Wow! Last evening, I logged into WordPress, my blog hosting site, where I have had my blog for 8 years, to continue this post on triggers, after an exhausting week–which compounded an extraordinarily tiring, exhilarating, crazy, engaging, and stressful first month of virtual teaching. WordPress had been warning that they were changing up their whole writing interface over the past few months, but had informed us that it would be “soon”. Well, sometime this past week it happened and so when I logged in last evening, I was rudely dumped into a whole new interface. After all of the adapting I have had to do this past month in the world of education–modifying everything, learning new tech skills and systems, and figuring out just how I am going to connect with my students–the idea of having to relearn something else was almost too much. I sent off a complaint to customer service and decided to try to write a quick post that was a rant about the new setup, while using the new format.
I had finished up this work week, this 4th week of teaching in a virtual classroom, and had finally carved out time to blog. I wanted to work on this post about triggers that I started 2 weeks ago and I was looking forward to sorting through this past month in a ‘known’ way, by blogging about it. Not finding my ‘go to’ spot waiting for me as I had left it last, left me feeling sad and frustrated–and I considered taking a break from blogging altogether.
However, after I saved the draft of my quick rant post in the new fangled way and checked out other blog/website hosting platforms (to see how cumbersome it would be to relocate and take my business elsewhere) I went to my WP Dashboard, very scared that I wouldn’t even be able to figure out how to find reader comments or my old posts. Luckily, I found that this tool had not changed and so I started to feel more confident. Then I found there was a ‘Classic Editor‘ tab which worked in exactly the old way and, needless to say, I was ecstatic to be able to go into this post on triggers and continue on as if nothing had happened!
Talk about triggering anxiety!!!
I’ve written about triggers before. The anxiety I feel before a mammogram or any major test now triggers memories of my first mammogram, which diagnosed breast cancer in December 2011. Memorial Day Weekend here in the US this year, triggered memories of all of those great Memorial Days at the Cottage–and missing that touchstone in my life desperately. While virtually starting a new school year a month ago, triggered a lot of memories in my past of starting new teaching experiences–and those first couple of weeks were triggering the positive memories of back to school.
In the midst of this whole back to school experience, however, there have been a heck of a lot of triggers impacting my world and not all of them are the positive kind. A month ago, one of our dogs, our little girl Zora Belle, had a really bad weekend. We drove in to Michigan to celebrate my dad’s 80th birthday and she experienced serious balance issues where she was circling around, stumbling, struggling with stairs and floors, and tilting her head distinctly to her right side. Her eyes would also dart back and forth. Needless to say, both my husband and I were experiencing flashbacks to 6 years ago when we were coping with our first baby girl Zoey’s struggle with a brain tumor. Turns out Zora was most likely experiencing Old Age Syndrome or Vestibular Disease. Not sure of the cause, however, and it could be a number of things (one of them being a tumor), but for now we are focused on getting her as ‘better’ as we can, without breaking the bank in testing (MRI’s are not cheap which we found out with Zoey, so we are skipping that option for now).
Our vet gave us some antibiotics in case symptoms were caused by an ear infection, suggested Dramamine for the motion issues, and tweaked her Carprovet (which we have been giving her for the inflammation and pain of arthritis). Each day for the first 3 weeks, she gradually improved, but it was pretty intense there for me, with being home all day for work and being her first line of caregiving. Living in a condo on the 3rd floor of our walk up building has also resulted in plenty of extra challenges with caregiving! Then 10 or so days ago, we tried to add Gabapentin to Zora’s regimen and that set off a couple of days of nausea, which then turned into diarrhea. Considering she has never had GI issues in the 5 years she has been with us, this was truly stressful. And then Bleu decided he didn’t want to be left out, and joined in with his own upset stomach issues by last Friday. Needless to say, last weekend was one of the most difficult in regards to canine caregiving that we have been through in 5 or 6 years!
The good news is that they have both been on the mend all week and they are almost completely back to their old food consumption routines without incident.
Work, on the other hand, is triggering a special kind of anxiety and stress in my life, which is most unfortunate. It also brings back a very distinct memory.
10 years ago, I was teaching regular US History, as well as my first ever AP US History course and loving my students in New Orleans. They were great and except for a few issues here and there, I felt that I was really well-aligned with them. I got them, they got me and we were doing many interesting things in my classroom. Unfortunately, there is a popular belief in education that a ‘turn-around’ school, where staff are pushed out so that new staff can be inserted, is a good thing. Districts like Chicago did it to a number of schools from 2008-2012 (until the 2012 Strike, actually) and many charter schools adopted the concept themselves as common practice. New administrations also like to push out current staff members so that they can bring in their own people. That was what was happening with a new administration at that school in NOLA. While I was connecting well with the kids and able to get through to them with my passion for history, I was being micromanaged by this administration in frustrating ways for a teacher with over 10 years of teaching experience and being evaluated in a way designed to push me out. Seriously, at one point, after they had pushed the AP Chemistry teacher (who had 20+ years of experience and a presidential teaching award) out, her position and mine were posted on Craig’s List.
I survived that administration, who was ousted in January by the charter school’s board, and the rest of the school year with the interim administration, but the interim administration ended up not renewing my contract for the following year. The whole year had this stress attached that was most unfortunate and was very isolating. It also resulted in my drinking a little too much and gaining that extra weight someone at my height and age shouldn’t have been gaining. Those factors, I am sure, were a couple of the contributing triggers in my breast cancer diagnosis in December 2011. A side note: a number of those students of mine actually tried to boycott my replacement’s class the following year. Yes, I connected with my students.
I’m not quite there yet this year, but the micromanagement has begun by administration–at the same time I seem to be building connections and community with my students despite our virtual classroom reality. There are some differences, however. I’m not isolated like I was in NOLA, which is huge, and even though I no longer have tenure in a district that credits me at 14 years of experience (thanks to giving it up when I moved to NOLA), I am a member of the teachers union and have their support. I have sworn off sugars, alcohol, and too much processed foods until December. I have had this blog for 8 years and despite last night’s hiccup, it is a very therapeutic experience. I have also landed on my feet after similarly experiencing lack of support from a number of administrations a few times now.
I could write about how October and it being ‘Breast Cancer Awareness Month’ is also triggering its fair share of heightened awareness, but I’ll ruminate on that topic later on. I could also talk about the flashbacks to 2016 I’ve experienced the past couple of weeks with the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg or after watching the Presidential Debate on Tuesday night, but I’ll pass for now.
Instead, I’m going to go walk the dogs on this chilly fall day.
Whoops, one more thing. Did anyone catch Mars to the left of the full harvest moon last night? I did when I walked the dogs and it was really cool! I thought I was seeing things or it was some kind of special satellite. Apparently, it hasn’t been visible like that since 2003!
One of your students from that AP class , my son Joe-Remembers you and really
appreciated you. Me too, as a
fellow teacher ousted by interim administration, I get it. Learning to identify the triggers is serious work. Awareness and acknowledgment are steps to helping me deal with multiple life experiences that will never completely go away. Death of parents, natural disasters, losing a job that meant something…. Great post my friend, stay strong!
Thank you, Birthday Twin! Definitely trying to stay strong. Glad Joe was in that first AP class I taught–and passed the exam! 🙂 I hope you are staying well in all of this craziness!
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Glad your babies are doing better! That must’ve been a really tough time! Also glad you are persevering with all this virtual teaching and even handling changes in old friendly programs. Triggers can definitely be scary things! Hang in there kiddo! You’re doing a good job!
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JoAnn, I almost had an anxiety attack reading your post!!! I am so tired of the word, “ unprecedented,” but it seems like a better word than the bad words I have been using…micromanaging districts, trying not to follow agreements that were negotiated with union over the summer, and just so much shit piled up! Then RBG dies…I have not given up sugar , alcohol, or processed food! But we will survive!!! Like your fur babies!! Thanks for the post!
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Thanks, Kel! You help keep me sane in all of this nonsense! Being able to emote using through this blog definitely helps–but it is the support I get from others, like you, that I totally need! I may have to do some indulging next weekend, though!!! So looking forward to a 3 day weekend! Sorry my post didn’t help your anxiety, though!!!! Glad you are still hanging in there! Sending hugs!
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