Breaking the cycle

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My soul and my heart have been CRAVING to write a blog entry…my brain on the other hand, has been getting in the way.  Every time I sit down to begin writing, I just feel so overwhelmed.

Ironically, leading up to the one year “anniversary” (can’t there be a different word for acknowledging a date that is bad???!!) of my ex-boyfriend being put into a coma, I was doing pretty okay.  March 15th loomed, but I felt like I was in a good place.  I decided rather than allowing myself to wallow in nostalgia, that I instead would try remind myself of how far I had come during the past 365 days.  And I really have come so far.  I currently have virtually no contact with him.  Even better, since my father has been released from the hospital, he has maintained sobriety.  It is crazy to think that I have no active alcoholics in my day to day life, and although I know that can change when it comes to my dad, I am enjoying it while I can.

I am also so in love.  It is still really hard for me to write about him…I don’t feel ready to share him with the “virtual world”, especially since our relationship is pretty private in “real life”.  I know as time goes on, I will write about him more and more, but for now all I can say is he is absolutely wonderful and treats me so amazingly well.  I am so happy with him being a part of my life.  I was fully prepared to be single for a very, very long time after going through what I did with my ex, but I guess it is true what people say about finding love when you are not looking for it and least expect it.

What did make March 15th a sad day for me was knowing how much my ex is still suffering and struggling.  After everything he went through, he is still not doing well.  I last heard from him a couple of months ago via text and he is dealing with a lot of mental health issues, as well as continuing to drink.  I honestly can say I do not feel any responsibility for him at all, but that does not mean I do not want him to be okay.  I will always worry about him and I truly want the best for him.  Looking back, his hospitalization, infidelity and alcoholism was the hardest thing I have ever had to go through, but the fact of the matter is that I did get through it.  I did and finally broke the cycle of codependency in my life.  I won’t turn out like my mother and although it took me eight years to do it, I am proud of myself that I did.

So, things were pretty calm…and then this virus and quarantine happened.  Luckily, everyone I know is healthy, which I am so thankful for considering my sister is twelve weeks pregnant and my father’s health is very compromised.  The high school school where I work has shut down for two weeks (and I assume it will end up being longer), and I am doing distance teaching with my 11th grade English students.  It has only been a couple of days, but so far so good.  I am trying to be very optimistic for them, because this is such a scary time for all of us.  I worry that being quarantined and not really being able to go anywhere is going to trigger an agoraphobic episode for me, especially living alone.  I am trying to be proactive by staying busy around the house, walking, and doing schoolwork.  The only place I go is my sister’s house, which is two miles away.  This makes me feel like kind of a bad person in a way, but I am so relieved not to be stuck in the house with my ex-boyfriend during this time.  It is hard at times being alone, but I cannot imagine how stressful it would have been still living with him, confined to the house, with him drinking and behaving the way he was.

This is just so unprecedented and frightening, I keep thinking I am going to wake up tomorrow and will be able to go back to school and teach like normal. I am just going to do what everyone else is doing and take things as they come.  It is not easy to live that way when you struggle with an anxiety disorder, but this is a good lesson for me about not being able to control everything.  In fact, I think that is what this year taught me the most…that no matter how hard I try, most things are out of my control.

The girl…

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I came across a website recently, http://www.lisaoliveratherapy.com, and I have found it to be SO inspirational.  She is a therapist who writes so elegantly, but also her messages are so relatable.  I am still having a very difficult time “letting go”, not only of my exboyfriend, but also of the entire traumatic experience I went through with him.

In this blog, she writes about how we sometimes identity with our hurt to the point where we “become” it and begin to over-identify with it.  I definitely have a tendency to do this.  During my childhood and teenage years, I was the “girl with the crazy abusive alcoholic father”.  I started having problems with anxiety when I was in my 20s (which I am still dealing with) and I took on the identity of the “girl with anxiety who couldn’t get on a plane or drive far”.  After my marriage ended at age 31, I became the “girl who went through a terrible divorced’.  And now I have become the “girl whose sat at the bedside of her alcoholic boyfriend of eight years while he was in a coma for 17 days, even after she found out he was lying and cheating on her, and even though she saved his life, his parents still treated her as a scapegoat.”

I go down these rabbit holes where I become the tragedy…it defines my life, my identity, my day to day routine.  I have an obsessive tendency and I must have said, “I don’t understand why his parents treated me the way they did” like 2,000 times over the past six months. It is like I can’t get over it…I don’t know HOW to get over it and there’s a weird tiny part of me that doesn’t want to get over it.  I am not saying that I like to feel like a victim, I truly don’t, but I desperately want some kind of acknowledgment from his parents for the sacrifices I made for their son.  My friends advise me that I need to let it go, that not every situation ends with closure and I know they are right.  My exboyfriend tells me all the time that he knows how much I did for him (and the fact that we are still in contact will be the subject of my next blog…still really struggling with enforcing boundaries), but I feel like I deserve more.

Unbeknownst to me, he contacted his parents and told them that the rift between them and me was negatively affecting his recovery and he threatened to cease contact with them if they did not try to rectify things with me.  This is the complete opposite of what I want and I was very upset when he told me this.  But of course, I got an email from his father a couple of days later saying that he told them I think they hate me and they don’t and they also don’t “hold a grudge against me” (what the actual fuck? what possible grudge could they even HAVE against me????).  His dad proceeded to write that all they care about is their son’s recovery and that the day he walked into the ICU and saw him in the coma was the worst day of his life.  All the email did was make me more angry.  There was no mention of me at all (and I do truly understand all they care about is him, but COME ON…throw me a bone).  Does his father think it wasn’t the worst day of my life?? At first, they were not even going to travel to come here and then it took them two days to get to the hospital.

I know for myself that I have to find a way to stop making my whole life and identity about this and him.  I am preventing myself from moving on, but there is something safe about that…like that expression, “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t”.  I am terrified about dating or meeting someone new.  I cannot imagine being in a relationship with anyone but him.  And if I am honest with myself (which is why I started this blog), part of me feels unlovable and fears no one else will want me.  I feel so broken, so damaged.  On the surface, I look like I have it all together, but inside I am a freaking mess.  Who would want that? And even if I found someone, how will I ever trust them? I am holding on to all of this because I am scared to move on and as long as I can wrap myself in trauma and continue identifying as “the girl”…, no one else can hurt me.

un(girl)friended

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So much has happened, it almost seems like a blur…I almost need a calendar or timeline to remember what happened when.

February 28- my boyfriend was fired and started drinking more heavily

March 15- he was admitted to the ER and then transferred to ICU and put into a medically induced coma with a breathing tube and ventilator (on life support) due to withdrawal from alcohol…that same night, I discovered he had been cheating on me

March 16- I moved his belongings out of my house into a storage unit, so he had no alternative besides going to rehab…from this day on I stayed at the hospital every single day (taking FMLA at work)

April 12- he was discharged from the hospital after 28 days (17 of them in the coma) while he was there, he contracted pneumonia and c.Diff and his kidneys were almost shut down

April 13- he left to go south with his parents, rather than rehab

April 25- he returned and rented an apartment a mile and a half from my house and the first night back, our dog died

May 2- I rushed him back to the ER, where he was diagnosed with c.Diff again and was admitted to the hospital for 20 days

June 18- we got into an argument via text and I told him to not contact me anymore

June 27- I found out that he had relapsed badly and was sent to a rehab in CA on June 21…no one told me

July 2- he called me from the rehab center and explained that he had spent the first week at a detox center…he gave me the name and address so I could send him cards…that night I googled the rehab and found out it was a horrible place, with no medical doctors or therapist, and immediately emailed my concerns to his family…his sister wrote me back that I was crazy and to leave their family alone

July 3- his father called me at night to say they were “getting him out of that place”…that he had called and told his parents all of the information I had corroborated in my email

July 4- he returned to his parents house

July 17- he came back to his apartment…I had previously told him that if he did not have a solid sobriety plan, then I was not going to be able to offer my support and that I needed space. He landed at 4 pm and within an hour and a half, a neighbor called to say she saw him driving back and forth on the main road by my house

I have had SUCH a hard time disconnecting from him.  I have not been able to completely let go.  Him not getting real help for his alcoholism and relapsing so quickly makes it easier for me to not talk to him.  I also have had more of a chance to express to him my anger about his communication with the other woman, which I am still rightfully mad about.  My sister and friends were REALLY concerned about him “stalking” me, whereas I think it is harmless and he was feeling nostalgic.  We haven’t spoken at all since he came home.  My best friend’s sister’s best friend was just murdered by her husband and so she was very upset about him being around my house.

I just feel like nothing has changed.  It is a repeat of before…hospital/detox, go to his parents’ house for two weeks and return with no plan.  He has no dog, no best friend (he moved to another state), no me, no job, no other friends.  What is going to stop him from drinking again???  I know I cannot control him, but it is really hard to detach and not worry.  I want to get to a place where I can care about him, but not have it affect my everyday life.  My cousin has struggled with sobriety her whole life and I spoke with her and she made me understand more…she said that NOTHING stopped her from doing drugs- not losing her job or her kids or her money or her marriage.  I truly think I understand now that I cannot save him.  My loving him and supporting him is enabling him and doing more harm than good for both of us.  I took a major step today and defriended him on Facebook, which seems petty, but it was still a way to stay connected.  I am getting the courage to also delete him off of Instagram.  I know I need a clean break, but this whole thing has been so messy and damaging and emotional and heartbreaking.

I think I need to find a way to start forgiving him.  Not even for him, but for myself.

Need vs. Want

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I have always had a hard time putting my own needs first and I am also too much of a people pleaser.  When my exboyfriend left a little over a week ago to stay with his parents, I was so devastated to say goodbye, but I have to admit that I felt a little relief.  Relief that the ordeal in the hospital was over and relief that I no longer had to live with an alcoholic.  Once he was gone, I thought that I would be able to start dealing with everything that happened- the endless hours in the hospital, fearing he would die, learning about another woman, adjusting to living alone again.  Yet, once he was gone, I continued talking and texting with him.  Part of it was that I missed him.  Even though things were not good with us for a while and his alcoholism had taken over, I still truly loved him and we were together for almost nine years.  But the other part of it was that I felt a sense of responsibility for him and I was invested in his health and his recovery process.  Looking back on it, I probably should have cut off or limited our communication when he left.  I realize now that all I was doing was continuing to dwell in the trauma of what happened.  As long as I focused on him, I did not have to address my own feelings of sadness and anger and loneliness. I assumed as long as he was 750 miles away, it was “safe” to continue talking to him.

He just told me a couple of days ago that he is already coming back this week and rented an apartment about two miles from my house.  I am anxious about this for so many different reasons.  Obviously, I feel like he made this decision with me in mind.  I have not given him any false hope that we will be together again.  In fact, I have expressed my concerns that he hasn’t done anything related to recovery since he left the hospital and it is too soon for him to come back and to live alone.  I am nervous and paranoid that I am going to run into him every time I leave my house.  That is not a comfortable feeling for someone who suffers from anxiety.

I thought about it overnight and called him back and told him that we need to stop communicating.  He needs to focus on himself and I need to start focusing on myself and dealing with everything that happened.  The key word is “need”.  I keep trying to make him understand that this is what I truly NEED.  Of course I WANT to support him and help him and be there for him and even spend time with him…but I know if that happens, I will get sucked back into his problems and continue to enable him.  He basically told me that he understands what I am telling him, but that he doesn’t know if he can not speak to me or have me be a part of his life.  I realized I have to be much more firm and told him that if he does not give me the space I NEED, that I will end up resenting him.  The more he tries to force and push himself into my life, the more I feel scared and anxious. He just does not seem to be accepting the fact that our relationship is over.  It is not what I wanted…I never wanted ANY of this.  But I know, without a doubt, that I have to put myself first and that I am not ready to forgive him for the way he hurt me and affected our relationship.  I cannot revolve my life around his recovery journey.  Our relationship has been about him for so long.  I just need space and time to figure things out for myself and work through everything that happened.  I just wish I didn’t have to do that with him living down the street.

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Loving and letting go

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Throughout this past month, I kept updating my opinion on what was the “hardest part”.  First it was when you were in the coma, then it was when I found those text messages, then it was all the medical complications, then it was the week you woke up and struggled with sedation, then it was the day I had to tell you I knew the truth and our relationship was over, then it was the days afterward when I did not hear from you or see you.  But now that it is “over”, I know without a doubt the past 24 hours were the hardest part.

I knew when you were discharged from the hospital you would be coming to the house, both to see the dog and to get your belongings I packed for you.  I was so anxious…I had no idea what was going to happen.  You could have literally picked everything up and left in ten minutes.  The minute you walked in the door, all my anxiety melted away.  You looked so feeble and weak, moving so slowly.  You hugged me and my face pressed against your neck, just like it did the other day, except this time it was your skin and not your central line I felt.  All I wanted was to be with you and take care of you.  I know those feelings were supposed to be “wrong”, but throughout this whole nightmare, I have followed my heart with no regrets.  I knew you needed me more than I needed to be angry with you.  I can say it is the first time in my life that I know I had to be and was completely selfless.  Nothing mattered more than you surviving and getting better.

You staying overnight just felt natural.  I thought it would be awkward, but it wasn’t.  Even though it was maybe not the smartest move in the world for us, it just felt right.  I think we held each other more in 24 hours than we did in the entire previous year.  We have both always wanted our space in bed when sleeping, but I don’t think there was a time the entire night that we didn’t touch each other.  It was not sexual at all, it was just so comforting.  I woke up before you and just stared at your face.  I wanted to memorize every single thing, to burn the image into my brain.  I have always loved your nose and the shape of your lips.  My favorite part of your face is under you eyes by the bridge of your nose.

My heart sank when your parents arrived an hour early- I felt robbed of 60 more minutes of being with you, of us being together.  That last hour was so rushed.  I made sure to take some time to take the dog into the other room alone so I could say goodbye to her.  Every time I walk into the house now, it feels so weird to not have her there by the door.  I kept thinking today I needed to run home to let her out and then would remember with a sinking heart that she was no longer there.  I don’t know how I managed to say goodbye to you without collapsing.  I had to lie on the bed after I came back inside the house.  Your car was still in front of the house.  My tears were silent so I could hear the exact moment you drove away.  It reminded me of when we were dating long distance and you would leave at the end of the weekend and I would feel my heart sink knowing I would not see you for a full week.  This was that times one million.

I am aware of the fact that I am mourning our relationship and focusing only on the things I will miss.  I will miss you so much.  I start to feel normal, forget for one split second, and then it is like a wave washes over me and I remember you are gone.  Really, really gone.  I realize right now that I am only thinking about the good parts of our relationship and the fact that you are a truly a good person with a very bad problem. I know that I am going to have to go through all the different emotions at some point.  I deserve to feel the anger about your betrayal.  There’s a part of me that is relieved that my life will not be affected every day by your drinking.  I wish I had a crystal ball to see into the future- to see if you are going to be sober, to find out if you will be a part of my life again.  However, I know with complete certainty that I love you, and yet I also know with equal confidence that I had to let you go.  For you and for me.

I haven’t even begun to process the trauma, the hurt, the heartbreak, the loss from this past month.  I tried to stay busy all day so I didn’t think about how every minute, you were another mile farther away.  We talked on the phone and at the end of the conversation you said “I love you” and I said “I love you, too”.  It did not feel like simply habit, although we always said that when we hung up the phone.  I know the love we have for each other is genuine and I am not going to deny my feelings for you because of the negative things that have happened.  I just know that love is not enough and some things are just not meant to be.  I am letting you go because this is a journey you have to take yourself and I need to carve a new path for myself, too.  I spend too much time wishing that none of this ever happened and torturing myself about what I could have done differently.  But deep down, I knew that my love would never be enough and that you have to learn to love yourself first.  And I have to start putting myself first and that begins with letting you go.

keep f**king going…

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I am here, my love.  I am sitting next to you as you lie motionless in your hospital bed.  Tomorrow will officially be two weeks that you have been in a medically induced coma on a breathing tube.  I keep thinking to myself, “but we were supposed to go to the mall and get dinner.”  You always hear about people’s lives changing overnight, you just never expect it to happen to you.  I am listening to the steady breathing coming from your lungs, but I know it is a machine doing the work for you.  I am wearing a plastic gown that has become a part of my daily wardrobe.  The sounds of the ICU has become just background noise.  The first few days I would jump every time an alarm went off.  Now, I can identify which IV drip is running low and I know medical terms that are 15 letters long (and can pronounce them).  I have a newfound respect for nurses, who have treated your body with such respect and have treated my broken heart with such kindness.

An hour ago, you opened your eyes, staring at nothing.  I tried to make eye contact, but you are so sedated, I doubt you are seeing anything.  I put on a latex glove and held your hand.  I asked you to squeeze it and you did.  But like a baby who smiles when they have gas, I wonder if it was just a reflex or if you could really feel me touching you.  I hate not being able to touch your skin without plastic between us.

I miss you so much, but you are right here.  I go through so many emotions every day, I feel like a crazy person sometimes.  When I am home, I feel guilty that I am not with you.  When I leave the hospital, I feel guilty to feel relief.  Why do I feel so much guilt? I didn’t do anything wrong.  I have always tried not to play the victim card when it came to my dad’s alcoholism, but I was a victim of it, just like I was a victim of yours.  I have to take responsibility, though, because I didn’t have a choice with my father.  I did have a choice when it came to you.  But, honestly, given another chance, I would still choose you.  You were worth the risk.  I saw all the good in you…so much good.  People always say they have no regrets and wouldn’t change things in their lives because they learned from mistakes.  I have regrets- I regret marrying my exhusband…I would have preferred to miss those hard lessons.  I will never regret you, though, my love.

I tried to pour my heart out to your mother.  I’m sure you can guess how that went.  One thing I tried to explain to her is that when all of this is over, she will still have you as her son.  When this is all over, I lose you.  I will have to start picking up the pieces and find a new life for myself.  I know it is the right thing to do, though.  We could not have continued living the way we were.  Well, I couldn’t.  I just would not be able to see you do this to yourself again.  Please don’t let this be in vain.  I wish I believed in god so I could pray for you to survive, to get better, to get sober, to be happy.  Other people who are religious are praying for you- that makes me grateful.  I have asked my Mama for help.  I talk to her and ask her to watch over you and to protect you.  She was the toughest woman I know, but she had the biggest heart.  She would say to you, “oh phooey- you wake up and get off those machines!”.

I wonder how long it will be before I stop loving you?  Maybe never.  Maybe it will just be a part of who I am.  Right now it is hard to be angry with you for your lies and your betrayal because you look so weak, so helpless.  But it’s not fair- I have a right to be angry with you.  It has to wait.  I feel like all I have been doing for the past two weeks is waiting (and you know I am not the most patient person).  But I need to see this through- for you and for myself.  Jess bought me a bangle bracelet as a gift that is just silver on the outside but on the inside it says, “keep fucking going…” And that is what I am going to do.

Love you more.

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I love my boyfriend.  I can’t imagine life without him.  But I will have to because I just broke up with him.  I love the movie, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and there’s a scene where Kristen Bell is explaining to her ex why she ended things and she says, “Oh, I tried. You have no idea how hard I tried. I talked to a therapist, I talked to my mother, I read every book possible…None of it worked. None of it made a difference to you and I couldn’t drown in you anymore.”  That’s how I feel.  My boyfriend’s problem with alcohol was drowning me.  I was nervous to come home from work at 2:45 in the afternoon because I knew he would most likely be sleeping or drunk.  For SO long, I justified his behavior by telling myself, “he isn’t mean.”  That became my only criteria.  My dad is a VERY mean drunk.  My exhusband was a mean person.  My boyfriend is not mean- sober or drunk.  But that doesn’t make living with him any easier and it doesn’t make his alcoholism any more tolerable.  What finally broke me was the lying.  The constant lies about not drinking, when all I ever asked of him was to be honest.  If he drank and told me the truth, I would not get mad or reprimand him- I would talk to him about what made him do it and why he did.  I don’t understand why he just. kept. lying.  I found bottles of half empty vodka in his car, crumpled bags from the liquor store in his filing cabinet and he so, so often smelled of alcohol, but would deny drinking.

I love my boyfriend.  Right now (and probably our whole eight years together), I loved him more than he loved himself.  He has a very low self-worth, which is probably part of the reason he drinks.  I wish he could see himself the way I see him.  If I made a pro/con list about him, there would be two pages of “pros”.  But under “cons”, in thick Sharpie marker, would simply be the word “alcoholic”.  And all the positive qualities in the world cannot cancel out an addition.  I love him so much that I cannot stand to watch him self-destruct before my eyes.  He sinks lower and lower and I feel like he is quicksand and I only have a short window to step out of it before I get sucked down forever.  I love him, but I love myself, too.  I had no choice in who my father was- I had to live with an abusive alcoholic for my childhood and teenage years.  I am an adult now and I do have a choice in this.

I love my boyfriend, but I honestly can say that I have done everything I can to support him in his desire for sobriety.  I have made sacrifices and protected him and probably enabled him, too.  I have felt like his caretaker for so long, I don’t even feel like a girlfriend.  I feel so alone, so often.  I thought because he wanted to change, he would.  And I truly believe he doesn’t want to be the way he is, but I also know that he cannot stop on his own and he refuses to get the help he needs.

I love my boyfriend, but there isn’t enough love in the world to love him out of this addiction.  He will have to learn to love himself first and I am scared for what is going to happen to him.  I feel responsible for him, but I also know I cannot change him.  I have always still loved my father, but it’s never been enough.

I love my boyfriend and I am heartbroken and we are living together still and it is awful and awkward and depressing and I get a stomachache every day and my anxiety is off the charts and he is angry and drinking more and I just need it all to stop.  And the only way I can do that is to stay committed to making him my ex-boyfriend.

From Meh to Ugh.

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I have been hanging on by a thread in my relationship.  Our dog has been very sick and I think her time left is limited.  She was originally my boyfriend’s dog and she was four years old when we got together.  She was eight years old when they moved in with me and she’s twelve now.  My boyfriend has been a complete mess over it, which I understand because I have two cats that are the loves of my life and obviously I feel like the dog is mine as well (I have been her mom for eight years).  My boyfriend has been using her illness as an excuse to drink more…because, you know, alcoholics look for ANY excuse to drink.  In the back of my mind, I have been biding my time and plotting that once she is gone (my heart hurts to write that) and some time has passed to let him mourn, I was going to ask him to move out.  I just can’t live with him anymore if he is going to continue to drink.  He has been working on himself and going to a therapist and a meeting a week, but it isn’t fixing the problem.  I love him, but not enough to continue sacrificing my happiness.  But, I decided to be patient and wait for the right time.

And then he got fired yesterday.  Fuck.  Me.

Now I feel really trapped and I don’t know what is going to happen.  I suppose miracles happen and he might actually use this time to work on himself, his health, his problems and our relationship.  I don’t expect him to turn things around overnight and I am still willing to be patient, because I truly do care about his well-being.  However, if he spirals downwards and drinks more and sleeps more, I think I need to set a time and then give him an ultimatum of rehab or moving out (pretty much being certain he will not choose to go to rehab).

I don’t mean to make this about me, but well, I guess this blog IS about me…I understand he is going through a hard time with the dog and I have heard from other people how traumatic it is to be fired and I have anxiety, so I know him having depression is not his fault.  He truly is such a good person, but I am not sure how much longer I can wait for him to be a good person for ME.

 

Meh.

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We had parent conferences at my high school last night.  Of the parents who came, there was a common reason as to why all of their children are failing my class: apathy.  Unfortunately, I have a lot of students who just don’t care about their grades.  Ten or fifteen years ago, if a student did not complete an assignment, there would be begging, pleading, tears, etc. for them to make it up.  Now, even in my honors classes, if a student gets a zero, they have little to no reaction.  They just accept it.  They do not seem to care.  Luckily, most of my students really do want to do well, but it is a recurring problem I have experienced and it is increasing each year.

I am experiencing a form of this in my own life right now when it comes to my relationship.  My therapist mentioned it a few weeks ago as an observation.  She said that I am in a “state of apathy” and I have thought about it a lot since then.  And I agree.  When I was getting divorced, I cried and cried and cried.  I cried until I literally could not cry anymore.  I was pure emotion and very little logic.  I lived in fear, uncertainty, sadness.

My boyfriend has been struggling with work, his alcoholism, his depression and it has been affecting our relationship and me more than I have really been willing to admit.  It is really hard to watch the person you love just self-destruct.  I feel helpless and oftentimes I feel like his caretaker, not his girlfriend.  I feel like because I don’t know what to do (even though deep down I know what I need to do), I have just gotten to a place where I feel like I don’t care.  He sleeps all day…whatever.  He drinks…I just leave the room and watch tv by myself.  I don’t cry, I don’t even really get mad anymore.  I just feel…nothing a lot of the time.  I don’t know if it is a self-defense mechanism to help me cope with it or if my feelings have truly changed.  Naively, like most other people, I keep  thinking (hoping, waiting) that things will get better.  But it has literally been years and I think I have sort of given up.

I don’t know what’s worse, being upset all the time or just putting a wall around my heart to not feel anything?

I am a teacher.

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When I started my teaching career 18 years ago, I knew that I would have a lot of different roles at my high school.  I have been a therapist, a cheerleader, a confidant, a maternal figure, a nurse, a role model, a disciplinarian, a mediator, a comedian…the list goes on and on.  I knew that being a teacher was going to involve more than just teaching.  I knew there would be amazing days, when lessons went perfectly and students were well-behaved and sweet and engaged.  I quickly learned there would be really hard days, where students were bored and disrespectful and rude.  After almost two decades, I can take the good with the bad.  I still love this job and can’t imagine doing anything else.

When I started teaching, it was only a few years after Columbine, which hit home for me because I lived in Littleton, CO at one point when I was young.  At the time, it seemed like that was the worst possible scenario that I could imagine happening in a public school.  I also naively believed it was a one time tragedy.  Obviously, sadly, I was very wrong about that.

For most of my career, I had to sit through (usually boring) teacher staff development seminars on standardized testing and curriculum standards.  But now we do active shooter training.  I should be learning about differentiated instruction methods or how to implement new technology into my lessons.  Instead, I am learning how to barricade my classroom door and what warning signs of violent behavior to watch out for in my students.

I’m sure this sounds immature, but it just isn’t fair.  Teachers and students should not have to feel scared in school.  Anytime I go to a different room in my school, I mentally plan an exit strategy.  When I have cafe duty, I run through the scenarios in my mind of where I can hide the students if they are in danger.  When I hear the “beep beep beep” of the loud speaker turn on, my body stiffens with instant anxiety, waiting for an announcement about a lockdown and when I hear the secretary page a teacher to the office, I feel a wave of relief.  I read about the teachers who died shielding their students and I wonder if I would have the courage to protect mine.  I have nightmares about one of my students exacting revenge because of my disciplining them or reporting them for cutting my class.  I scrutinize my students for any signs of bullying, loneliness, exclusion, depression, drug abuse, anxiety, etc.

There is not one single day that passes that I do not think about a school shooting at some point.  Unfortunately, this is the new reality of being a teacher in this country.