My friends and family know that I struggled mightily with post-partum depression after the birth of my first daughter nearly twenty four years ago. I was hospitalized for a bit, and I went through sixteen medication trials before we found one that worked. It took five years for me to fully recover and many more years to speak about all of that openly without feeling one bit of shame. And speaking about it is important because depression isn’t typically something that magically disappears never to return. I imagine I will be managing it for the rest of my life–like many of you who are reading this.
During that time–my first rodeo, if you will–many well-intentioned humans who assured me that they’d never experienced depression themselves had plenty of advice for me about how to feel better. Some of them were even bold enough to share those ideas with me–frequently–so that fragile little me might know the secrets of their mighty success.
Bless their hearts.
And also: I’ve forgiven them now, several rodeos later.
The last ten months have provided ample opportunity for me to reflect on all that I learned about myself and others and the human condition during that first brutal depression of my life. I’m pulling on those lessons hard right now. They’re life preservers. Literally.
This was my most important lesson: Writing and specifically–blogging–matters.
I didn’t blog for educators, then. I blogged what I was thinking and experiencing and feeling as a new mom and wife and teacher and daughter and friend. Blogging helped me realize that often, what I thought was not an accurate interpretation of my own or others’ experiences. My feelings were often based on my wishes or my worries or insecurities or biases. Blogging helped me reality test daily, for quite a few years.
And then, I became a professional and deleted all of those entries.
“Your best writing was published in that space,” my husband once said.
He was right.
But that wasn’t what was most important.
The fact is that I met some of the bravest and most brilliant women writing in that space–women that I never met until a decade later, and when I did meet them, it was as if we’d been in each other’s company for years. Because we had been–through blogging. These were the friends who knew my story and nodded in the comments. “Me too,” they said and also, “I understand.”
And they were professionals, too. That kind of blogging was our dirty secret, perhaps. It was also our survival.
When difficult choices needed to be made (and most who recover from aggressive bouts of depression will tell you that difficult choices almost always need to be made), the perspective that I gained from those women who existed well outside of my local circle and situation was invaluable. Therapy helped, but writing my stories each day mattered so much more.
And now, perhaps you’re wondering why I am sharing way too much information with you here, on my professional website.
That is SO inappropriate, I know. I know.
I’m sharing because I’m sensing that many people–including myself–could benefit from some reality testing right about now.
I’m all for resolutions and one little words and pushup challenges and calendar audits and visioning and being a goal-getter and smoothies made from kale and all of it. I am here for all of it.
Sometimes, though–we lose people this way.
Sometimes, we lose ourselves, too.
So, if you need someone to say “me too” right now as you peer into the abyss and grapple with feelings so intense you’ve gone completely numb, I hope you can hear me.
This year has been gentle with me in a thousand different ways that it has completely shattered others.
It has also altered my entire life. I’ve lost a lot that I wasn’t ready to lose, and I had no say, and I am grieving that, and I’m trying not to say much about any of it to anyone because like some of you, I know that my losses are not nearly as devastating as others’.
And I know–I know that grief is heavy. It tires you. It weighs you down.
Each week for the last ten months, I’ve tried to pack a little newsletter full of strategies, ideas, resources, and tools intended to help you serve your students better. I’ve tried to make everyone feel less alone. I’ve tried to make people smile. Some of you have said that you like the weekly newsletter, and I’m glad for that. I won’t be giving it up.
I have to be honest, though: It feels almost offensive sharing those things in the absence of a far greater and more meaningful conversation about all the stuff I’m completely unable to figure out. At all.
We’re ten months into this.
Everything has changed.
Everyone has changed.
We’ve all been broken by this.
And I see a few of you there with your positive attitudes and your collective need to notice and grow the good. High fives, you and you and you. I try to be that person most days, too.
Bless our hearts.
Here’s the thing, though: I don’t think I want to keep sharing simple solutions and things that inspire easy smiles when I know very well that too many of you need so much more than I or anyone of us who tries to share on the interweb can really give right now.
So, here’s the most meaningful thing that I have to offer this week: I hope you will write this year, not for others, but for yourself. I hope that before you write to impact the field, you write to document and unravel and move through these hard days one at a time. I hope you write to check your feelings against your experiences and to get some good perspective from those who can examine those things from a distance or at least, a different vantage point.
I hope you’ll do some reality testing. For yourself.
Last week, I announced that I’m stepping back from Facebook a bit. That’s been a long time coming, and it wasn’t an easy decision. Isolating myself further from my friends and family isn’t a great idea. Remaining inside a space that is managed by some of the most craven business owners on earth isn’t a great idea either, though. So, I bit that bullet. We’ll see how it goes. I plan to be here more, and I’ll be more present on Twitter and LinkedIn, too. I won’t be all up in my feelings in every post, but hopefully, how I conduct myself inside of this space and others will make more space for you to be up in yours as much as you need to be.
Yeah, there is work to be done. I’ll still share the best of what I’m learning and much of the stuff that I create, too. The newsletter is here. From now on, it will always link to a more meaningful post right here, though.
Because blogging matters to me. For me.
This life we’re all living calls for something different right now.
So, things are going to be different.
I’m probably going to be different.
Take care of yourself this week, and I hope I “see” you online somewhere next week, too. Maybe here.
I’m missing all of you who I don’t get to see in person anymore.
Have a happier new year, all.