Being a high school teacher is so surreal sometimes. I have been teaching for 23 years. I started when I was 21 years old and have taught in a high school for the majority of my career. So, essentially what has happened is that every year I get a year older and my students stay the same age. The gap in years between us grows each year. Being 25 with a group of 16 year olds is much different than being 45 with them.
However, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The music, the pop culture references, the slang terms change, but a 16 year old is a 16 year old. The problems and issues and pressures and heartbreaks that I experienced in the 90s prepared me to deal with what my students are dealing with in 2023.
For example, last night I helped throw a Junior Prom for my school. I teach all 11th graders, so many of them were attending the dance. Prom + Teenagers = Inevitable Drama. One of my girls was crying in class yesterday during the school day and we stepped into the hall to talk privately. She had gotten into a fight with her boyfriend and did not know if she should still go to the prom with him. I gave her the best advice I could. I was relieved to see her check in hours later at the venue, beautiful dressed and wearing a smile, arms linked with her boyfriend.
I’m not sure what makes someone qualified to give advice to teenagers. Working with young adults for over two decades has given me a lot of experience, but I often think that simply surviving my own high school years is what makes me more of an expert than anything.
I think about my own proms I attended and the memories have obviously faded quite a bit. Teenagers now document every moment of their lives with their phones and social media. They have endless photos of their experiences. I have a few photos from my proms that were taken on a camera and developed (lol, I feel SO old). I can remember which color dress I wore and who my date was, but the minute details are long forgotten.
After all the work of planning the prom, my favorite part of the night is the moment I walk into the room, lights flashing and DJ music blaring, and just see kids grouped together dancing and smiling and jumping around and having a great time. It makes me happy to think I had something to do with creating an experience that is special for them and that maybe when they are 45 years old, they will look back and remember they had a great night.
Like most teachers, I tend to kick off my summer with ambition plans. THIS summer was finally going to be the one where I focused on my health and practiced self-care. I was going to make myself a little daily plan that included hitting the gym and eating well. I was going to read a ton and walk a lot and go in my pool and see my friends for lunch and do some small house updates, etc.
Well, to say that things did not go as planned would literally be the understatement of the freaking century. I am not a person who does well without routine and since I didn’t have a job to wake up for (or kids to take care of or really any other responsibilities besides feeding my cats), I ended up lounging around a lot. And then that turned into staying home more. And then THAT turned into me getting more anxious when I DID have to go somewhere. Only a few weeks into my “relaxing, self-care, healthy me! summer” and I told my therapist that I thought I needed to go back on an antidepressant. This was not a shock to either of us because my issues with agoraphobia started to spiral out of control in the spring, after two years of covid giving me a completely valid excuse to not have to go anywhere. I guess I convinced myself that I was going to use my summer off to work on getting better and expand my comfort zone, but then the opposite happened.
I went to my doctor and she prescribed me Prozac. I have taken a few different medications over the past two decades, so I was open to trying something new. I have a lot of medication anxiety (which is the literal definition of irony when you need medication because of having anxiety). But I knew that I needed to go on something and I accepted that. The first couple of days were fine. I had a little dry mouth and lost my appetite completely. I can definitely afford to lose some weight, so this side effect wasn’t a deal breaker.
After only being on the medication for a week, my sister left on a four day vacation with her family that was about a five to six hour car ride away from the town we both live in. I was anxious about her leaving. She has always been my “person” (or if you are a Friends fan…my “lobster”), so I was uncomfortable about her being so far away, but I tried not to burden her with my fears because I was happy she was taking a well deserved vacation with my nieces and brother-in-law.
She left and I COMPLETELY LOST MY SHIT. I honestly don’t even know what happened. I have had panic attacks obviously, but they usually hit and then subside. I have had lingering anxiety, but even that eventually has a period of relief. I had what felt like panic attacks 24 hours a day the whole time she was gone. I have never experienced anything like it. I completely shut down and wouldn’t talk to anyone. I could not get off my couch. There were times I wanted the blanket off my legs and I couldn’t do it- I couldn’t muster the energy to peel the blanket off of myself. I didn’t eat, hardly drank water, and just felt like I was having heart palpitations. I obsessively thought about needing to go to a mental institution or the hospital. I desperately wanted her to come home. No one else could soothe me at all, not for lack of trying. I felt like I was crawling out of my own skin and I was terrified about what was happening to me.
I called my doctor, who told me to stop the Prozac. I somehow survived the weekend and my sister came home. I thought that as soon as she was home, I would immediately feel better. I didn’t. It’s been another week now and I am just starting to feel a little better. I still am having SO much anxiety and am taking Xanax several times a day. I have had a bunch of extra appointments with my psychologist. I even went back to the doctor and unfortunately, my primary care physician was on vacation and I saw another doctor, who told me to (and I literally quote) “bake a cake for your sister and read The Secret” and then she patted my arm and said, “you feel better, right? Ok good”.
I desperately tried to find a new psychiatrist and it was SO hard. It really made me realize how messed up our mental health care system is. And I am privileged enough to have health insurance and the internet and the ability to make phone calls. My appointment isn’t until Tuesday and I am just trying to make it through each day until then.
I don’t know if it was a negative reaction to the medication or just complete fear of being without my sister, but I was genuinely so scared and it was one of the worst experiences of my life. I still do not feel right. I am still so anxious. It is not completely crippling like it was last week, but it is there- steady and festering. I am scared about what to do next. My mother came to my house to sit next to me and make me shower and I remember saying to her that I promise I would never hurt myself, but that I can now understand why people do. I wanted the panic and fear and pain to end. I still do. I literally felt that I was going to die.
I feel like this all just sounds so stupid and is just not capturing how bad I felt. But I guess those who know, know. I still don’t feel like myself. I worry about the damage I did to my relationship with my completely normal and not mentally ill AT ALL boyfriend, who was so sweet and caring and probably shit scared. I know the feeling of helplessness that comes when you are the one having to deal with this. I am sure he sees me differently now. I worry about the stress I caused my family, the burden I have placed on my sister, the guilt that I have or will negatively influence my sweet little nieces.
I hate this. If I won the billion dollar mega millions lottery yesterday, I would trade the winning ticket to make this go away forever. Every shooting star, ever birthday cake candle, every time the clock shows 11:11, I make the same wish: please make my anxiety go away. I’m so tired. I’m so tired of it. I realized this week that I have suffered from anxiety and panic and agoraphobia for almost HALF OF MY LIFE now.
So, my only plan now is to try to stay busy, make myself eat and drink enough to stay alive and make it to this appointment with the new psychiatrist. I’m trying not to be too hard on myself. I keep seeing my friends’ pictures on social media of them being at the beach or on vacation or at a concert and I have shut most of them out and when they ask me what I did over the summer, I am not sure if I should be like “had a total nervous breakdown”?? Maybe I should actually read The Secret and learn to bake so I can just say I did that (I kid). I have always been my own worst enemy so I am trying to just go easy on myself, but it is really hard sometimes to just hate the mental illness and not actually hate me.
Recently, I saw a post on Reddit that asked the question: if you could go back in time and had ONE MINUTE to give advice to your past self, what would you say?
I have to admit that I have spent way, way more than a minute thinking about this question. Part of me rejects doing this because I know everything I have gone through made me who I am today. But then I think, fuck that cliche…why not tell myself all the things that will help “past me” be able to avoid pain, heartbreak, rejection, loss, and negative experiences???
So, here is what I would tell my younger self in sixty seconds:
“Listen to your gut. When your gut is telling you to run, run. When it tells you, don’t marry him: DON’T. MARRY. HIM. Don’t lie to cover other people’s mistakes or behavior. You think that you are protecting them, but you are really just hiding the truth, from the world and yourself.
Don’t settle. EVER. Forget having to kiss frogs and all that dumb shit. Kiss the frogs for fun, but when it comes to relationships, don’t settle for less than you deserve. Please, please do not be with someone who drinks. Promise yourself this and then DO NOT BREAK that promise. You cannot save anyone who doesn’t want to be saved. Don’t ever put yourself in a situation where you put someone else’s needs above your own. Don’t lose yourself in someone else. And always, always have an exit strategy.
Be nice to everyone. It isn’t a weakness. You never know what someone else is going through. When you think to yourself that you should call or text someone to check on them or see if they are okay, don’t assume you will always have the time or chance to do it.
No one has a perfect family or perfect life. Make the best of what you have. If you focus all your energy on the bad things, you will miss out on enjoying the good things. Forgive people, especially your dad, who don’t deserve it, even if they never apologized. Try to be the bigger person as often as possible.” *
*Okay, I literally timed myself reading that aloud. And I did not go back and edit it because I wanted it to be as authentic as possible. At first, this seemed really easy to do, but it much more difficult than I thought it would be, because how do you sum up twenty years of advice and lessons learned into one little minute? It is an impossible task. And really, how much do young people really listen to anyway? Lol! I teach 11th grade (so mostly kids that are 16 and 17 years old) and as much as I would like to think they hang on my pearls of wisdom, I know that they will have go out into the world and learn life lessons the hard way, just like all of us did- I guess that is a rite of passage. But really, why didn’t anyone stress to 16 year old me the importance of not settling…that would have been REALLY helpful 😉
Tomorrow begins my 21st year of teaching. I honestly do not know where the time went. This job is truly one of the loves of my life. I often say that it was more of a “calling” for me, because I never considered doing anything else. There have been A LOT of ups and downs throughout the years, but I love teaching as much as ever.
This is going to be a really difficult and unpredictable year. I pride myself on developing relationships with my students and it is going to be challenging to do so from behind a computer screen. I feel a lot of sadness…for the students who are missing out on a “normal” high school experience. For the kids who can’t play the sport they love or participate in the school musical. Several of my close teacher friends needed to work remotely from home, so it is depressing to think about going through a school day without seeing them, or really socializing with any of my colleagues. No more Friday night football games or happy hours or eating lunch in the teachers’ cafe or stopping in the office to chat with the secretaries. I feel like this is going to be a very isolating year. We are supposed to enter school, go directly to our classrooms, teach our classes and then go home.
On top of that, my niece is starting preschool and it is still kind of a shock every time I see a mask on her little face. It is so exciting that she is starting school, but I wish she was entering during a normal school year, so she could have recess and play and eat lunch with other kids her age.
No matter what, the show must go on and as a teacher one of the most important lessons I will teach this year is how to make the best of things. And I have a feeling I will be leaning a lot this year myself. Even on days where I might have to put in extra effort, I am going to try my hardest to be a positive influence on my new group of students. At the very minimum, they deserve that 🙂
As an English teacher, I often stress to my students the importance of using creative words. Instead of the word “bad”, use “terrible”. Instead of the word “pretty”, use “gorgeous”. One of the biggest offenders when it comes to nondescript words is “nice”. The dictionary defines it as fine and satisfactory…not exactly the most flattering or sophisticated adjective.
I remember when I was in my 20s, I met a guy through a mutual friend. Afterwards, she asked him what he thought of me and his response was that he thought I was “nice”. I remember being offended by this and over analyzing it- “What does that MEAN…nice?!??” I thought it indicated that he wasn’t really interested in me. It felt like an insult.
I didn’t realize the significance of this simplistic, four letter word until I was 30. To put it bluntly, my ex husband was mean. After getting divorced, I remember saying to my sister that all I cared about when it came to meeting someone new was that they were nice. After experiencing my dad not being nice and my husband not being nice, that word took on a new, deeper meaning. I am very happy to say that my new boyfriend is truly nice. It took being with some unkind men for me to appreciate someone who is genuinely a good, kindhearted person.
I can honestly say that I am a nice person. I strive to be. I try to do things to make other people happy. I am thoughtful. It is kind of weird to write this because I feel like I am bragging (and trust me that I have many flaws). During the time my coworkers were teaching from home during quarantine, I mailed out 70 cards, just to say hi and keep in touch. I also sent congratulatory letters to the 120 graduating seniors who were my students from last year. This is one of the ways I know how to show love and appreciation.
Today, I gave my mailman a card and a $10 Dunkin Donuts gift card because tomorrow is National Postal Workers Day and clearly I love mail (who knew?!?!) My boyfriend was saw me do this and said, “you are SO nice. You’re the nicest person I have ever known.” I just smiled and accepted it for the lovely compliment it was. There are far more creative and glamorous synonyms that can be used, but I now understand the simple beauty of being nice.
This might be the hardest month yet to write a blog post for me. I have never missed a month without writing at least one entry. It has been hard to find a topic during this horrible time…with the coronavirus and people being ill and losing family members and being unemployed. I don’t want to complain because I am healthy and getting a paycheck. I have racked my brain to find something to write about that is not negative or offensive or insensitive and I finally thought of a topic…deer skulls.
In the northeast region of our country, it is very common to see deer everywhere. Just on my two mile drive home from my sister’s house last night I think I counted 8 of them. Some people think of deer as a nuisance because they cause car accidents, while others appreciate their beauty. When I think of deer, I think of a specific memory with my father. It was a singular moment so insignificant in my life, I am surprised I even remember it at all.
One day, we were exploring some trails in the woods behind my childhood house. My father and I were walking ahead of my mother and my sister and my dad was pointing out various wildlife and plants. A squirrel would skitter along the path and he would shout “squirrel!”. He warned me not to touch poison ivy and explained how to identify it (a skill I still find useful as I am VERY allergic).
“Whoa! Check that out!” My dad pointed to something round and whitish on the ground a few feet in front of us. As we got closer, I realized that it was a skull of unknown origin. A dead person! was the first thought I had until I realized the shape and size of it could not be a human. My father, in true dad fashion, leaned down and plucked it off the ground with his bare hands. He turned to me with a sly smile and then reached his arm out to try to touch me with it. I jumped a mile and screamed, “groooooosssss!”.
My father carried the skull all the way home and by the time we arrived, he had determined it was from a deer, even though there were no antlers attached. By this point, my initial shock faded and I was pretty interested in the skull, with its gaping eye sockets and teeth still attached to the jaw bone. He soaked the skull in soapy water and cleaned it, while my mother disapprovingly kept asking, “what are you going to DO with that thing?” After the skull was clean, I was so fascinated with it that my father gave it to me. This is most likely the strangest “gift” I have received. I sat for a half hour just wiggling the teeth, until one popped out into my hand. I was able to put it back into place with much satisfaction.
I kept that deer skull on my bookshelf for many years. Once I got my own apartment, I decided that it did not really fit with my decor scheme and that it was weird to have to explain to people why I had a deer skull in my home. I gave it to a science teacher at the high school where I teach English and he gladly displayed it in a case in his classroom. Over the years, once in a while, I would pop into his room to look at the deer skull, the memory of that day running through my mind.
Children remember the strangest and most random things. My niece is only three years old and probably won’t remember anything from this time in her life. Or maybe she will? My sister and brother-in-law are both unemployed and home with her all day now. Maybe she will remember making tents out of all the couch pillows, baking cookies with my sister, or helping her dad rake sticks in the backyard? I have a very poor memory and cannot recall much from my childhood. And unfortunately, by the time I turned twelve years old, my father was a full blown abusive alcoholic, so there were not many happy memories made during my teenage years. Yet, there are these random moments, burned into my memory, that I fondly remember. My dad was fun (and cool!) at one point during my childhood and now that he is sober, I hope that my niece will make memories with him that she can look back on someday to remember her grandfather.
My deer skull still is on display in the science lab classroom. I am sure over the years, many students have seen it and assumed it came from a school supply magazine or they really do not think much of it at all. Some of them are my students as well and they have NO idea that they are looking at a piece of my childhood…a tangible, albeit very odd, reminder of a happy memory with my father.
I shared an article on my personal Facebook page the other day that really resonated with me (I will include the link below). It was about how having schools closed right now for the purpose of social distancing is not a “vacation” for teachers. Throughout my 20 year career teaching English, I have faced many difficult situations, but nothing prepared me- or any of us- for this.
Yes, I am home in the comfort of my own house, wearing pajamas for most of the day. I do not have children of my own and I live by myself. It does give me flexibility in my day to binge watch a show for a couple of hours or take a short nap, but I sincerely wish I was at work instead. I miss my school, my colleagues, the routine and my classroom. I truly miss my kids. I have 120 11th graders that I am responsible for every day, not to mention my “formers” (the students I had last year, many of whom I see daily).
I work in a very diverse school district. This means that many of my students struggle in many different ways- some financially, some with social anxieties or other mental health disorders, some with language barriers, some with difficult family situations, some with learning disabilities, some with food insecurity, etc. My school is using distance learning and luckily our students were provided with Chromebooks before the virus began to spread and I have been in touch with the majority of them, whether through our class website or email.
This is not a vacation for me. I am worried about my students- now and in the future. Are they nervous, scared, anxious, worried, confused, alone, eating, sleeping, healthy…? I am a junior class advisor and planned the prom for April. I am waiting for the directive to cancel that. It makes me sad that students will miss out on milestone events in their high school experience. I know a school dance is not important at all right now in the bigger scope of things going on in the world, but to a 16 year old, it kind of still is.
There is so much uncertainty right now and as an adult, I am overwhelmed by the fears and anxieties and stress I feel. I can’t imagine being a child right now. For some of my students, school is the only stability they have in their lives. I worry what kind of lasting effect this will have on their mental health, their future economy, the world moving forward.
Yesterday, we found out the gender of my sister’s baby- a girl! It was so wonderful for ten minutes to celebrate something, to forget about all of the urgent news alerts constantly lighting up our phones. But then it was back to reality…my sister is twelve weeks pregnant during a pandemic and my niece is only two and a half and my father has compromised health and my mother is over 70 and my brother in law was laid off yesterday and I am struggling with agoraphobia and there’s no toilet paper and *deep breath*….
Every opportunity I have to interact with my students I am trying to be as positive as possible. I made funny memes to make them laugh (or at least roll their eyes). I sent a picture of my niece opening the box with bright pink balloons popping out at the gender reveal. I tell them how I am doing with my new “coworkers”, who sometimes annoy me and step on my computer (aka my two cats). I tell them I am here for them…anytime. I reassure them that we are all doing the best we can do right now and that things will be okay. I am doing this for them, but also for myself. I also need to be reminded that this “new norm” will not last forever, that things will go back to the way they were, that we will be okay. It is much harder to convince myself, though.
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.
Up until recently, my life has only been affected by suicide through other people’s losses. In high school, a good friend’s mother took her own life. I was young enough to understand the tragic impact, but was far enough removed from the long lasting effects. As a teacher, I have had students whose parents or siblings have committed suicide. That is very difficult because I always want to be sensitive to their emotions with the literature I teach. All of these untimely deaths affected me in that I felt sympathy for the families and tried to support my friend and students the best I could at the time.
A good friend of mine, who was also a colleague, recently committed suicide. He and I were VERY close about ten years ago. I considered him one of my best friends at that time and we joked that I was his “work wife”. After my divorce, we had a very short-lived romantic affair, but ultimately decided we were better off as friends. Over the years, he got married and I got involved in a long-term relationship. He was moved to another classroom on the other side of the school and we just gradually grew apart. But, it was always fun to run into him in the hallway from time to time (we have a VERY large school building). We always maintained a funny, flirty friendship. He was the most self-deprecating person I ever met. He was by far the most hilarious person I have ever known. He also had a very sweet side. After getting divorced, I was crying to him about never going on a date again because I didn’t know “how” to date. He said, “I will pick you up tomorrow at 7:00pm”. He arrived at my house, all dressed up, with flowers, and took me out to dinner. He opened the car door for me, he treated me to a meal and then he drove me home. Afterwards, he walked me to my front door, kissed my cheek like a gentleman and said, “now you don’t need to be nervous because you know what a date is like.” This will always be my favorite memory of him.
A few months ago he was out of work for several weeks. At first I didn’t even know because I do not see him at school regularly. Then other teachers started asking me if he was okay. I texted him and got no response. Overlapping his absence, I was out for three weeks on FMLA when my boyfriend was in ICU. During my last week out of work, he returned to school and texted me. He said he heard I was out and asked if I needed anything. This led to a lengthy text conversation about what we both had been going through. Looking back on it now, I realize he was lying to me about why the reason he was out, but it doesn’t matter because I will always be grateful for that last communication we had. Once I returned to work, I was so busy getting caught up, I never had an opportunity to go see him in his classroom.
I awoke on a Sunday morning to a mass email to all of the teachers from our principal. He stated we had suddenly and tragically lost a member of our staff and I had to read it over and over to make sure that I was seeing the name correctly. I immediately felt sick to my stomach. How? How could he be gone? The email was very vague and did not mention the cause of death, but I just instinctively knew it was suicide. I contacted his best friend, another colleague, who confirmed this to be true.
The loss was overwhelming. He was so full of life. But he was always a sad clown…he used humor to cover up anything that hurt him. When he got divorced years after I did, he even acted like it was a joke. I tried to get him to talk seriously about it, but it was his form of a coping mechanism.
I think when someone commits suicide, the first thing people do is think about what they “could have done”. I know that there was probably nothing I could have done to save him. I didn’t even really know how bad things were for him. I just wish I had seen him one more time. One more hug. One more joke.
Something weird has been happening to me. I will be walking in the hall and I will think I see him out of the corner of my eye. I will jerk my head to look and instead it is a tall, lanky student. Or I will be pulling out of the parking lot and will see a small, white car and will glance at the driver to see if it’s him. I am just so heartbroken- for myself and his other friends and colleagues, for his family, for his exwife and current fiancee, and for his students. We had a memorial at school and it was so nice to hear former students explain how much he impacted their lives. I wish there was a way for him to have known how much he would be missed and how many people would grieve for him. I know he must have been in so much pain- that’s the most heartbreaking part of it. His particular method of suicide was so devastating…I just cannot imagine how hopeless and helpless he must have felt.
I still feel frightened that my exboyfriend could make the same tragic, horrible decision. My world was turned upside down when my friend died- I did not see it coming at all. Everyone, including my therapist, tells me that I am not responsible for what my ex does, but that is easy for people to say. If he ever did something to hurt himself, I don’t know what I would do.
The boundary between my exboyfriend and me is blurry at best. I fluctuate between feeling so sad for him, being really concerned about his health and resenting the fact that I can’t just simply move on and focus on how I feel about everything that has happened these past two months.
Throughout the week after he moved back and our dog died, he kept telling me how sick he felt. He claimed he couldn’t even drive himself to the doctor. I initially dismissed it a little because I didn’t know if he was depressed or just weak from the coma or (worst case scenario) drinking. He called me Thursday afternoon (which was May 2) and told me that the doctor called and said his white blood cell count was quadruple was it is supposed to be, indicating a serious infection. He said his mother was flying in to take him back to the hospital the next morning. I feared he had sepsis and told him I was going to come and get him and take him right away to the ER. He finally agreed. I went to his new apartment, something I never wanted to do, to help him pack a bag. He looked AWFUL. He was so skinny and weak, it took over an hour to get him to my car and I had to use a wheelchair to get him into the ER. I stayed with him until 3 am and he was admitted into a room. They diagnosed him with the same infection he had when he was in the coma. He stayed in the hospital for another 20 days. His mother only stayed for the first week.
I was so torn. I felt terrible he was so sick and so alone. But for 28 days, my life revolved around his health and I simply could not do that again. I went to see him that first weekend, mostly out of concern and also obligation, and then did not visit again. However, we texted and spoke on the phone every day. He was finally discharged and his friend drove him home.
He has spent a total of 48 days in the hospital since March 15. I feel like my life has been on hold for most of that time. I “do” things, mostly around my house (redecorating the basement was a good, but expensive distraction) and hang out with my sister and niece, but I always feel an underlying sadness and guilt.
It occurred to me that he hasn’t lived with me for over two months now. It is still an adjustment in so many big and small ways. This morning when I woke up for work, I felt pressure on my waist and for a split second I thought it was his arm slung over my body. It was my cat sleeping on top of me. This has happened several times. Yet, ironically, we didn’t cuddle a lot in bed. Yet, I find myself in the middle of the night reaching my arm out to his side of the bed to touch his back and feel nothing but the cold sheets when his body used to be.
I know I need to not focus on just the things I miss about him. I feel resentful that I never got to be a “regular girl” in that when I found out he was cheating on me by texting another woman very explicitly, I did not get a chance to yell at him and throw him out…because he was in a coma. I never got the chance to be angry about all of the alcohol hidden in the basement…because he was in a coma. Everything was about his health, but now it has been so long and his health is still a major concern.
I obviously still care about him. I know we can’t be together. He has to focus on his health and also his sobriety (which he hasn’t really done anything about) and I need time to heal. Yet, over the weekend, I was talking to him and he sounded SO lonely. I was about to go to the dog park with my niece, my sister and her friend (who has two dogs) and I invited him to come, sort of expecting him to say no. He said yes and I went and picked him up. His appearance was startling. Within two months, he has lost over 50 pounds and looks so gaunt and pale. He was always so muscular and had thick, strong legs. Now he can put his two hands around his thigh and they touch. He walks slowly, like an old man. I felt so many different emotions when I saw him. My sister and her friend both hugged him when we met them at the park and I realized when I entered his apartment, I did not. In some ways, I feel detached. In other ways, I feel OVER involved.
On Memorial Day, I went to my friend’s pool. It was the first really nice day, warm and sunny. He texted me in the afternoon saying how nice it was out and reluctantly, I invited him over, since my sister and niece were there too. He did not respond and it instantly affected my mood. I was not able to enjoy myself anymore, because I felt guilty and worried. Ironically, I was reading a book while laying on a lounge chair about how to overcome being a codependent and the chapter was on “detachment”. I am having a really hard time with that process, obviously. I can’t help but still feel responsible for him, knowing he really has nobody else. I picture him sitting alone in his apartment and I feel SO bad.
But then I think, HE should be the one suffering the consequences of his actions and choices. He was the one who drank, he was the one who betrayed my trust, he was the one who neglected his health…I feel like if he had not almost died, I would feel differently because I would allow myself to be mad. Good- he should be lonely and miserable. I don’t know how to get there. I keep telling my friends “once he is better, I can move on and stop talking to him and checking on him.” I need to, but it is so hard to let go completely.