getting ready to begin my (hopefully long) tenure at Freedom.  The past several months have been the strangest ride so far in my life.

It just hits me sometimes.  How much I miss the "familiarity" that years of being at the same school brings.  But, I have to remember that this was exactly how it was my first year at Rockingham.  By the next year, I had kids coming back to see me.  I had developed more student-teacher relationships.  So, for now, I will just be a little jealous.  I'll be a little envious of the teachers tomorrow night who get those greetings and hellos at their doors.  I'll mourn the days of yore when that was me.  I'm guessing they'll be a few times that I get to missing my babies who really aren't babies anymore.  But I'll be okay.  I'll be ready to embrace this new journey and trust that in the end, it'll all be worth it.


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Happy Birthday, Granny

I pull up the crunchy rocks and park behind her black car.  I chuckle (as I do every time) when I see her "MAMABARR" license plate.  I walk up to her door and ring the little bell (even though I know she's home).  I like for her to hear me coming.

I walk into the kitchen, inhaling the air of her home, and shout, "Yoooo-hoooo!"  I hear her familiar laugh as she gets up off the couch and comes to into the kitchen with a big smile.

She greets me with a "Hey, Baby!"  I chuckle and fall into her arms that have known my embrace for all the years of my life.  She invites me into the living room and we sit and catch up.  She tells me what's been going on with the family, neighborhood, church, and town.  She asks me questions about what's going on in my life, and I fill her in on what's been happening in my "neck of the woods".

She asks me if I'm hungry (as if she can already read my mind).  I bashfully say, "Well, I could go for a grilled cheese." She smiles and obliges my request saying, "Come on in the kitchen and let me get one for you."  I smile as she places the sandwich on my plate...bite into the sandwich that I can never, no matter how hard or how many times I try, replicate.  It is as good as it always is.

She sits down and we continue to talk.  We talk about the future...we talk about the past...we talk about fears...we talk about worries...we talk about hopes...we talk about dreams. 

We sit and continue to converse for awhile.  I finally say, "Well, I better get going."  She replies with, "Why don't you just stay here!"  I laugh and tell her I really wish I could (and it is the truth...I wish I could just stay in the little, happy bubble she has created where all my worries seem to stop and pause).  I head for the door and we hug one more time (I'm not a huge hugger, but I relish in her's).  She tells me to be careful and to come back soon as she walks me out the door.  I assure her I will.  I reverse out the driveway and wave to her, smiling as I head down the road.

Today would be my grandmother's 83rd birthday.  I wish more than anything that the above scenario were possible.  I wish that I could call her or send her a card or just see her.  I know that the year after someone dies is the hardest.  I know all the "firsts" are difficult.  I foresee the holidays being tough for my family.  I have to have faith that she is happy and at peace.  I hold onto her memories like a tiny child holds onto their first favorite toy.

After she passed and everyone began the task of cleaning out her house, we found so many interesting things.  We found old letters, old books, old pictures, and other items.  I feel like I've learned all this new information about her.  I wish I could ask her about who that person in the picture was or why she purchased this and that.  I wish I could ask her about the letters we found from my grandfather as he was courting her.  I've also discovered the little things that we have in common.  Keeping a stockpile of cards and stationary.  Writing little poems for people (I also discovered my grandfather did the same).  So many little things and questions and thoughts that I wish I could share with her.

The thought of living in her house brings me mixed emotions.  In a way, it really means she's gone and not coming back.  Because of that, it is a little sad.  However, I'm also excited to continue her legacy of hospitality, good times, and good food.  She always welcomed everyone and had an open door policy.  All that to say it's just been very bittersweet.  I hope she approves of all the updates and things I've been doing and plan to do with her sweet little house that we all love so much.

Happy birthday, Granny.  I miss you more than words could say.  I hope, more than anything, you are having a giant piece of yellow layer cake with chocolate frosting up in heaven with a nice cup of coffee.  I love you...

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A Little Look Back

I have been meaning to write and catch up on the summer and a few of the books I've enjoyed over the past few months, but haven't been able to gather my thoughts and sit down long enough to type.  I will get to those posts, but first....

I wanted to write today because as I was perusing my blog the other day, I realized that I wrote my very first post EIGHT YEARS AGO TODAY!  Where does the time go?

It was so weird to read that post.  Eight years ago, I was moving into my little apartment in Eden and starting my very first teaching job.  Since then, I've lived in 4 (going on 5) different places and cities and taught at 2 (going on 3) different schools.  OHHH WHAT I COULD TELL LITTLE COLEY.

I won't bore you with all the coulda woulda shouldas....but from reading that old post, I do see that I  have grown from that scared 22 year old to the slightly more "with it" 30 year old.  (PS - when you write out the numbers, it makes you really see your age...jjjjeeeeezzzzzz).

Here are 8 things I've learned in the past 8 years:

1. Even when life gets scary and hard, learning how to roll with the punches is a must.  There have been several times when I've been at my wit's end and I've had to let go of my insecurities, anxieties, and frustrations, and just go with the flow.  SIDE NOTE: this doesn't always mean I do this....
2. The time I have spent with family and friends is invaluable.  I will never ever take that time for granted.  These people....my people...have held me up, cushioned my falls, and pulled me into their arms when I felt that I was falling apart.
3. Teaching has produced some of the hardest times in the past eight years, but the lessons I have gained are so important to me.  I am thankful for all my time in the classroom even if it has resulted in several gray hairs.
4. I've learned that sometimes you need to turn off the computer and tv and just read or write.  This is actually something I want to get better at, but there's still some years to work on that.
5. Tiny humans have made my heart double...no, triple in size.  My sister's son, my best friends' sons, my cousin's daughters have all brought such light, joy, and love into my heart.
6. Pictures are phenomenal ways to document the memories you make in life, but at the same time...sometimes you have to just live in the moment (another thing I'm still working on).
7. TRAVEL - traveling has been one of the best things I've been forturnate enough to do.  I love visiting new places, sight seeing, people watching, trying new things, immersing myself in new places is something I hope I always get to do.  So many more places to go....
8. Life is short.  Enjoy it.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Here We Go Again...

2016 has been quite a year.  It's been a big year of unexpected change.  Lots of unplanned events that I didn't ask for, nor was prepared for.  However, with unexpected change comes opportunities for growth.

When my grandmother died almost 4 months ago, all of my family looked at each other and had this unspoken question of...well, what happens to our main homestead?  Granny's home was where everything took place: holidays, lunches, gatherings, etc.  I don't think any of us could fathom the thought of someone else living there.

In the midst of all this, we kind of wondered...what about Coley?  At first, I told them I didn't think it was a possibility.  I came up with this mental list: I didn't have a job in Morganton, I was happy in Winston, I already had a big "move" change last year, a house is a HUGE responsibility, yada, yada.

But the thought in my head wouldn't let go.

I, on a whim, texted a good friend of mine who also happens to teach within Burke County.  I simply asked her to keep her ears open and let me know whether she heard anything about a possible job opening at one of the schools.  Thinking she would reply with, "I'll keep them open!"  I kept my optimism on low.  I know that sounds bad, but I didn't want to get any hopes up (especially at that early stage).  However, within a couple minutes, she replied saying, "Actually, I think there might be one."  Say what?!  I couldn't help but feel like Granny was nudging me home.

Even with that response, I wasn't 100% sure.  The weeks that followed were really hard.  I was still dealing with the death of my grandmother, I was finishing my year of teaching, I wasn't sure I was ready to move again, I felt this calling to go back, I felt this calling to stay...bottom line....I was just kind of hanging out in this hellish limbo.

So, I did what I always do when I'm not sure, I prayed.  I tried my best to listen.  I talked to friends, I talked to family, and I talked some more to God.  I decided that I would send in my resume and an email to the two high schools I would like to teach at within Burke County.  If I heard something, wonderful, and if I didn't, I was happy staying where I was in Winston.

About a week after that, I got an email asking if I'd like to come in for an interview.  I said yes and went in.

The next month was the longest month of my life.  School systems still have to go through a lengthy hiring process, so even though I interviewed, and even though I thought it went well, I knew I wouldn't knew anything FOR SURE for awhile.

Not to sound dramatic, but, IT WAS AWFUL.

I didn't know what to do.  I didn't know what to hope for.  I began to doubt EVERYTHING.  I didn't know if this was maybe a sign to stay or maybe just to forget the whole thing... I ended my year at Tabor and still didn't know what the following school year would hold.  I couldn't say anything to anyone because again, I didn't know.

I'll save you the melancholy Coley blabber.  I will say that doubt is an anxiety-ridden person's worst enemy...and ole doubt was creeping into every crevice of my life.

Anywho, about two weeks ago, I was sitting at my sister's house and got THE call.  THE call I had been waiting for...I was officially offered the job at my alma mater, Freedom High School.  And even with that call, I was still a ball of emotions!  As all of it has settled a bit, I am back on the excited track.

I know a lot of this pain and confusion was related to Granny.  I know a lot of it was related to my mixed emotions about leaving Tabor and Winston.  When I left Rockingham, I knew it was time to move on.  I knew I had "run my course" there and was ready to see what else there was "out there".  But, only being at Tabor a year, there were a TON of mixed emotions!  I truly enjoyed teaching there.  I learned so so so so much from my colleagues and students.  It's an incredible place.

 There's still a lot of "technical" stuff to work out (hence why I haven't posted or said anything on social media).  I am excited though.  It means being closer to my family and working at the place that first made me want to be a high school teacher!

All this to say, this was an incredibly hard decision, BUT...at the end of the day, the BIGGEST thing that has kept me from ditching the whole idea is the peace that living in Granny's house brings me. And I will never be able to argue with that.

As the great Dr. Meredith Grey once said:

"When we follow our hearts, when we choose not to settle, it's funny isn't it?  A weight lifts.  The sun shines a little brighter and for a brief moment at least, we find a little peace."

My Not-So-Chemical Romance

I often like to picture myself in the ocean.  Any ocean will do, but ideally, it's warm and the sun is shining on me as I float on my ba...