I’m quite a reserved person when it comes to issues regarding my mental health, but I think for my benefit I have to deal with it – the reason why I’m writing this blog post.
I used to work as a primary school teacher. This is the first time I’d admit this in the open – but I did not enjoy my job one single bit. I persevered through an Education degree, a line of work I was never interested in, out of fear of not having a degree to my name. Some cultural shame happened here as well, as I would bring shame to my family if I didn’t graduate university. In addition, during my time university, I had a major falling out with a uni friend of mine, which to this day remain unresolved.
Throughout my time as a relief teacher, I’d often refuse work. You’re wondering, why would you do that Mark? The money was good – relief teachers got $360 a day for work. However, I was scared, I was anxious. I didn’t want to do this. I hated teaching children. Some days I would accept relief jobs purely for the money, not for the career advancement. This was not often though. I was happy to be locked in my own room, and watch American football all day. It was my outlet, my escapism. It put me out of my misery over my life choices.
The self-sabotaging went on. My mother forced me to look for teaching contracts, often bewildered why I wasn’t looking hard enough. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I didn’t want to do it. She wouldn’t have understood. But I had to keep her happy. Now and then, I would actually put an application in for contract jobs.
My first contract came in 2012. I thought this was it, I can finally try to get over my anxiety and worthlessness. I have a contract and I can work towards this career. My anxiety symptoms got worse. I came home exhausted, I lost passion for the things I used to enjoy. I was alone with no friends in a new town. Again, like before, I’d often just stay in my house and not go anywhere on weekends. It was my safe place. Six months passed, and I was able to ‘escape’ from that situation.
After my contract was over, I moved in back home. I felt I was in a safe place again, then the vicious cycle began again. Refusal for relief jobs, not actively seeking new contracts. However, I had a new goal – I wanted to go to Japan. I had motivation for taking on jobs, but it wasn’t for the love of teaching. 2013 was a year I did feel alright, but it wasn’t without its moments. One contract I was offered was in the middle of nowhere in rural Queensland. Any budding teacher would jump at the chance for a contract with a foot in the door. Not me, I hesitated again. But I needed extra money for Japan, so I said yes. It was only for six weeks so I just wanted to get it over and done with.
After my Japan holiday, I took a 6 month sabbatical. This was my chance to revaluate my life. I was considering a new career as an English teacher in Japan or South Korea. However, this didn’t come to plan. I was kinda relieved actually.
2014 ended up being a big year for me. I was finally offered permanency. This was it, I thought. My confidence was boosted, and despite refusing most of my relief jobs and only two contracts to my name, I was given a chance. I had a six month honeymoon period, and after that it all fell apart. My work performance suffered. My anxiety was worse than in 2012. After work, I’d go straight to bed and sleep. I wake up every morning with a very bad gut feeling. The majority of my weekends were spent locked in my bedroom, forcing myself to sleep. I started drinking alcohol, but because I didn’t really enjoy the taste of some alcohol, I never developed an addiction. That I’m thankful for. However, I still felt lost and worthless. While I did build a support network, I couldn’t just become needy and clingy. I didn’t know how to cope.
I said enough was enough, and I asked permission from my boss to seek treatment for my possible anxiety symptoms. I was given full support. I became proactive and requested a Mindspot assessment for anxiety and depression. When my suspicions were confirmed, I proceeded to use my employer’s support network and sought a psychologist. It was the first step to solving my anxiety. The first session was great, I was able to get a few things off my chest. However, my mistake was not continuing with my sessions. I’m the type who never likes to ask for help, and thought I could solve this myself. After I resigned from my position to pursue my dream of becoming a journalist, the sessions stopped too.
I took another 6 month sabbatical, and resumed university in a journalism course. With my anxiety unresolved, I moved to an ‘Elsa’ from Frozen method – don’t let them in, don’t let them see…conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know. I put on this fascade of a strong, 27-year old person who is seeking his dream. I forced my anxiety behind me, thinking the new course is the way out.
For the first two semesters, I had excellent headspace and performed to my highest. Unfortunately, this semester, constant illness set me back this semester. As a result, I felt like I’m on the back foot. Again, the anxiety crept back in. Something I thought I had in control by removing myself from an undesirable environment, flared up again. The amount work I needed to do snowballed. Then, I received 1 bad grade. I still passed, but I was disappointed in myself. I was performing to the best of my ability to this point, and I felt like a failure. In addition, there were other factors (that I don’t want to mention publically) I had to deal with as well. The old enemy came back. I started acting weird towards my university friends, often doing odd things that I couldn’t even explain myself. I was losing sleep. My fascade was falling apart.
Now I realise, I need to fix this once and for all. I can’t put this off any longer. In fact, just typing this blog post up has improved my mood immensely. It’s still no excuse for me to not seek treatment, this vicious lull that I constantly get myself in to.
I would like to thank all my friends for supporting me and putting up with me. It’s time for me to let it go.