By my fifth semester I’d been attending classes at full time to full time and a half, tutoring or teaching, and working as an intern part time. I felt tired, frustrated, and a little frazzled after my first semester of teaching. I’d considered not taking any classes that next spring semester so I could focus on teaching and my internship. Since we register for classes for the next semester so early, almost before the current semester ends, I was still undecided. I’d registered for courses bringing me up to full time.
November and December are really difficult months for me anyway. Without family, without my children, and being bipolar as well, it’s generally when I am most likely to crack, break down, or have a relapse. I’d been so busy this particular semester; I’d barely had time to feel anything personal. I was hoping that the holiday break between December and January, which is a fairly long break, would give me enough time to rejuvenate, recollect myself, and ready myself to press on. I’d figured wrong.
During the break, instead of resting, rejuvenating, and renewing, I suffered a sever relapse. There were doctor appointments and additions and adjustments of medications, adding a few therapy sessions wherever time would allow. I just kept telling myself that once the new semester started things would level out and I would be fine. Instead, I focuses my energies all on my students and on my internship. When one has low reserves already, those reserves should be used on self. If self is not cared for, all will fall apart. I ended up having to drop all of my own classes and since my internship was a telecommuting position, I was able to adjust those hours and times as needed. But it was a miracle that semester that I was able to pull anything off at all.
Personally, I was a complete disaster. People with illnesses or disabilities like I have do become masters of disguise however. We learn slowly over time how to hide the signs. If I’d had a family at home – or anyone else to take care of – it would not have been possible – no way.
I had another slight setback with 9/11/01, and I know I was not alone. I may not be a medic in the field anymore, I may never drive another ambulance, or be another first responder, but there is something deep within that ties all firefighters, all medics, all police, all EMS together, forever. It’s like what ties together all airmen, or all marines, or all soldiers together. There’s a loyalty, a dedication, a camaraderie that may not be evident when you pass on the street, but you can bet your boots it’s there when the chips are down. When the Twin Towers fell, when the Pentagon was impaled, when flight 93 crashed; for days I was stunned. I felt guilty, I felt useless and helpless, and I felt like I was shirking my duty by not being somewhere, anywhere to help. Of course the reality was there was nothing at all I could do even if I was still in that job. I had to allow myself several days, but I knew I couldn’t give myself weeks or months. It just wasn’t realistic. It had an utterly profound effect on me. During that time while I could not tear myself away from CNN I built a tribute website (tributeto9-11-01.com) that I will support as long as I have the means to do so. I allow myself a day every September to honor the crash of the Yukla 27 in 1995 also. Loss is a part of life and these things can crush you, or they can effect you. I’ll always be effected, and I’ll allow that.
The biggest challenge with writing this chapter is courage, and fact. The courage to admit what was really going on, and the need to focus on fact vs. emotion. I don’t want to come across as a ‘whoa-is-me’ victim to the reader, as that has too many pathetic undertones to it. But I do want to honestly confess to the reader what happened, the severity of the situation on my health and well being, how close I came to losing it all, and to convey what kept me going. My loyalty to my students, loyalty to my employer, and the pure drive not to let anyone else down. I don’t want the reader to feel sympathy or pity for the author; I want them to realize that they need to take great care to balance their lives if they should attend school, work, and have people at home – because what happened to me could truly happen to anyone – I just happen to be more vulnerable, therefore I should have known better.