Hi you. Thanks for being here. Last week we went to the ER together. You already know that I end up back in the ER 11 days later. Before that however, I have more to tell you. If you're just joining me for the first time, I encourage you to start from the very beginning so that you can truly embrace my story.
After that visit to the emergency room I wasn't sure what was going to happen. I've said this before, but I have a hard time remembering all of the details during these distressed moments. Sarah has helped me through everything. I'm just not myself. I fear I may sound "crazy" here, but the super difficult times are like out of body experiences. It's so hard to imagine myself being in them, but then I am. After the fact I just feel so sad and disappointed. How could I be like that?
I finally realized that I needed to put everything else aside and get to a happier place. It's hard to put yourself first. We're all guilty of not doing it. We like helping others and we lose sight of our own needs. It's easy to do. This wasn't just about me though. I wanted to take care of myself so that Sarah and I could healthily navigate this through our marriage. We knew it wasn't going anywhere so our goal was to learn how to manage it together. No more thinking it would pass or that it was only temporary. This was not good and something needed to be done.
And, in order to take care of myself like I needed to, I had to make a very difficult decision. I had to quit my job at NC State, that I had just started in August of 2017. I didn't even make it a full semester there. Talk about feeling like a failure. BUT, I've learned to stop being so hard on myself. I am not a failure. I did what I had to do.
I felt that all of my colleagues at NC State knew something wasn’t right. I interpreted every look and lack of interaction as a sign that they were afraid to get to know me. It’s probably mostly false, but that’s one shitty part of mental illness--it makes you feel as if everything is your fault and you misinterpret a lot! I do not truly know how everyone felt. We barely knew each other. Aside from my interview, which went very well back in May of 2017, only a couple of them saw me teach. I received good feedback. Those that weren’t involved in the interview or my peer review knew very little. There was no time to get to know me or to see the good in me.
I was on a down-spiral at work. I tried so hard to do the job right. My confidence disappeared. I withdrew from social interactions. I couldn’t teach. I wasn’t getting out of bed. I wasn’t responding to student emails. The department chair at the time kept up email communications with me and even sent me student feedback from course evaluations. He was trying to tell me that I was doing a great job. My students said incredible things about me. It just wasn’t enough. I couldn’t function even if I wanted to.
No one ever said anything negative to me at work. I was supported in many ways. For that I thank the department in its entirety. I did try to seek accommodations through the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity, but I was denied. They didn’t feel they could accommodate what I was asking for. At that point I had to make a decision. It was a very difficult one, but I said goodbye to NC State. I contemplated the decision constantly. I lost sleep. I cried a lot. I told myself to "Get Over It" and "Suck It Up". There are plenty of people out there who believe that's an effective method in overcoming mental illness. Sorry to break it to you, but it doesn't work.
In the end it was the right thing to do. What kind of wellness professional would I be if I didn’t choose to take care of myself first? I just couldn’t let the students down anymore. They deserved the best and I wasn’t the best at the time.
I knew I’d never get that job back, but I was going to fight to get my life back. If you’re reading this, YOUR HEALTH ALWAYS COMES FIRST. It’s like being on an airplane--you put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others.
For a while after that I kept reliving the moment I found out I got the job. How the hell did I mess this up? How did I get back to this awful place? How could I put my wife through this?
Things would get worst before they got better...
I just want all people to learn and grow together.