Some of you have guessed that being a teacher has become an enormous struggle. Many of you have written supportive and encouraging emails which helped me get through impossible minutes and difficult days. Thank you.
Three weeks ago my sweet, observant, caring husband drove me to a psychiatrist just after we’d been to the post office. He did this without telling me and, only after I noticed we weren’t going towards home, did I ask where we were going. He explained that he decided I needed to see the doctor and to him, it was clear I couldn’t see what was happening to me. He was right.
It’s a long story full of grim details about a competent, fantastic, loved and loving teacher falling to bits while the people around her tried to help but simply couldn’t. I fought the good fight and didn’t realize that school really had become a war for me – a war where the enemy included too many new responsibilities, too much too do in too short a time, too many computer malfunctions over too long a time and too little replenishing of the well of love and inspiration that’s absolutely necessary to be a teacher.
Three weeks ago the doctor told me – in no uncertain terms – that I would not be going back to work. On Tuesday, when I returned for another appointment, he told me the same thing. But only yesterday, when an email was sent home to the families of all my students explaining that I was ill and wouldn’t be back for a long time, if ever, did it really sink in. And then the grieving began.
A career of 38 wonderful, delightful years in music classrooms all over the world has finished – not in a round of applause and thanks, but in tears and exhaustion. I wish I could have reached the end more gracefully. I am grateful that I’m in Germany as my career ends in this way. Germany has a fabulous, socialized health care system that recognizes mental health illness as a very real illness and supports teachers who are “burned out”. Burned out is an apt term – I was a candle burning with passion for music and sharing it with students and now all that’s left is a small bit of charcoal black wick.
It will take time, I’m told, to begin to feel like myself again – a long time. Take it slowly, let yourself cry, be comfortable with exhaustion, forgetfulness and distraction. Thankfully, time is exactly what I have now.