Teaching with Depression: Is There Any Way Out?

By JESSE SCACCIA

As a teacher, you are not allowed to get depressed.

There is too much work to be done. The kids feast on any perceived weakness, especially in a new teacher. Or, the kids take it personally, and think you’re upset with them. Being depressed can make it seem like you don’t believe in the lesson, the school, the education system itself, and if you don’t believe in these things, there’s no way the students will.

But teachers are only human. I’d even go a step further than human. In many cases they are the most human, with naturally flowing sympathy and an innate desire to shepherd their younger brothers and sisters. But it’s this extra-humanness that, unfortunately, makes teachers more susceptible to depression.

Its a horrible catch-22: being a teacher you’re not allowed to be depressed, but the emotional output required by the job makes you more likely to be depressed.

Is there any way out of this mess?

I am a man who has battled depression since early childhood. I was still in primary school when I first held a knife and wondered just what I could do to myself with it. So I know depression, and it is something I’ve had to deal with at some point at every step of my teaching career. What I can tell you is, first of all, you can’t wish depression away. So for those of you reading who are thinking right now, “Well, why not just not be depressed?” that solution is a ghost. It doesn’t exist.

So until the depression is mitigated by drugs or therapy, what is a teacher to do? I’ve tried everything. I’ve drank a Coke before each class and kept a drawer full of Kit-Kats. I’ve faked it, pretending to be happy, hoping the kids weren’t savvy enough to see through my mask. I’ve taught for me first, worrying more about making sure I enjoyed teaching my lessons then whether my students did (because, hey, if I like it they’ll probably like it too). I have even been honest with my students. I’ve told them flat out, “Hey, I’m kinda of depressed today. Take it easy on Mr. S, will yah?”

Sometimes these solutions worked, and sometimes they didn’t. By now, at 30, I know myself well enough to mix my own happiness smoothies on the fly. Sometimes it takes a Kit-Kat with a dash of Radiohead in-between classes. Sometimes I use a life line, and text a friend mid-class. I have figured out what works for me.

So for those of you teachers reading who battle depression- and I know you’re there- my only advice is the advice you give yourself. Be reflective and recognize your triggers. Know yourself well enough to be aware of what can pull you out of that dark blue pool. If all else fails, channel your inner Michael Jordan. Someone once asked him why he played so hard every night, even against teams the Bulls were blowing out. His answer was that there might be one fan out there who will only see him play that one time, so he had to give his best. As a teacher, you never know if this is the only time in a student’s life they’ll hear a certain lesson. So you have to play hard every period.

As always, never forget this handy cliche: This too shall pass.

I feel the need to add some ‘real talk’ here at the end. For some depressed people, teaching just won’t be right for you. There will be too many expectations and pressures from a myriad of sources. Your life will be too rigid, the negative reinforcement will outweigh the positive. You might care too much or be too sensitive, making your small, everyday failures (of which there are a million a week) into a million potential depression triggers a week.

If you’re one of these people, I’m sorry. But I think I speak for the rest of the teaching community when I say, We’re here for you.

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137 Comments

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137 responses to “Teaching with Depression: Is There Any Way Out?

  1. shatteredsun

    My mum is a teachers, and she has also suffered from depression, I’ll have to show this to her at some point. Really good analysis.

  2. I learned to breathe slowly and relax when I was stressed. Just breathing in to the count of three and breathing out to the count of about four can really make a difference for me. Slow breathing helps me to stay calm. Also, I learned how to grade papers differently. In math, I had students make answer columns down the right side of the paper and show their work on the left. In language arts, I learned to have them write five meaningful sentences using the current objective. Grading five sentences is easy! I would pick and choose paragraphs to grade for grammar when grading lengthy compositions. Marking the whole paper might take an hour. Learning shortcuts helps a lot.

  3. thaddeusyuen

    Hi there,
    It is understood that being a role model sometimes is difficult especially while you are infront of your audience. The truth is, everyone is just human and anyone could get to a stage of being depress; in your case, your job requires more from you.

    Perhaps try to reverse the negative thoughts into a positive response?
    I have made this blog: http://visionclub.wordpress.com

    Its fairly new so information is not as fruitfull yet, but i hope my post regarding depression and motivation will help you in anyway, cause i personally do understand the frustration while working with depression.

    Im rather new to wordpress so i think i may have multi-posted. My apolagies.

  4. Ken

    I’ve very often found that smarter people are more prone to depression. I don’t know if studies have shown this to be the case but personal observation seems to point to this. Why do you think this is?

  5. Ken

    I’ve often found that smarter people are more prone to depression. I don’t know if studies have shown this to be the case but personal observation seems to point in that direction. Why do you think that is?

  6. Thank you so much for this post. I also suffer from depression, and right now, I am going through a tough time. But it’s not just me, one of my colleagues is having marital problems and another just “can’t get happy”. It’s nice to know that we are not alone. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, and my students. Many times, a kind word, or hug, from a student is exactly what I need to get through the day. But our jobs are SO HARD!!! We have to be everything to everyone, and right now, I am tired, wore out and don’t even know who I am anymore. I know my triggers (perfection). I am very reflective of what I could do better to make myself less depressed. But like you said, you can’t just wake up and “be happy”, even if you wanted to. Thank you for allowing me to be me, and letting me be myself, which ultimately, will make me a better teacher.

    • teacherrevised

      Thank you so much for writing, Reni. Yes, our jobs are SO HARD.

      But you know what? You’re going to make it through. Assuming you made it through today, you are making it through. If your students are hugging you, they believe in you, and they don’t expect perfection from you every day.

      Be good to yourself, okay?

      Jesse

    • Angie

      WOW! Thank you for posting. I feel like I’m the only teacher out there with Depression and perfection! I just got diagnosed this week and am in the stages of weaning off Lexapro and then starting up on Zoloft next week. I had a meltdown the other day before my first graders came into my class and I couldn’t stop crying. I have been in bed almost all weekend, crying. Thankfully I have a super supportive coworker who had gone through this in a different school and told me what to do. She took my students for the morning, told our principal I needed to go home, and made my lesson plans for next week. My struggle now is, when do I go back to school? When I can get through the day without crying? I have a super tough class of first graders and at home, a 4yr old and 7ry old, and a husband who also teaches but isn’t very nuturing and ignores my depression probably because he doesn’t know what to do. I can’t keep up with my home (due to my perfection) and I’m not emotionally stable to handle the demands of my needy students. HELP!

      • Jen Boldin

        During the 2009-2010 school year, I had the worst breakdown EVER. I was given four preps (high school) and an inclusion class of special Ed students with a co-teacher to boot. With a very wise doctor, I did not quit my job. I took my entire federal medical leave as I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. I never thought I would teach again, but I didn’t quit. Going back the next semester was the hardest and most embarrassing thing ever. However, I made it through the year. This year has been challenging because we got a new principal second semester. New scenario, new visit to the doctor

        • leah

          My fiance whom I had been with for the last seven years just past away. This is my first year teaching and I have been so ashamed that I’ve let depression grab a hold of me as strong as it has. I am now unable to get up the energy to speak in class or make it through a day without crying so I have taken a break until I can get help. It is good to know that this doesn’t mean that my teaching career is over (we worked so hard to get here). And that I am not the first person to realize that depression and teaching are a hard combo to manage. Thanks for the words :)

        • Shelley Johnson

          Hello,
          I was wondering, how you are doing now? Are you still teaching?

      • Angie,
        I feel your pain. I had to leave school today because I could not stop crying – in front of 11th graders. My classes are overloaded – 30 plus. I work in a very poor, mixed ethnic school where the kids are pregnant, abused, and can barely function in English on a 6th grade level. But I’ve been told to “RAISE EXPECTATIONS!” Are you F*ing kidding me? It’s the second day of school, and I would just assume jump off a bridge than think about facing them again Monday. I’m a singe mom of 2 (5 & 10) – so I feel absolutely trapped. There are no jobs, and I’ll lose my house if I can’t pay the mortgage. I’m sorry, but a coke and some chocolate or breathing are not going to get me anywhere with this internal battle. I don’t know if I can do it another day. I spend so much time preparing lesson plans and grading papers that I rarely have a moment to spend with my boyfriend or my kids. And when I get home from work, I snap at my own kids because work has left me so angry and frustrated.
        Its been 4 years since suicide has crept in my mind, but here lately – since school started it seems like the only way out of this hell hole.

        • Christine

          Angie, Boy you almost described my life to a T. I refused myself to have a boyfriend and kids because of my dedication to the classroom. Last year I switched disciplines, hoping that would help, but the principal keeps harassing me. I adopted a special needs dog, who really needs more of my energy. If I tell my administration about my depression, what “accommodations” would they be able to do within the ADA? They put me on probation, but how do I tell them that if they give me some breathing room and are very clear about expectations, things will get better. Hovering around and criticizing every move I make, things will get worse.

          • Sleep Well

            There’s a part of me that is thinking “wow! there are others like me out there!” However, the part that is mired in the tar pit of hell is thinking “WTF nothing changes! No one understands!” It’s absolutely the pits when your depression is dragging you down so far that you can’t even see daylight that is shining brightly upon you.

            I too try to think positively. I have a beautiful bright teenage daughter. I thought teaching was a way to share my love of “helping” others. I also thought “hey who else in the world loves you even when you’re yelling at them?” Kids. That’s who. I thought it was enough to want to share with them my passion for learning, but the reality (or is it the depression) is speaking really loudly that being a teacher sucks. The long hours, the failure rates exceeds the success rate, and you spend half your time being their substitute mom.

            My depression is so bad right now — and to think it became aggravated by principal who micro-manages. As my friend said today “hostile work environment”. OMG I’m rambling!!! Sure sign I’m having a depressive attack. I just wish that this type of illness is visible — I feel like such a faker!

            • Tired Teacher

              I am so glad to know that other teachers feel the same way. I am in my thirteenth year of teaching and I am so depressed right now that I taking three days to regroup. Honestly the thought of returning to school Monday makes me cry and have panic attacks. I have felt like a failure in all aspects of my life. I don’t have the energy to be a good mother to my twelve year old son. I come home from a bad day and fall asleep sitting up on the couch. I rarely make dinner anymore..thank god my husband has assumed that responsibility. The increased pressure to make sure all students are proficient is driving me crazy. Now not only am I dealing with the pressure to ensure that all my students are proficient I have to deal with other teachers who love to gossip about everyone. I have decided that teachers can be some of the meanest most hateful people out there! I was verbally attacked by another teacher yesterday when I was trying to explain a situation to him. I left the school crying and hyperventilating. My doctor has now prescribed me a nerve pill so that I can make it through the rest of the year. I feel it is time to move on but I have this guilt about leaving the profession. I guess leaving makes me feel as though I have failed.

              • Sad

                I am a teacher as well. I agree that teachers can be some of the meanest people I know. I too am depressed a lot. I hate the staff room. I feel alone often. I hate rainy days because my school has no where to go other than the staff room or I have to eat in my class with the kids playing. It is a lonely job too if you are conservative. I totally get what you are saying. I question my career choice sometimes too. I too feel trapped. I just try to keep to myself and focus on what I am teaching so I don’t think of the bad stuff. There is a lot of stress to be everything to everyone.

      • Cory

        I feel just like you and I am only 22 just getting into the profession. I don’t even know how I am going to jump through all these hoops they have to get your credential, but seeing that you exist and you are like me and you have come this far gives me hope.

  7. Bob Tannenbaum

    hi,
    i was a teacher for thirty three years. male elementary teacher. was a chapter chairman in brownville during the ocean hill brownsville strike of 1968… i was depressed for over forty years, dealing with two bad marriages, a very bad back, and an enormous desire to be the best elementary teacher in the world. my sixth therapist made the mistake of giving me a book to read. when i came back to her office, i told her i was no longer depressed. the book was called, intimate connections by david burns. it is available in paperback from http://www.abebooks.com for a few bucks. it saved my life. basically it talked about the fact that the way you think is the way you feel, and not vice versa. it also discussed the ten distortions of thinking that depressed people do. i did every one of them. i do not do any of them now. i have been divorced from my second wife for thirteen years and have never been happier. the physical and mental pain of depression is severe and can be life threatening. do not threat it like a minor problem. it can kill you. thank you teachers. you are my heros. only a teacher knows what other teacher go through. love to all of you.

    • Patty

      Thank you for the information–I’m going to look the book up right now. I am starting my 8th year as a teacher and it makes me feel better that I am not alone. Thanks, again.

    • Cory

      wow ! I am going to read that. Another good book I am reading is “Telling Yourself the Truth” by William Backus, I am only on ch. 4 and can already feel some hope and it sounds similar to that book you read. It is written by a Christian author so if God is not your thing then just ignore that part or insert your own God, otherwise all the advice is sound and based on psychology. As a Christian I find it helpful to see the scripture references that match with psychological findings. The book is all about the way you think affecting the way you feel and how to change that around.

  8. Annie

    Thank you for writing this piece. As someone who has suffered with depression since I was in college–I’m mid-30′s now, this is a reaffirmation of all those feelings I have pretty constantly. I have taught in a middle school for 15 years and there are times where I question if this is the profession for me. I tend to get into the habit of replaying the bad situations that have occurred in my career–kids who I’ve struggled with trying to reach, parents who are never happy. When a student treats me badly and I take it upon myself as something I did wrong.

    All of these things build up and render me feeling like a failure. Whereas intellectually I know that I have done good things and do have the best intentions, when you feel depressed or down, it is hard to climb that mountain out of your despair. The teaching profession requires much of your heart and soul and those of us who are ultra-sensitive wear our emotions on our sleeve and are sometimes trampled on by others. It is something I fear that I will never reconcile this and will always be a prisoner to my depression. I look at others and their ability to shrug things off, look at the bright side, and move on right away and I envy them so much. Why do I feel stuck in this pattern of sadness and how do I overcome it? Is it even possible?

    • labrashay

      I love the way you put it, Annie…. yes, trampled by others… we are supposed to team collaborate but this theres just jealousy and teachers talking about kids===I suffer from depression and it has became worse since i went back to teaching… now Im in the Principal Cert. program and am thinking What did I get myself into now!? I prob. have ADD and ADHD who knows!
      thanks for your pose

  9. Megan

    Wow! It’s nice to see this. It’s not often that anyone acknowledges how difficult teaching really is. I know it adds to my depression…just the constant day in- day out stress of it. I know it’s not good for my mental health, but how to get out after 15 years and start over? I can’t…especially when I lack any motivation because I’m depressed. Thank you for writing this.

  10. Gail

    It is really nice to read the comments people have made here in support of each other. I battled with perfection in teaching and a growing sense of depression with work. I did not share my feelings as I felt weak and ashamed. Well, that coping strategy backfired. I suffered a major burnout and have been off work for two years. Once this happens the self doubt and the injury to self esteem is a huge block to healing and moving forward. I am so stuck in the fear of failing at any other attempt to put myself in positions of responsibility that I am in an ever circling state of anxiety and depression. So, if you find you are not yourself, that you are struggling with the demands of your work and you are losing your grip, ask for help.

    • anna

      I feel exactly the same. Depression and anxiety circling my mind and affecting me physically. I think this is depression anyway. Lying awake at night worrying about going to work the next day is the worst feeling. Wondering how I can snap out of this. Feeling helpless and hopeless. Wanting to quit teaching and the many responsibilities that go along with it. Where do you go for help?

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  13. Mike

    Thank you for writing this. I am a new teacher and have been struggling with depression for most of my life. It is particularly good to see that it is another male teacher writing about this, because that is in many ways an even more isolated and potentially demanding situation. (for instance none of my students have had a male teacher outside of PE before and there are only 5 men working in my middle school: 2 APs, 2 PE teachers, and myself.)

    I am 30 years old, having taken the long road to my current position and am generally enjoying teaching with most days so far being good days.. but those bad days, ouch!

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  15. What a relief to read this! Being a new teacher of less than three years and finding one of those notes today about how horrible my class is, this helps me to at least know that others have bad days, too. For some reason I cannot stop obsessing over the note, though – about how a student said “idt she even knows how to teach!” For some reason this is really getting to me!! Anyone been through something similar and can advise? Since I was already feeling depressed this has really hit me hard.

    • Desiree Taylor

      Mary! Snap out of it woman! You cannot let this “bad teacher” nonsense that is floating around these days get into you! The kids have picked up this dysfunctional-adult-system lingo, and have come to agree that only “good” teachers can reach them. Do not pander to this! It is a surefire way to take the responsibility for learning off your students because they get the message that it is alright to say, “so and so didn’t learn me anything.” You cannot learn your students anything! This “bad teacher” jargon also relieves everyone involved in a student’s life from creating a working teaching and learning environment.

      Teaching is hard, really hard. Everyone here has acknowledged this. Why? Because we do it. Maybe you don’t know the best ways to teach. So what? Master teachers don’t either. Yes, teaching is THAT hard. And your students certainly do not have half a clue as to what it takes to teach! I have known so many hard working, (with new teachers it is often very, very, hard working) talented teachers with the desire to do their best that I know we are in the majority! I hope you don’t let anyone, even someone you are trying to help like a student, dump a “bad teacher” wrap on you! In your own mind and heart accept your competence even without perfection!

      • labrashay

        you know what I do when I get a nasty letter, etc. I have that student make next weeks lesson plans with me and then teach the class just for one subject because that is all they usually can handle!

  16. tom

    Just want to say that it’s good to know that I’m not in this alone, even though I’m a teacher from China. It is also comforting to know that many of thoughts and feelings that I’ve having are common among us, that I’m not some alien thinking up there self-tormenting thoughts myself alone. i’m currently getting professional help, which is my last resort, but i guess reaching out to you guys may be another avenue.

  17. Ms. C

    Thanks so much for writing this. I was diagnosed by 3 professionals my first year teaching in Oakland with ‘severe-moderate depression’ and advised to either quit or taken a cocktail of anti-depressents to cope with the stress. I was not depressed before the job, thrilled in fact to be teaching in a high need community. However by November I working 17hr days including weekends and by February I was coming home from work and sitting perfectly still for hours. I did not know how to teach 78 16yr olds how to read (average reading level 4th-7th grade), write essays when they struggled with sentences, raise test scores, create a love for learning and literacy and move them to grade level college ready students in 10 months (w/10 weeks taken up with test prep/test taking/test analysis). I felt like a failure everyday despite raising test scores a tad..a 20% increase was still an F. I loved my students but struggled to believe in the power of the importance of what I supposed to do. The economy was/is imploding there will be little to no job opportunities for my students and I am babbling on about the tone of some farm poetry. I took the yr off to sub, realized I didn’t suck as a teacher, re-thought my teaching philosophy so it something I feel less conflicted about and am looking forward to returning the classroom. I would have loved to have known about this site last year.

    • I’m right there beside you, Ms. C. I teach the same age – at even lower reading levels – and am constantly told by administrators to “Raise my expectations.”
      I don’t know if I can face those kids again Monday. I had to leave school today because I had an anxiety attack. I am switching meds again ( I’ve had chronic depression for 20 years), but I’m so low right now – I don’t think it’s going to help. I can’t even write a lesson plan without crying.

      Let me ask you, how did you take a year off? Financially, I am struggling to make it – single mom with 2 kids and an $800 mortgage.
      But, I’m afraid that if I go back in the classroom, at any minute I’m going to snap – and either cry or get in my car and just drive away forever.

      Any advice would help me!

      • leah

        I had a similar situation. Don’t quit take some time off go to a Psych ask for help (meds, therapy) tell them how volitile you feel. They will give you a leave of absence until you can get to feeling like your self again. Schools understand (they have seen it before you aren’t the first). Your pay may get cut but at least you will have a job and career waiting for you when things are more managable. :) At least that was what I am hopeing and have been told.

      • Tired Teacher

        I know exactly how you feel! I left school yesterday because of an anxiety attack. I became upset and couldn’t stop crying. Doctor is increasing my dosage on Zoloft and prescribed a nerve pill to help me make it through the rest of this year. I cried all day yesterday and stayed up half the night crying. I feel like a total failure. I want to quit but we desperately need my income so what do I do? I have a twelve year old son and an eighteen year old daughter in college. I want a job where I can leave and not bring anything home with me. The thought of returning to work Monday makes me physically ill. I don’t want to deal with the other teachers or the administration.

  18. deepi

    really this content made me relax… thanks….

  19. Lisa

    Hi all,

    I have struggled with anxiety and depression for over 15 years. For 10 years, I worked in publishing and public relations and then made a career change to teaching. It feels like teaching augments the problem, although I have enjoyed some of my years at my school. I have been teaching for almost 7 years now. My goal is to move out of the classroom in the fall, but stay in the field.

    Has anyone else changed into the teaching career and found that their depression felt worse?

    • labrashay

      yes, I was in business for 10 years and never felt the way I do now…. because in the business world they dont put up with teachers that are unprofessional and theres always a solution (where admin. is so scared and puts it all on the teachers for everything)
      I will tell you Private schools were much easier to teach at because theres not so much democracy

  20. Ashley

    Thank you so much for this article. I have battled depression since college, but it didn’t really get bad until I began teaching at a middle school 2 years ago. Like others have mentioned, teaching is so demanding and when you don’t feel successful at it, it can take all of your selfwill not to fall apart. As much as I love my students, it’s so depressing to realize that many of them couldn’t care less about their education, and with little support from their parents, many of them won’t even graduate from high school, let alone college. I try to take it one day at a time and hope to touch at least one student’s life, but it’s hard when I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders.

  21. Elizabeth

    Thank you for this article. I am a 2nd year band teacher, and 2 months ago, I started battling a significant battle with depression and anxiety. I am diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia, and possible Major Depressive Disorder. It is difficult, but I am seeking intensive daily treatment, while on the other hand my students do not have a teacher, which is very unnerving for me. I do not see a light at the end of the tunnel. It is nice, however, to see that there are others that may understand what I’m going through.

  22. C.K.

    Reply to Lisa: I am one of those who switched into teaching career and felt that my depression got even worse.

    Each day seems like struggle to me…

    So I am not alone, although I personnally feel that I am so much worse than you in terms of my competency level…

  23. FLS

    Mine comes and goes. In the past year, I’ve lost a brother and grandfather to suicide, a father to lung cancer (56 years old) and got married 3 mos. ago. All this on a 28 yr. old 2nd year teacher. I stuggle often, although I put on my best face. It’s a real chore to get out of bed sometimes, but I manage to do it.

  24. JR

    I’ve started a new job after being in a really comfortable place for years. I won’t say the new job has me depressed, as I always did feel depressed – but it’s worse.

    I think about ways of suicide and have noticed the feeling becoming too great sometimes and have backed away from high spots, like at a mall or over a set of train tracks. I think it’s the finality of it that keeps me from doing it. I have a great wife and an amazing daughter, both of whom I love, but I can’t help think they’d have better lives with me out of the way. There’d be so much less garbage they’d have to deal with if I wasn’t around.

    At work, it absolutely affects my students. I crash at home by 8 PM, leaving a bunch of work unfinished. I let their negativity and entitlement, the “you’re wasting my time” attitude, get the better of me some days. And yet, all I hear is how great I am. My supervisor just gave me glowing reviews – foolishly on his part. I know I’ve been horrible, but this is the only job I’ve ever trained to do, know how to do and can do. Quitting is not an option because of the family/mortgage commitments. That’s why sometimes I think being gone would help them out, at least the insurance would pay for the house.

    And seeing someone isn’t an option. There’s no way to suddenly bring up, “Hey, I need to see a doctor or else I’ll probably be dead soon.” At least not in a way that doesn’t cause more problems.

    So, I sit on a fence – passively go through year by year waiting for summer or succumb. Bet the parents would love reading this…

    • GM

      JR, I just read your post and I have to say I have shared your way of thinking for about two years. I changed schools due to a surplus situation at my home school. I think for several years teaching was consuming my life and I was slowly drowning. I would look at the Employee Assistance adds in the staff room and wished I could find time to talk to someone about my feeling of being overwhelmed. I couldn’t find the time and didn’t think the service was for people like me. So, I started the year at my new school and quickly unwound. By Nov I ‘burned out’. I was crushed, embarrassed, ashamed and felt like a complete loser. I have been off for two years and have only in the last few months stopped beating myself up. And finally I realize that I got excellent evaluations throughout my career because I was a great teacher. I had no real complaints about the kids, staff, parents. So, what happened? Your situation sounds soooo… similar. You do need to see your doctor. You are a great teacher! You are likely heading to burnout if you don’t ask for help with your depression. Funny thing is that you think you are the only one to deal with this. I could not believe how many people in all walks of life share our experiences with this whole balance bit. Before I was off work I had not heard of a single person suffering to this degree. Next thing everyone has a story about someone they know. You need a plan, you need to know that there are options and you need to think of how you would view ‘your situation’ if a friend confided in you in a similar situation. Would you think they were anything other than suffering from an illness that needed to be addressed and treated. I went through feelings of ‘exiting’ to escape the mental pain. I too thought my family would be better off and have an easier time if they didn’t have to have my stresses complicating their lives. I was wrong and so are you. The truth is that you will suffer with these feelings for a period of time but if you take the steps to deal with your condition it too will pass. Will it be overnight. I am afraid not! Will it be easy? Nope, most challenging time of your life! Will you make it? Yep, you will. Find someone you can trust and spill your guts. Do it for you and those you love. There is not easy way out. But, you will find yourself again. Guaranteed!!!!!!!

    • I had been sitting on that fence of passivity until school started two days ago. Now, I, too, feel like jumping off a bridge. It sounds better than facing 90 11th graders on Monday. FYI – insurance won’t pay your family if it’s a suicide. So, you need to get that whole idea out of your head.

      What do we do? I don’t know. I wanted to walk out of the classroom today when this girl rolled her eyes at me, or when Cody refused to take off his earphones, or when 90 percent of the class was socializing instead of doing their work.

      I, too, leave lots of work unfinished. I leave kid’s essays in my car for weeks before I can even face them – much less even read them. I am a perfectionist, and I guess that’s why I feel like you (and many of you who have responded). My students adore me. I connect with them – 17 year olds. But the constant stress of posting the objectives every morning, teacher evaluations, the essential question, rigor, rigor, rigor!

      I don’t think I can mentally handle it on Monday morning.

      And, you can work any job if you have been a teacher. There is NOTHING out there more demanding than teaching. Trust me, you can be trained and be dependable in any other career you choose.

      If you are “too proud” to see a doctor, take St. John’s Wart. It’s an herb for depression. The fact that you won’t see a doctor tells me that you haven’t looked into chronic depression. It’s a chemical imbalance in your brain. That’s why medications help. They target the areas that release your “happy thoughts.”

      Good luck!

    • leah

      YES there is a way! I felt the EXACT same way. I was certain that the moments I said the words I need help, this is not normal and I can’t function like this that my career would be over and that everyone would hate me and be even more disappointed in me. On Friday I found myself unable to speak and about ready to start crying uncontrollably for no reason and walked out leaving my adult aide in charge. I told the principle what was going on and she immidiatly starting taking actions to getting me the help I needed. She assured me that everything would be ok and that my students will be taken care of until I get back to a functional more normal state.

      Know that making any long lasting or final decisions in this state is not rational. Do not quit on your self, family of school! Do not get a tattoo or shave your head! Go straight to the nearest hospital or health professional and say I need help! Let the rest take care of itself. You can make it through this :) Love, peace and prayers.

  25. Sourapples

    I burned out after 9 years. I was so depressed for three years. I “graduated” from therapy last year and have changed my lifestyle. I am still teaching and dislike it, but I finally feel like my decision to make an exit plan is solid and healthy. To teachers who are depressed, drop me a line anytime @ my blog: www. teacheremilyk.wordpress.com

  26. W.

    I too am a teacher and yes, there is most definitely a way out…but, chances are, you probably don’t want to hear about it. People who try to remain divorced from their Creator will experience this type of problem. To your credit, you are not one of those who lie to themselves; pretending that everything will be OK. Take some comfort in the fact that you recognize there is a problem. Fortunately, it can be easily fixed by the One who created us. On the most profound level, only “He” knows what we need and the joy and peace you seek can be found only in Him. Why? Because He is in control and He made it that way. Yes, He allows may things to occur that are not what He desires and so at times, He does not appear to be in control. Know this: He who matters most, loves YOU. He is not too busy. He is all-powerful (omnipotent), all-knowing (omniscient), all-good (omnibenevolent) and everywhere (omnipresent). He knows the number of hairs on your head and He can interact with you as though no one else existed…if you want Him. It’s all up to you. He says in the Book of Revelation (3:20): Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door and I will come in and dine with him and he with Me. It’s up to you.

  27. Ktrying

    Hi every teacher with depression out there, it’s totally ….. isn’t just… I mean we all bust our balls trying our guts out too all but get it thrown back in our faces. Im a 26 yr old female teacher who adores kids but somehow agrees to teaching contracts of the most feral schools. Its like a pattern for me, I will have a fantastic contract with lots of sucess at a medium feralness school,and then stupidly accept a job where the kids and their parents abuse each other and the teachers pretend its not even happening. I pretend it doesnt bother me and keep reading and trying every new resource or tactic until it finally hits me like a tonne of bricks. I forget all the positives and start believing all the nasty things the kids with no hope say, its horrid. Im so thankful others understand. Xoox

  28. vicky

    I’m signed off sick with depression at the moment. The pressures of wanting to be brilliant at my job together with the massive extra curricular demands of working in a boarding school have tipped me over the edge. I have huge debts and a massive mortgage, which add to the worry, but at the end of the day your health comes first. I’ve learned that the hard way – I almost didn’t make it – which in itself makes the worry pointless. I feel very guilty for being off work. I’m letting my colleagues and students down, but there comes a time when you have to say ‘enough’s enough!’ and do what’s right for you. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to go back again, but I’m feeling better now. My dog is helping me to walk my troubles away every day, and the fresh air and exercise is helping. There is a way out. It’s only a job after all.

    • Angie

      I feel this same way. How long have you been gone from work? How can you afford it? Is it sick leave?
      I can’t imagine my life without teaching- it is who I am. A mom and a teacher! But I can’t imagine going back next week with this same perfection in my head that I need to be the best and help all my students. It’s too overwhelming for me!

    • Vicky -
      How did you pull it off financially? I have huge debts and mortgage (with no husband or roommate to split it with) which have been stressing me out for three years now. At school, I am at the point of no return – and it’s only the second day. Suicide sounds better than walking in that classroom. But, as you stated, health comes first. I am scared. I have two daughters to provide for – and feel totally stuck.
      Tell me how it’s possible.

  29. Hello,
    I am in my ninth year of teaching, mother of two young ones (6 & 7) with a husband that works out of town. I have always loved teaching and did not mind the work that was done after school hours until I had my own two children. Life shifted a little, but I kept teaching and raising our two children with their father away to work out of town. It has been like that for 7 years. School, kids, house, and so on. For the past 4 years, I have been teaching different grades every year. It would be easy to blame my principle for not listening to my request to teach lower grades, but having to re-invent the wheel year after year plus my family life, my body basically did what my brain refused to do… to act-out in order to make me realize that I was burning the candle by both ends. I had gained 20 pounds in the last year… I had memory gaps… I forgot if I had or not paid bills… I could not remember phone numbers… I would burst into crying spills or anger outburst… my patience tolerance threshold was nearly nonexistent. Yet, I kept smiling and listen to others complaints and pretended that I did not have a problem, others did. It took a meeting with my new principle to make me realize that I was in the mist of a burnout. She said : “take a few days off and go see your doctor… I have never seen you exhausted before… tired yes, but not exhausted”. The doctor diagnosed me with extreme exhaustion and was surprised to learn that I had been to carry on on what he calls “the last drop of fuel” for so long. So, now forced to stay home and reclaim my sleeping hours and to take care of myself, I was anxious, not answering the phone… anything related to my children behavior issues at school were dealt by my husband. Every week, I would meet with my doctor who listened and finally said “this calendar thing is really not helping you relax, so I am writing you a note and you won’t have to worry for the next month”. I was scared and relieved, but still could not benefit of a good, restful sleep at night. I often “dozed off” in late morning and early afternoon making it just in time to welcome my kids from school. Medication was prescribed and I unwillingly took it… it made me sleep yes, but I had side effects and the doctor changed it. Lately, what has be gnawing at me is that my sick days are coming to an end and I will have to return to work and I don’t feel ready. My health, I have been told, is more important than anything is because without health, what good would I be as a mother, a wife, a friend, a teacher, a person. My husband, in his wisdom approach, organized a family vacation in the south… on a beach… sea water… away from the school and away from the house… and for the first time in many months or years, I felt and lived what it was to be relaxed and care free and I did not take my medication because I had full intention of having cocktails and a few pina coladas. As soon as the plane landed in Toronto, my anxiety level stared fidgeting and the school-nightmares (planning, classroom management, correction, report cards, parent meetings, …) reclaimed my sleep. The principal recently called me to see when I would be coming back and all I could answer was “as soon as my doctor gives me the green light or before the end of January”. I have done everything to get better, I met with my doctor and a social worker, I rested, I do sports (running and skating), I eat clean meals even though I have not shed a single pound. The medication I was taking prior to the family holiday was only patching the problem and not dealing with it so I stopped taking them and I do not feel different. My husband wants to be supportive, but I don’t think he understands what it is I am going through… my outer shell, although expended by the weight gain, doesn’t seem different to him…If only I could use an imagery-machine and show him what is going on in my brain and let him be in my shoes for a week… perhaps he would fully grasp it. But the real question to be asked is : Can a burnout teacher find a path back to being a burnfree teacher ? How to know if and when you will be ready to return to the classroom ? I am scared, I know I am not crazy and I just want to find the path out off this haze and get back to my energetic-positive-go getter-self again. Thanks for reading me.

    • As I read your blog, your words mirrored my pain. I have taught a different subject and grade level every year now for 6 years. I was actually looking forward to this school year because I get to teach the same subject as last year – 11th grade English. But my classes are totally overcrowded, the air conditioning doesn’t work in my room, and I have 8 students in one class that are supposed to be learning in a separate setting due to lowered intelligence or behavior issues, but they’re in a class of 30 because no one in that department can teach English.

      I, too, have gained 20 pounds over the last 2 years due to teaching stress. I feel like I’ve gained five pounds this week because somehow the stress is making me crave fattening food!

      Anyway, let me know what happened. Did you take more time off? How could you afford it?

      • Karine Fortin

        Hi Jenny :)
        I can happily say that the summer vacation really helped with my road to recovery :) I am now more at peace with myself and have regained alot of my energy. The weight has yet to be shifted, but I am confident that I will get back on track with that as well. I have a really different group of students this year and the other teacher teaching the same level as I is very resourceful and fully aware of my background which helps to set ground rules when working… she is the voice that reminds me “o.k., you have done enough for today, give yourself a pat on the shoulder, tomorrow is another day, delegate as much as you can ! Take care Jenny, and try to find something positive to look forward to, that can help more than you can think ;)
        Cheers !

  30. Angie

    I totally feel your pain! I too am a teacher, this is my 12th year. I too have 2 small children- 4 and 7. I also have a husband who doesn’t get it. I too am in the midst of taking time off but having a tough time with that- feeling guilty but in reality, I can’t give anymore. You do have something I don’t.. a husband who would plan a relaxing vacation for you. My husband is just planning his own fishing trips and mountian climbs and leaves me alone in my little cave in my room. He even shuts the door.
    DId you ever think that you’d be at this point? I have tried so hard and have given everything for my students, and my own kids, and I am at the verge of a burnout too. I hate this!

    • Dearest Angie,
      I too am a giving person… rarely said no to my students or to their parents and to colleagues… things had to be perfect, I looked after the cleanliness of my classroom because I did not like half-way-jobs like the custodian would do… my correction had to be done on time… photocopies were at least 2 lessons in advance… answering notes in my students day planner… I ate in class and rarely took breaks. I was a full-time teacher and as soon as the bell rang, I was a full-time mom with still house-work and school-work to be done. I had energy (don’t know from where? ) and was always like “go-go-go”. I never thought that I would reach this point because it only happens to others, right ? False, I have to learn the hard way that nobody is indispensable, you are replaceable… Your health comes first and no one can take better care of yourself but yourself. Life lessons that I had to learn later rather than earlier in my life and in my career. You think that you are on the verge of a burnout, well, think again because you are having one… just the fact that you mention it, your brain has already acknowledge it… your body has been giving you signs, listen now and take a deep breath ! I had to basically fall apart (crying, trembling, snapping) in front of my husband for him to see what was happening to me physically and psychologically. I always wore make-up at work, so my black circles under my eyes were well covered as well were my blemishes, unless, like it was the case when I met with my principal back in October, I cried and the make-up was wiped away with a tissue. My husband saw, not only heard me, but really saw what was becoming of me. I couldn’t care less about preparing meals or doing laundry or cleaning. I just could not give anymore and got overwhelmed by very trivial things. I made my husband aware about the doctors notes and knew that I had a long road of recovery ahead of me, that I was not being selfish or difficult… I truly was in need of help. He did not just heard me, he took the time to listen. Have you made your husband aware about how you feel ? Has he read your doctor’s notes ? Has he met the doctor with you ? Has he gone to see a social worker or a counselor with you ? The fact that he is planning his fishing trip and has not suggested that you join him is perhaps because he might think that you have to care for your 2 little ones or that a fishing trip would not interest you. You have to speak up ! I am sorry to be so blunt, but you will have to reach out to get the help you need with or without your husband support. Does your school system have resources to guide you to a counselor or an insurance plan to help after your sick-days have come to an end ? School and home-life have become intertwined, that is what was almost to be expected of mothers that are teachers. You will be able to get a better perspective if you step away from the school AND the house… a date with your husband or a little weekend away together while grand-ma and grand-pa have the kids over… if your husband is unavailable, would you have girlfriends that could take you out karaoke ? My joy in life, before I met my husband, had been figure skating. I started skating again (20 years after I had stopped) and found joy again just skating along with a group of seniors on early mornings. Then, I would come home and take a nap or have a nice cup of coffee and reading a paperback book. The fact that I was the only one who could take care of myself made me want for those things that I had to give up once a became a wife and mother, and teacher. I found my little pleasures and incorporated them in my everyday life. It has help with my recovery… I am more and more positive and have a better outlook on life. The latest update is that my doctor has approve for me to return to work in the school environment, but has stated outside of the classroom (my grade 2 are really tough this year) for the time being… a long term goal is a possibility… for now, it is just about getting back in the routine and getting adjusted to my colleagues and seeing other children beside my own… a baby step at the time… I do fear that I will relapse otherwise… I do remain confident that I will beat this and that I will be once more the good teacher that others see me to be. Take care Angie and chin up, their is a light at the end of the tunnel… everyone has to make their journey to recovery and the fact that you said that you are on the verge of a burnout is already the first step in accepting it… isn’t it like the stages of grief in a way ? First comes recognition, then anger and despair, then tiredness and acceptance, then recovery and wisdom. I am sending you a big hug and know that you are not alone. Cheers from Kingston Ontario Canada !

  31. Angie

    Thank you Karine-I had a bad weekend and will be taking this week off from school to get readjusted with new meds and see my psychologist for the 2nd time. My mom came last night to stay with me today to help me get through the day today, get out of bed, etc. You are right, I did burn out and I have a very capable retired teacher subbing for me- so I am replaceable.
    Last night, I had a meltdown and my 7 year old daughter came into my room. She curled up next to me, rubbed my back and said, Everything is going to be okay mom. My 4yr old son came jumped in bed with me and kissed my face. As much as I hated my children seeing me like that, I needed someone there to tell me that. I knew that I needed to call my parents and have someone else there to be with me so I wasn’t depending on my children to comfort me. My husband’s response- right in front of my kids: “Well if its this bad, I’m calling 911″- which really scared my daughter. I had to reassure my daughter that I was okay, just really sad, and that once my medicine started working, I’d be back to myself. I really wish my kids didn’t see me like that, but at the time, having them there by my side reminded how lucky I was to be their mom.
    I’m taking one day at a time and really looking forward to feeling myself again.
    Thanks again for your words Karine- you are proof that things do get better.

    • Dearest Angie,
      It is good that you are taking this week off and that you reached out to your parents for support. Your kids are very sensitive to what you are living and did exactly what my two kids did, they comforted you the best way they could and knew how. Kids are sometimes too unaware that you are a human being and not just a mom… you have feelings too and they responded to that like you would if they needed a listening ear. Be proud of them and give them extra hugs when ever you get the chance and tell them how much you love them because it will just help them become more understanding of others feelings and they too will become more loving people towards others. As teachers, we rarely receive recognition for the work that we do with our pupils and as a mom, well, often we have to give ourselves our own pat on the back for raising our children and being a good wife. Butterfly kisses from your kids are that pat on your back… it is their way of recognizing the great mom that you are. You mentioned that you were going to go see your psychologist for a 2sd time… you are lucky because I am on a referral basis and have to wait and I am still waiting for the psychologist office to call me. It is good that you reached out to your parents, but a word of warning, Family members are often too close to you to give you an objective outlook… they can make comments that are out of place like the one your husband made because they just don’t know how to approach anxiety and depression… they mean well, but they can be too subjective. In a way, your family is what is keeping you grounded and alive because they can focus on other everyday life situation that will force you to change from your PJ to get dress, to eat, to laugh, to reconnect with people… the worst thing to do is to close yourself and isolate yourself… Find a positive thing to say everyday even if it is to yourself at first in the mirror, but then, find someone and make eye contact and say “Hello”. I always found that cooking had its therapeutic effect on me. My husband, well, his therapeutic activity is to garden (I have 2 black thumbs… which makes him cringe each time he goes off to work… will the plants have survived after 6 weeks ?… So he is pleasantly relieved when he comes home and sees his creation still thriving… what he doesn’t know is that I surf the web to help me take care of his creation ;)). So yesterday, the baby-sitter stayed after I came back from grocery shopping and she, the kids and I started cooking… it was fun and my battery recharged… I slept very well that same night. One day at the time, Angie, it is o.k. to feel what you are feeling and continue to follow the step needed to find your path. Cheers from Kingston Ontario Canada

  32. It is now week 3 of returning to work… gradually increasing to more time in the classroom and I am O.K.. A step at the time :) Also, I have now integrated a treat for myself once a week… a visit at my physio for a deep massage… my sciatic nerve is grateful so is my back. Angie, I hope that you are well on your path to feeling better too :) Cheers from Kingston Ontario Canada :)

  33. Share

    I’m a first year teacher and I also battle depression (before coming to the teaching field). As a first year teacher is it normal to cry 2-3 times a week especially if you are really struggling at it? I don’t know if that is normal or if that is depression that keeps getting triggered. I keep wondering if teaching is for me… or if I should just stick it out. I hate to give up but it makes me so miserable. I just wish I could recapture the joy I had during student teaching.

  34. Nacho Cheese

    After nearly two decades (and a dozen jobs) in the corporate sector, I subbed for two years and became a teacher. The first year was in a dysfunctional district that was one of the poorest in the state, and predominantly Hispanic. With a boring, middle-class upbringing, it was a shock to say the least (I once called home to ask about a student (by his first name) and mom’s response was, “the white one or the black one?” I can’t make this sh!t up). I was told I had excellent content knowledge and potential, but was a poor match for the extraordinary demands of da ‘hood. By April I was convinced it was all me (though the logical part of my brain declared that unsupportive, unrealistic administration was largely to blame) and sought professional help.

    The next year, I lucked out and landed a high school gig very close to home. Two years at this mostly-affluent, suburban middle school was Disney by comparison! But the budget axe ended that. Competent leadership, fun coworkers, a sense of team, and a largely respectful, orderly student body made it easy. Sure there were a couple of boneheads here and there, and I caught flak for actually enforcing rules according to the Faculty Manual (big mistake), but I never dreaded going to work.

    Now I’m in another suburban district that has a touch of affluence but a small but extremely vocal (and sometimes physical) minority that is Pure Ghetto. There is little order as the inmates run the asylum. The bell schedule is a suggestion at best and there are several fights per week, often over nothing. Adminstrators can sometimes be seen barking orders via bullhorns as students laugh and grab their crotches. Students protest when unsubmitted assignments are recorded as zeroes. Parents call the students during class. Most boys’ pants are below the butt and electonic gadgets are epidemic (calls home and the prospect of a confrontiational confiscation are daunting). While I’m sure the honors/AP classes are fine, many elective classes are a dumping ground for kids they refuse to put into study halls (or kids desperate for credits). One class in particular is impossible to control or even guide – the only thing that works is giving them very small assignments to find info on the Internet (since they won’t listen to lecture or participate in class discussion, and there are no books, this is the only option I can think of), and even that is done by perhaps a third of them. Dishing out referrals and detentions is a fast way to get on the radar for the wrong reasons, so all but the most egregious violations are handled in-class (with tepid results). So far, it’s worked, as management has not intervened, but the students know they can get away with that much more.

    A colleague, whose father is a shrink, advised her to pick a spot on one’s commute, such as a bridge, exit, etc., and insist that past that point, all distress will be abandoned, if only for a night. I’ll try that.

    Pathetically, I’ve thought about how a collision on the way to/from work would stop the pain and sense of worthlessness, but my commitment to my family comes first, and my supportive spouse has made it clear that she’d rather have me unemployed than mentally destroyed. I also resent that I am giving these miscreants the power to ruin my personal life! Why the hell should I care more about a 16-yr-old’s success than s/he does? I know that rules me out for the lead role in the next bullsh!t Hollywood movie on SuperTeachers, but one has to draw a line somewhere. So, all the students who refuse to complete AND submit work are on their way to Fs. The administration can override those grades I just cannot bring myself to give a passing grade to someone who’s done perhaps 3 of 8 assignments.

    All that said, I’ve had successes over the years, but as long as the failures largely outnumber them, I will continue to feel like I’m fighting a losing battle. Bu that’s just me.

    Peace to you all.

    • Nacho Cheese

      I strayed off topic – sorry!

      Bottom line is you need to find how far you’re willing and able to go, and to leave time/energy for yourself and your family. Unless you are single and crazy-committed, you have to think about your family. The principal of my “happy” gig said, “We expect you to work very hard for our students, but you must have balance in your life” and I remember that. Also remember these are kids, and even the 20-yr-old juniors are still immature and their world revolves around themselves, so you can’t take what they say that personally. Most of the time the kids are acting out because they don’t want to be there – regardless of who’s teaching.

      If you are a truly gifted educator who can get through to the most difficult kids, you’re probably not reading this blog. Heh. Check out http://www.teach4real.com to read some interesting days.

      There are days I’m convinced that while adequate, I’m not a good teacher. Other days, something will happen and I’ll say, “I actually made a difference.” I think a lot depends on how much of your self-worth comes from without versus within. I’ve had several students tell me I was one of the best teachers they had, and while that’s important, a particular day’s events hurt my psyche.

      NEW TEACHERS: Stay the hell away from toxic teachers (you know, the chronic complainers). Find people who are realistic but positive. Find people who will SHARE ideas and what they’ve gotten to work. Talk to counselors, coaches, and other teachers. If you can actually find an administrator genuinely willing to help, you’re lucky; unfortunately, just like in corporate, some are hell-bent on finding problems only.

      Finally, I recommend that on the worst days you call home for a good student and tell the parent/whomever how much you value having him/her in your class – you’ll feel better. It’s worked for me and I need to do it more.

      • Hi;

        I just retired from teaching last year. When I first entered this profession, every day was wonderful. I was an English teacher, I what I loved was talking with my students about literature. Words are, in my belief system, everything. But now, thanks to No Child Left Behind, Socratic dialogue (at least in my former district) is non existant. All of the curriculum is laid out, all the lesson plans are drawn up by the state, and the asking of questions is somthing that can cause you to be watched by the authorities that be. My greatest joys were my students and parents, who always teold me what I difference I had made in their children’s life. My greatest fear was the numerous times I would be called into the classroom because I helped children to think on their own (it would take me an entire encyclopedia to cover this). I still have students who walk up to me and tell me how they have kept the poems and the journals they wrote in my class. But I would never, ever to back into the classroom. I have a bleeding ulcer, numerous digestive problems, and an overriding paranoia which comes forth every time I close my eyes in sleep. Tor those of you who have chosen to remain in the profession, my one advice is to not be hard on yourselves. Someone has to care, to reach out. . .especially now when programs are being cut and teachers are being told that they ae the reason why the world is falling apart. We are living in a world where no on is willing to take on personal responsibility for their actions. Someone has to take the blame.

        God bless all the teachers. God bless them. They are the only ones keeping this world of indifference and selfishnessness from falling apart.

        John
        jspsjohn@comcast.net

    • Alisha

      It’s been getting harder and harder for me to get out of bed to go to school in the morning. I already have idiopathic hypersomnia (like narcolepsy), which wasn’t diagnosed until mid-schoolyear last year (so I was already in the field with my Masters of Education). I’ve been arriving later and later to school…usually I still make it before 7:30, when the kids have to be in class, but I’m supposed to be there at 7:15am, and there have been more than a few times when I arrived at 7:32am…7:40am….7:45am. Those times I always had my class covered, but it’s so stressful.

      I’m finishing my 2nd year of teaching in an urban school district. The middle school I taught at my 1st year closed. I’m now in a high school.

      I relate so much with what the author and the commenters wrote.

      RE: Nacho Cheese, my car got broken into in September, and I was thankful to have a “good” reason to miss school. Strangely, my car got broken into again 7 months later (this past week), and it was worse than the first time. This time, I had foolishly left some supplies for a business I started last year in June that is my exit strategy to teaching. (I am planning to quit at the end of the year.)

      Although I’m devastated by the losses and violation, I was still relieved to be able to miss school. I took the rest of the week off, and I’m glad to have the excuse of not having a rental available yet, but in reality, I just don’t want to go back. I’ve used all my accrued sick days and personal days. I have 5 more school days until spring break, and then 1 month after that. I just don’t know how I’m going to do it. I can’t imagine getting out of bed and getting dressed and showing up and then having the will to actually try to get them to do something.

      I checked myself into a mental health crisis center the night my car got broken into last week, and the nurse mentioned FMLA. I just don’t know how to do any of it, and nothing is ever open on Sunday, and my friends and family have proven to be completely useless when I actually need them.

      • Peace Teacher

        Edit

        Alisha and others,

        Good luck and know that you are not alone.

        Hook into the teacher’s movement like the Wisconsin teachers who are fighting back for themselves and education:

        http://www.weac.org/Home.aspx

        also
        Education votes:

        http://www.educationvotes.nea.org/

        and
        Working America:

        http://www.workingamerica.org/

        Reach out and be vocal and unashamed as you try to find answers to the education mess that you find yourselves in the middle of as teachers. If you leave teaching, still be vocal and unashamed about your experience. It will help others going into it.

        There is such a crisis in education, especially education involving poor communities. Many claim to have answers to these ed problems that we MUST solve, but so often these answers are weak, out of touch, and/or very damaging to the front line of education, as well as to education as a whole. These kinds of non answers just seem to compound the dysfunction of the schools, which in turn feeds into the dysfunction of teachers, students, and communities.

        The best thing you as an individual can do is to fight for yourself and find support! Take a tip from the airlines: to be at your best to offer help, put your mask on first and then assist others! The next best thing is to be vocal and unashamed! Good luck!

        A joke based on an ever common uncomfortable truth:
        “Those who can teach do; those who cannot make laws about teaching.”

      • Nacho Cheese

        I knew a teacher who was relieved to need major surgery because it meant two weeks – unquestioned – out of school. Sad, really.
        @Alisha: I’m shocked they didn’t question your days off: many districts I know are very strict. One in particular expressly forbids taking sick days if your child is sick (and stops just short of threats). Thank GOD I’m not a single parent and my kids are just old enough to stay home on their own. Amazing policy considering it’s supposed to be “kids first” (I guess just not YOUR kids!).

  35. Pingback: When You’re Happy, They’re Happy | Teach4Real

  36. I am do PhD research on Teachers Depression in schools of Soweto,please sent me more information on this topic
    many thanx
    David Moeketsi

  37. Bohemian

    It’s nice to know I am not alone. I feel so lost. My friends don’t understand, my boyfriend thinks I can change, and my parents have their own lives and I hate burdening them. I have dealt with depression for about 13 years now. On and off meds, therapy for years. Things started looking up a few years ago when I became a teacher. I wanted to teach ever since I was little and I finally got there. It was a very rough start. I cried a lot for random things and had a very shitty principal. I also went through a bad breakup with my then long term boyfriend. My kids were so supportive though and one girl even brought me flowers during this time. I also had a few good parents who loved me. However, I managed to keep this job from 2008 until this summer. I was a hard worker, thicker skinned, but I became overwelmed with all the extra work I did. I loved my third graders and took pride in planning school events and doing tons for the school.

    Over the summer though we were asked to do more random crap(meetings, marketics, etc) that was not in our contract. I became upset and stressed and didn’t even enjoy my summer. I started to not sleep, was crying constantly and had anxiety attacks when I got an e-mail from work. I knew it was time to go elsewhere. The school was going under a lot of changes(new leader, all the good teachers fired, new teachers brought in, pay decrease and more). I felt as much as I loved teaching there, the politics and other stuff where too much for my emotional health.

    Fast forward to July, a friend got me an interview at another school to teach kindergarten. I never wanted to teach kindergarten but wanted a new start. Long story short, I quit my old job AND got a new job the same day. I was out of my old class in two days. In August we started the new school and right off the bat, I felt weird. I normally get nervous around new people but I felt the kinder team to be very cliqueish(they all knew each other), and the whole philsophy of the school was very weird and not me( we were told to make the kids do push ups if they misbehaved among other very scary things). I began not sleeping again and was getting depressed again. Still I went with it. I came to all the meetings early, bought tons of new kinder items, etc.

    Fast forward to the first day of school. I have a happy but nervous demeanor. The kids start trickling in with the parents of course wanting to stick around. Right away I was stressed. Susie has to go potty, Johnny’s parents won’t stop talking, four other kids spilling their breakfast everywhere, two other kids fighting, one kid crying,etc. One parent who didn’t speak any English even dropped off her kid who was screaming bloody murder and trying to run out of the classroom. It took me twenty minutes of me holding him(while trying to clean, break up fights AND talk to parents) to find out the kid was not even supposed to be in my room!

    Things calm down a little and a parent aid comes into help. They still were not listening and running around. Right before lunch I lsot it sadly and began to cry. The principal came in(as well as the main kinder teacher who I guess left her class) and they told me to go in and talk to the main kinder teacher in her room while the parent aide watched my class. It was a half day and school was out in an hour and I stayed in the other room behind a pocket chart crying. We talked about me moving to third grade where I would be happy. School gets out, and low and behold all the teachers are gossiping in the hallways. Apparently when I was talking to the other teacher, one of my kids left the school and the cops found him. Even though he was not technically under my watch. Fired. The principal didn’t even do it herself. She had her buddy the main kinder teacher tell me I was fired. I was later told after driving an hour to my parents house, that my stuff was to be at that day because they hired a new teacher.

    Low and behold when myboyfriend went to get my stuff, a lot of my stuff was packed already. Nice to know how replaceable I am. I know the teachers also took a lot of my stuff that my boy had to leave because he couldn’t fit it all in one load.

    This has killed my whole love of teaching and made me question what I want to do in life in general. It makes me sick to think how easily some people can make you feel worthless. I am also soooo upset I have spent thousands and thousands of dollars on my classrooms.

    I am not in a financial position to not get a job. It’s been two weeks and the job pickings are slim. What do you do when you realize what you worked your life to achieve, no longer makes you happy? Thanks for letting me vent here. I feel like no one else understands.

  38. SEA_teacher

    Nice to know that i am not alone. really. I seem to be the only who have problem managing the class or problem controlling my emotion infront of them in my school. I tell you, kids nowaday are really terror. They intentionally say things to Kill especially when they know we care. And the stupid me get so affected by them whenever they said things like i can’t teach and i am not strict enough..

    I think i care for them too much and i always give them my best. And when they still don’t learn or when they rebell, I feel really terrible. What a lousy teacher am i. I used to think that i have the calling of being a teacher. But when i step into this school, I am doubting myself every single day.

    The senior teachers said it’s important for us to ‘pretend to be confident’ even if we are not. But with this sceptism in my mind and the sad feeling, i don’t know how long i can force myself to smile.

    I feel better knowing that there are teachers across the continent are facing the same thing too..

  39. Sarah

    Nice to know I am not alone too. I had a complete break down this morning before class. I am a professor at a small university in my third year of teaching. It is about all I can take from the students who whine constantly and verbally abuse me.

    My depression makes it hard to teach everyday much less grade assignments. On top of that, my class size has grown by 50%. More students and less time to work with them.The grading is piling up and I feel more overwhelmed everyday. I feel like a failure and a horrible teacher.

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  43. dar

    All of you, God Bless You, and me. Give us strength, and wisdom. Give us joy again. I am sooooooooo tired and weepy but reading all of these letters is putting a name to my condition OVERWORK. I pray we all get a balance, or a way out, one of the two.

    It is so hard to pick up the phone to talk to a friend, because I know it is unhealthy to isolate, but I do not want to complain too much about how hard teaching is.

    I have also changed grades and schools 5 times in 10 years. Crap, it has been tough.

    The pay we get for what we do is laughable.

  44. Steve

    I have struggled with depression since my late teens. I was always able to control it. two years ago my marriage ended in a mess and i was forced to move home. i grew increasingly isolated and in the end had a big breakdown.
    I have taught Science in the UK for ten years. I have been placed in the the top 5% of teachers and i have been involved in helping challenging schools turn around their fortunes.
    Right now i am signed off from work, this is the third time. I have stopped being able to handle stress and oscillate between sullen depression and animated anxiety. I am constantly being reminded that i cost my school a lot of money and that i represent a whole suite of computers (or two young mentally healthy teachers) what is is more i constantly compare myself against what i was in the past and beat myself up when i fall short. I am trying to plan an exit to teaching but sometimes have trouble seeing past tomorrow.

  45. Emily

    I am also a teacher and I get very depressed sometimes. Sometimes it feels like all the effort in the world not to cry. I find a good thing to do is, even if you don’t feel like one of those people who shrugs everything off- just pretend that you are. Eventually that feeling will start to feel natural, and soon you’ll be sailing through the day. Trying to get to the bottom of the problem only makes it worse. There is no bottom to depression, and if you try and look for it, you’ll just fall deeper and deeper into it. The only thing to do is pretend like you don’t care. Live like a goldfish. The people who know and understand you know that you care- that’s all that matters.

  46. Pingback: Teaching with Depression: Is There Any Way Out? | AltDaily : Creating and celebrating local culture in Norfolk and all of Hampton Roads.

  47. Zam

    I don’t know, I think you’re making this ‘teaching and depression’ thing into a big drama, so little wonder you’re depressed. You take it all too seriously, and are too attached to being ‘super teacher’ putting all of this unrealistic expectation on yourself. Detach and wing it more. Sometimes in life you have to say to yourself ‘screw ‘em’ and just do your thing. Who cares what others think. If the teaching sucks and is getting you down, simply move on and do something else. Okay, you’ll think I’m being sexist here, but most of the posts here seem to be from the female side of the aisle and…erm….you sound really whingey and like a bunch of whiners. Lighten up.

    • chris

      Perhaps some of you don’t understand depression. I have had 9 principals in 15 years in the classroom. Each one had different expectations. When I would become confident in my skills, they would change the rules. Content experts are no longer needed. A psychologist blended with a cheerleader and social worker and camp counselor would be the best mix. No wonder the US is falling behind the world. When your livelihood is threatened for not being warm and fuzzy enough, a depressed person takes it very personal and very serious. A depressed person does not wake up in the morning and decide to be melancholy that day. Should I chose to leave teaching because of my depression is up to me, not forced by an evaluator. It is not about stress. It is about being degraded as a person and a professional.

    • Steve

      Hi Zam,
      Thanks for your input.
      Are you a psychologist? With insight like that you really have put everything in perspective i guess i will just lighten up..Thankyou very much.
      S

  48. Nacho Cheese

    A good day in the classroom can do wonders to lift one’s spirits; a lousy day can be devastating. The key to survival is to not take things personally, but teaching is one of the most “personal” occupations there is, and after many years, I have not learned how to de-personalize what is at times a hostile work environment.

    I get the feeling most on this thread teach lower grades. I teach HS. Two quick stories…

    I offered a student, who had copied another’s work (just crossed her name out and wrote his) a second chance to do the work and submit with no penalty. His response? “F**k that!” A few days later, another student, irritated that I paused while waiting for the class to settle down (some simply cannot), bellowed, “What the F**K are YOU waiting for?!” Of course, the student denies it and tells the parent(s) the teacher has it out for him/her. Old news.

    I had a supervisor a few years ago who said, “Students have a right to fail,” but most (safely out of the classroom for years) administrators I’ve known adopt the “it’s always the teacher’s fault if a student fails!” mantra. Can’t have 18 yr olds taking any responsibility, can we? Of course, there’s also the daily hallway barrage of obscenities, profanity, saggin’ pants, f*** this and n*gga that on top of it all. Unlike manufacturing corporations who can reject/return damaged raw materials, public educators not only have to take ‘em all, we’re expected to spin straw into gold.

    What keeps many going is the handful who are polite, respectful, make an effort to learn, and exhibit “normal” behavior. Each of us has to determine our own tipping point as to how long to stay in this profession.

    I leave you with this: to paint toenails, cut hair, fix pipes, or do many other things, one needs training, to pass a test, and to get licensed; to reproduce requires nothing more than two fertile people of opposite genders. I’m just sayin’.

    Good luck and happy new year to all…

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  50. Lilley Redman

    This article just helped me thank you so much for writing and creating this it really helps people and me.

  51. Emma

    Interesting to read. I am having difficulty at the moment, am the only teacher in my department, so dont feel I can take any time off, especially as I only work three days a week. My partner died just under two years ago, and have struggled since. Luckily im at a very small school, but pupils still look at me as if ive become an alien… They are polite enough not to say anything, thank goodness. I havent been able to stop self harm either, so have to always remember to cover up my arms, as that would take a lot of explaining. Am hoping one day I will be a normal teacher again…

  52. Stan

    Im in my 8th year and thought that I had it all under control and the BAMM!!! it hit me and I am currently trying to recover. It’s amazing what this can do to you. So often people go to the doctor when they get the flu or break a bone, something that you can see feels like it deserves more attention than something that you can’t but the emotional injury has much MORE of a significant effect than any visible physical effect. I mean, you get the email that so and so fell and broke their hip and will be out for the next month but when is the last time that everyone gets the email that you have been diagnosed with MAJOR DEPRESSION and will need to take some time to recover? That would never happen.

    But you need to take the time if you can. You need to find a way to get back to the way that your once felt, having that sense of optimism that you are this great instrument, capable of capturing minds. Finding the way to do that takes time and reflection. Take it if you can.

    Find a professional that can help you. That takes time also. It took me a month to find a doctor who told me, “you don’t need to live like this. I’m surprised you made it this far.” This is after I sat in my car thinking about how I would kill myself with a handgun in my closet.

    Also, finding ways to make things easier for you is important.

    The kids need to WORK. That is what they are there for. Do not be afraid of disappointment. Know that you will stop it in others. That is what teaching is.

    Finally, we are the ones who come out of this stronger. What does not kill us only makes us stronger. We are the few who know a side that nobody has had the chance to experience.

  53. Emma

    I took too much time off, after my boyfriend died I was off for about six months, and then only went back part time. If working part time is too much at 32, then what hope is there?! Sometimes dont even feel like myself anymore, maybe the medication does that to you……
    Time off just isnt an option, having time off when you work part time makes it look as if you cant be bothered to do your job and are not passionate enough about it. Other teachers, and kids alike think like this. And sooner or later I will be replaced.

  54. crystal butterfly

    I’ve been a high school teacher for 13 years. I’ve also struggled with depression for a long time off and on, but I’ve always had a lot of spunk, and I could have a lot of fun with my students. Until my own son died a year ago in October, 2010. Teaching has been a nightmare for me since then. I just turned in my resignation last week. I don’t even know if I can make until the end of this year. My son was 20 and he died of a drug over dose 2 weeks after he got out of rehab. I dread coming to work. Not that I don’t really like and still enjoy my studet and my subject, I do, but I have no fight in me left for when they talk back, or when they just don’t want to cooperate. I just feel sad, I no longer have the energy or the spunk I guess to put them in line where they need to be. So my kid don’t listen to me. I am broken hearted over my son. I want to help kids with addicitons. Not the spoiled kids I teach nw.

  55. Hi,
    I was thankful to see Jesse’s article and then the many affirming responses. I have battled ADD and depression my entire life and am in the process of having my psychiatrist validate them and suggest any accommodations that would help me. I have taught in a private school for 12 years and have been a music minister for 12 years at the same time. Before that was a full time musician/private teacher . I hesitated to mention anything about it here but with a new administration, things have been ramped up in terms of expectations in all ways. Then my wife was telling me I should tell them if I am not renewed this year, I should find out asap so I can go on disability. There are a lot of issues there that I don’t want to get into but suffice it to say, I am battling to keep my job(s) especially in light of the administration’s willingness to try to accommodate my “challenges” or “disabilities” and ironically they have been the one source of encouragement, hope, and anything positive. I read articles where people cautioned employees to keep their “conditions” to themselves and just try to improve performance with help lest they be labeled as hopelessly flawed or accused of making excuses for sup-par areas of performance. I’m 55 years young, come into work every day early and frequently stay late so the time or commitment to the job is not a problem. Things such as 3 deep breaths to get centered are helpful which speaks more of anxiety probably but with ADD, it’s the racing thoughts, trying to do too much, poor judgement of time needed, procrastination, focusing on top priorities first, keeping abreast of upcoming deadlines, following through on projects, that are areas that need improvement. A book that finally came from Amazon entitled ” “breaking the habit of being yourself” by Joe Dispenza has given me a concrete plan for changing thought patterns, reshaping my desires and intentions to match my results in a scientific yet spiritual way, has given me hope. It sounded similar to a gentleman’s book suggestion earlier in these responses entitled “intimate connections”. Kudos for him for being able to put it into practice instead of being just another book that ultimately gathers dust and is not fully internalized. I think changes are harder as we get older and it takes our full effort to make them stick. It’s good to know I’m not the only one who doesn’t have it “all together”.

  56. Just wanted to give thanks for wrtiing this! I have a depression diagnosis but absolutely love teaching. I haven’t gone into the field full-time yet because I am really grappling with the things I will need to sustain this thing I love so much. Reading this article was a nice frame to that process. Thank you & I salute all the teachers who keep going (or not) in the midst of taking care of their own experiences with mental health

  57. Sherilynne

    Sherilynne
    I have been battling depression since I was 21. I am 54 . I have been teaching for thirty years. All of these examples of teaching and depression
    Ring so true! Though so painful, nice to know one is NOT Alone. I found it interesting that many teachers mentioned their perfectionism. I thought that I was the only one. I have seen the same doctor for 20 years, and I have been on more antidepressants that I can count. Some helped, some didn’t. The stress of teaching these days is horrific. Test scores, budget problems, the amount of home time one needs to spend correcting papers and planning for new curriculums,etc. is simply overwhelming. Last year due to a major depressive episode,I had to take 2 months off. Hardest thing ever!!
    So embarrassed to return since I am a great actress. No one could believe “the happiest person ever” was depressed. I have spent my entire teaching career pretending. I have not felt like myself since I took that time off. My doctor said that I could get a disability retirenment, and I am seriously thinking about it.
    I wish everyone some peace. I really can feel your pain. Sometimes I wish I could have a physical disease instead. Isn’t that strange??….

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  59. Nicnic

    I don’t suffer from this type of depression UNLESS I’m teaching. I took 8 months off when my husband relocated and then went back six weeks ago. At my old job, I suffered chronic migraines, chest pain, and was on Celexa. At this one I find myself contemplating suicide at least once a week– the only thing stopping me is I don’t think my children could cope, and one just started law school, and I don’t want to destroy her future (sometimes I actually resent them for being an “obstacle” this way.) I work 10 hour days and a full day on the weekend, but still find myself cutting corners, while trying to develop a curriculum (with no textbooks). I have dumbed down my class considerably but the kids who do nothing are the loudest, complaining that my class is “too hard”. Their parents nag incessantly about missing assignments even though my late policy is spelled out on my syllabus, as though it’s my fault their kids don’t do their homework. My new school appears to be observation- obsessed… teachers observing other teachers, admin in all the time, all of this on top of the formal observation schedule. And although I’m in my 10th year, I’m being treated like a noob again, because I moved states, jumping through those hoops as well. And, it looks like test-based merit pay is coming to this state.

    I tendered my resignation Friday, with 30 days’ notice. I realize how fortunate I am that a supportive spouse affords me that option. I feel like I’ve gotten my life back already, and am exploring opening my own business or going back to school into a new field (even though I’m 46). I just can’t see spending another 20 years in this sort of day-in, day-out misery.

    • Anne

      Thanks for the article, and like Popey says” I am what I am” Teachers are social workers, substitue moms, curriculum transmitters, and are constanty being asked to change their natural abilities to teach based on politically driven, policy making individuals with no classroom experience., WE are a very incredible group of people, and need to step away at the end of the day, and give ourselves credit. Bad coworkers are toxic to be around, andnegative s***T starters exist in every field. I work with a few , and they are always looking for a pimple on the arse of others.Depression on top of a very challenging career is devastating. The policies and b.s. will always be there… If I was in any position, I would give us all a double in salary and a guarenteed vacation to the Virgin Islands every year… So keep on keepin on, go to your doc, therapist, or whom ever you seek out to help and support you. Lock your classroom door,put a sign up outside that says..something nice, and give em your best… stay away from nay sayers, gossips, and fake people… When in doubt, eat large bowls of ice cream, and pray … for reals. WE are awesome!!!

  60. marktegan

    I’m 52, male, been teaching for 17 years. I’ve become alienated from the staff in my faculty due to personality issues. Three staff members are very clique and use this to great advantage to isolate me. Our hyper-driven faculty Head took on the Assistant Principal position for five weeks, which meant these three staffers now have increased their power base. I had two weeks off due to influenza and could not send work in. When I did get back, my Head teacher said I could have sent work in, between when I was delerious and feverish. On the last day of term that week, a day used for PD and Staff Mass ( Catholic School), I was given a directive to prepare two exam notices for my Year 10 students, 400 copies, to be ready for distribution by day 1 next term. This meant in order to complete the directive, I would have to forego going to saff mass to get these 400 copies done. Then our Department Head (temp AP) came storming in and tore strips off me for not attending Mass because I was carrying out the directions given to me. That was the last straw.
    Next year I’m taking LSL in term 3 & 4, and don’t intend to return. Teaching has created another burnout victim. I’ll work out my last three terms, not say a word, then disappear. A sad end to a career.

  61. i m here far away from my home for job and here people treated me badly now i am not talking to anyone and totally alone inspite of a lot of people around me..when ever i look around i feel that they are laughing at me.i am really depressed.Is there any solution for me so please reply me at abdur_rauf_007@live.com
    i know my english is not good

  62. F. Rodz

    I’m a 52 year old teacher I’ve taught for around 10 years now. I find it very hard to get up every morning and face my students. The great majority of them are great kids. I’ve met at least half their parents, which in teaching these days seems to be a miracle. Nice people, caring. But a lot of my time is not spent on these kids, but on the class-cutters, the ones that simply don’t care, the i-phone junkies. I’m worn down, edgy, short-tempered, I question my whole existence, never quite sure what the proper distance to maintain between my life and teaching, and tellingly I cannot see myself teaching for another 5 years. I love my school, the people I work with, but I seem to have lost my faith. At this point I live only to travel during the summers which I do to recuperate. But even that doesn’t seem to be enough. Thank you for your kind article.

  63. Andrew

    Great article, thank you! I am off on medical leave now for four weeks after having two break downs. I work as a counsellor, ironically, but compassion fatigue hits us hard. However, we’ve hads cuts here so both my co-counsellor and I have to teach in addition to counselling in a very high needs environment. I got overwhelmed pretty quickly and burnt out. My doctor diagnosed me with depression which did not entirely shock me. I’ve always been “down.” Maybe, subconsciously, this is why I became a counsellor. But with the workload this year I was just pushed to over the edge and I did not bounce back from hte annual startup as I usually do. I became in a low level state of panic and had several heart palpitations a day. I was very irritable and actually pissed some people off – truly not like me. I’m glad I went to my doctor and I am now taking effexxor and I find it helpful so far, in addition to seeing a counsellor. Research shows this combo is the most effective with eventual reduction in meds if possible, but as always it is subject to the patient/client.

    Now I am faced with re-entry and anxiety around this. I do not want to take more time than is necessary, but I worry aboutthe damage I’ve done with my behaviour which now seems like a black foggy memory. People may not realize this ,but counsellors cannot counsel themselves. So surprise! I’m scared. Lots of fear….I see my doctor and my EIP occupational therapist this week and will discuss and entry strategy with him. Perhaps more time is required, or a couple of reduce work weeks leadign into Christmas. Its hards on the kids though – sometimes I think I should pursue the remainder of the semester before I do any more damage. A difficult decision lies before me.

  64. Tom

    Thank you for this post, and to everybody who has shared. It is indeed comforting to know that one is not alone. That is what we all yearn for, and is probably what drives us to teach in the first place.
    I’m 35, male, in my 14th year of teaching. This year, as summer ended, I was acutely aware that something was different. I experienced minor panic attacks during prep week, had a full-blown (trip to ER) panic attack my first week with students, and by October I began an extended medical leave of absence to look for a different job in the district. I suddenly felt like a giant oddity; like my colleagues saw me as some kind of unstable can’t-hack-it wimp. I was certain I just had to get out of that particular job (school for elementary students removed for misconduct), and return to secondary-level Spanish, which I had left 5 years ago. In January, as my leave was expiring, a part-time Spanish job at a nearby middle school opened up, and I felt very fortunate to be placed there by the district’s HR people. Well, everything was superb for my first 4 weeks there, but lately I’ve been feeling a massive low coming on. And I’m pretty sure now what’s going on: teaching anywhere can be fulfilling, satisfying, depressing, and draining, with wonderful highs and grim lows that, for me, have become very difficult to manage.
    It’s important to remember to take care of yourself. No job is worth damage to your health. I think I can make it through this year to summer, but I’m ready to look for ANYTHING new now. Those of you with suicidal thoughts should remember that people love you and need you, even if you don’t think so. Nobody is better off without you. Check into a clinic, go to a hospital, get yourself a team of people around you. You will make it back into the sunshine and cool breeze. We live in a confused, contentious, wayward world that can make anybody feel crushed, and classrooms are where it all shows up. The human brain wasn’t designed to deal with the crap we are dealing with.

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  68. Sue

    My last teaching job was three years ago. I have been out of work since then, and have about 2 months to go before I have absolutely no money. Each time I try to teach, I last 2 years until I completely break down. I have suicidal thoughts, I’m completely exhausted, I work constantly, and I never seem to have a moment of rest. Last year at this time was the lowest point in my life. I was obsessed with thoughts of sitting in my garage with the car running and just waiting for the end. And, I was pissed off that I couldn’t do it. (A really bad divorce 5 years ago made things even more difficult.)
    I have worked hard to get to where I am today – emotionally and physically. I can barely stand the thought of putting myself back in the insanely stressful and overwhelming world of teaching. But, I NEED a job.
    I have been applying for Math Interventionist positions, hoping that it would be less overwhelming. I applied at a magnet school and was offered the job today.
    As much as I desperately need to work, I don’t know if I can accept the job offer. They have made a point of telling me (more than once) that this is an extremely high pressure position and will require a huge commitment on my part. I think they are basically saying that I will again be in a situation where my life and well-being are threatened by a job that is simply more than I can handle.
    I can’t imagine saying no to a job offer, considering the state of my life right now – but on the other hand I can’t imagine being healthy if I put myself back in the same situation that has almost destroyed me on more than one occasion. I seriously don’t think I can do it. I’m wondering if I should just find a job anywhere – anywhere other than the teaching profession. I cannot allow myself to go backwards – I am really scared.

    • Rachel

      I don’t know if you still check out this board, but I hope you are ok. I no longer teach, but I do have a part time job that means mty body does not feel stressed every day. I really appreciate not having that feeling.

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  71. Drained

    Two powerful words: Thank you. I’m not alone.

  72. Crossroads

    I need all of your opinions:

    This past school year was my first year as a Spanish teacher and my VERY first experience teaching PK – 8. There was no elementary Spanish training at my college – so I really really struggled. I had such a hard time giving equal attention to all grade levels. Every week I would leave a different Spanish level on the back burners. I felt like I NEVER improved. It didn’t help my situation when the principals didn’t like what I was doing, either (eventually leading them to not renewing my contract); and only after being a first year, I took that VERY hard. Yes, I did want to leave anyways because I felt that I was in way over my head.

    So here I am at a job interview for 4-8 Spanish (perfect range!) when the principal tells me that the job was not posted correctly – it’s for K-8. Unfortunately, I was so excited when they offered me the job that I said yes before really considering my sanity. Now, I haven’t signed my contract yet but I am really really dreading the thought of having to go through the same experience all over again. I’ve been trying to tell myself “you have experience now! This school will be different” I am just flat out not excited about this newish experience; and i’ve been contemplating whether I should just get a different job rather than going through the same stress and dread (mind you i Have no other teaching jobs lined up)?

    WHAT SHOULD I DO GUYS?

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  74. trudy stugard

    I am glad to find this site. I have been teaching art 25 years.The last 3 years (including this one ) is in HS. I have gotten certified in K-6 classroom and am reading endorsed as well because for the past 6 years they keep threatening to cut art. I also am a NBCT. Before i worked in high school the last 4 years in elementary were under an insane principal. She micromanaged and interfered in all aspects of our lives including the summer where we had to check the school emails.She screwed with things that caused the union to come down on her. She was made to take 6 weeks off by the district and came back with a vengence. I could go on…. I was not the only one at that school, but I am am still suffering from PTSD because of it. When i finally escaped into HS The other art teacher that is there turned out to be psycho. She is know by the school where we work that they know know it too and found out after I was hired that she has run off 7 other art teachers in 12 years! I know I am am a good art teacher, I am team player and have mentored many new art teachers. I love them all and we are all close to this day. I know I have a very good reputation in the county and my supervisor is great. I am telling you all this because even though I know intellectually I should not be depressed and on the verge of a nervous
    breakdown, I am!!! If I hadn’t been beat down for 4 years I could have
    handled, but now I can’t seem to bounce back. In spite of a rough first year dealing with that teacher and being new to HS. I love teaching the older kids.BYW at the end of the first year I lost my mom to a stroke, she lingered so it was hard. She lived with me for 13 years, now I am alone.A few weeks after that I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. They said they got it all, but it still was scarey. Last year I made it through, I went to a grief counselor and took it day by day. WHAT SCARES me is this school year I was fine going back, but after the first few weeks they dumped so much more stuff on us with new mandates, changes on evaluations, common core, changes (again) in technology, lesson plan requirements, curriculum, PLC”S etc. That I don’t know if I can take it. I used to be able t think straight and have no problem with these things and NOW I feel like I am drowning and every time I come up for air I get dunked under. When I was teary one day after dealing with a nasty student, and conveyed my feeling of being overwhelmed to a an AP, she was nice and said everyone is feeling like that it should have made me feel better, but because of that bad experience for 4 years at the other school I just felt panic that I let out my secret of how I really felt. I am having panic attacks, depression, can’t sleep, get sick a
    lot. I am on meds for depression and anxiety since the other school. I am 63 and have 3 years left to in drop, but don’t know if I can make it. I will lose so much for retirement and don’t know how would make. My family is worried I am going to get really sick if I try to hang in. SO sorry for rambling it felt good to get this out like this. If anyone reads this message in a bottle please respond. Thank God for all you out here going thru similar circumstances. God bless you all. Peace, Redbird

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  76. Teachers who always complain about students and dwell on when Friday arrives are usually not happy not living in the moment. Also many teachers drink heavily and eat simple carbohydrates. Sad to say that nclb is a major depression trigger or common core, which changes the locus of control. It is also funny how many who have no idea how the field works, thinks you teach a couple kids with all those text books, and whoop de doo, you get 3 months off, not.

  77. mike

    I was a teacher for eight years and battled anxiety and depression throughout. As many things began to change in public education, I began having more and more panic attacks, and therefore, was absent many days. I was on FMLA leave periodically last year, and tried my best to return this year, but was not successful. I only lasted a few days before having more panic attacks and told by my union that I had to resign, go to work everyday, or I would be fired. In an effort to save my working life eventually, I resigned because I felt it was the best thing for me and the kids…I knew that that even if I tried to go back to work, the anxiety and depression would only continue and eventually I would just be fired. I know my passion in life is working with kids, but even if I wanted to, I don’t think anyone would hire me back into education because of my mental issues. I have read a lot of blogs and they all seem to say the same thing…if you are in an interview, they will ask why you left your job and when you tell them it was because of mental illness, you don’t have a chance. I feel like my life is over at 31 because I no longer have any interests at all..even the things that I have done my whole life. I don’t want to commit suicide because I do not want to upset my parents, but in the same respect, I wish I was dead. It just doesn’t seem like I have anything to look forward to. I used to enjoy eating a good meal, but now all food makes me sick to my stomach..I used to enjoy a beer here and there, but now I can’t drink because of acid reflux (and yes I know alcohol is a bandaid but I feel as though everyone has a bandaid whether its a substance, food, caffeine, etc) I am will be out of money very soon and will be forced to sell my house, which I was so fortunate to build on land that was in my family’s name for over 100 years. I feel absolutely terrible that I am going to lose it and feel like I am going to be homeless when it happens. I taught wood and metal shop when teaching, but my knee is so messed up that I would never hack it in a construction setting. I am not trying to play “poor, pitty, me” but I feel its best to say it all so that if anyone decides to respond, they get the real picture of me. I have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, chronic anxiety, panic disorder, and agoraphobia. The majority of my depression is stemmed from not being able to teach and from being dumped my my only significant girlfriend. I seem to get panic attacks in almost any situation of life so I hide in my room all the time. I know this was a lot and I apologize, but I need help. I have been prescribed to countless meds without any change, individual and group therapy, etc, etc, etc. If you took the time to read this novel, I would value any advice. Thanks in advance.

      • Rachel

        I don’t know whether you still read this board, but hope you have found happiness in your life, whether in or out of teaching

        • Mike Kane

          Thanks Rachel…unfortunately no luck so far. I appreciate the thought

          • A.S.

            Hi Mike,

            I read you’re post. You are not alone. Though I am not in the exact same position as you, I have been dealing with anxiety and panic attacks as a teacher. I had my first full anxiety attack two weeks ago in front of my students. My doctor diagnosed me with an anxiety disorder and offered meds but I turned them down due to the side effects. And now my principal is trying to write me up for having an anxiety attack in class and disturbing the children. I felt betrayed. Those disturbed children were the ones who caused me to have an anxiety attack. I’ve seen that class twice since then and they are not traumatized. So now I’m trying to get my union to go after this principal while trying to find a new job and teach at two schools. The pressure is unbelievable.

            I hope you still read this. You should keep moving forward! If not for them then for you. I often look at the negative, it’s hard for me to see the light at the end of the tunnel. My bandaid is laughter (the Simpsons and Rifftrax to be exact)! I watch things I know will help me laugh. I believe this helps me in a sort of schaudenfreude way. Making fun of stupid movies and actions make me feel better about myself. Also, singing. I’m a music teacher and I know that when you sing your body has a positive reaction and it can even make you healthier against illness. We all fear failure, unemployment, and loneliness. Here’s a tip about job interviews, you don’t have to say that the reason you left your job was for a mental disease. Say you left because you felt you were being called to a different path. Your medical issues shouldn’t control your life, it can only do that if you let it. Our disorder doesn’t define us. My definitions: music, art, history, comic books, video games, my cat, halloween. These are my identifiers. None of those things trigger my anxiety or moments of depression. What are your identifiers? I’m not a doctor, just some random teacher who wants to get to know you and be an ear to listen.

            • mike

              A.S.
              Thanks for trying to help…I am triggered by many things dealing with past situations of my life and now that I have lost my job, I have lost everything that I care about. I am going to lose my home and my car, two things that mean more than I can put into words. The land the house is on has been in my family for over 100 years…My car is something I have wanted since I have been young and I treated it like a baby for several years (since I don’t have any children and this was something I literally planned to keep forever). The reality of losing these things has me to to the point where I don’t even want to continue trying because I always look at the past. I have throughout my entire life and have never been able to change this. I know its easy to say, “just look towards the future,” but without these things as part of it, its quite depressing. I don’t have kids, a wife (or even a girlfriend), any good friends that I get to see on a semi regular basis so I have the attitude of, why bother. I have been stolen from by people I had been friends with for a large portion of my life and from by family members. I have had almost every girl that I was friends with take advantage of me because I am as kind as possible to people. My first serious girlfriend cheated on me with my best friend throughout our entire relationship. It took me many years to even date again, and then I dated a girl who I planned to marry, but she dumped me for another guy….I just can’t continue to pick up all the pieces anymore, especially without having my job. This is definitely one of those situations where you never know what you had until its gone. I always had things to talk about when teaching because something interesting happened everyday. Now I found myself terribly upset because I happen to look at my watch and its the exact time a class started/ended…or I see something about a high school in the news…or there is a snow storm and I remember the fun times wondering if we would have a delay…etc, etc, etc…I could literally write a novel here because of the constant reminders. I even tried to get a job at another school and didn’t even get an interview, let alone the job. I am completely discouraged and I guess I don’t know how people can spend their entire life working with nothing to look forward to a couple times a week or have a job they enjoy. Being constantly depressed all the time, I lost interest in just about everything except for my job…I just loved working with the kids, but the constant anxiety attacks made it almost impossible to do my job correctly and I found guilty as all hell missing school because the kids could not work in the shop (I taught woodshop). I apologize for rambling and being all over the place with my thoughts..My head is not on straight and I am sitting here just kinda writing everything that pops out.
              I am sorry to hear about your principal and that he’s being a complete ass. I can kinda relate because the union I worked in was constantly after everybody to make their lives miserable unless you were a building rep or on the negotiating team. It makes it so challenging to want to go to work when someone is making your life hell for no good reason, which sounds exactly how your principal is being. I hope that your union steps in and handles this situation for you because I know how terrible anxiety attacks are and obviously your principal never had one or he/she would not be acting this way towards you. Thanks for your post

  78. People keep echoing that for them, “knowing you’re not alone,” helps. It doesn’t do a thing for me. Not to be nasty, but I’ve never felt that teachers or other staff we’re there for me or cared whether I was there or not. Even when it was said or written, it felt hollow. Sometimes, depression (with the added Asperger’s) makes you feel numb and at the same moment you want to cry, scream and pull your hair out. I just started a new preschool teaching job after 5 years of being a preschool teacher, special ed teacher and special ed admin. I hate education; I never thought I would say this as much as I love learning, but I do. I only stayed this long because a) I have invested too much time and money to leave too soon and b) I can’t seem to find a job in any other profession, because people in other fields type cast me. They say, “Oh you won’t like being an administrative assistant or an operations coordinator or even a porter, you’re overqualified. You’re too smart.” I’m really not that smart. I know smart people. They figure out solutions; I can’t. My brain goes in circles. I can’t dumb down my resume without having to explain a two year absence when I was attending grad school full time. I’d like to start my own business but I have no money, no credit and no friends/family and no talent.

    The point is this: as much as my depression has imprisoned me over the 42 years I’ve been alive, I have had experiences when I was not depressed and you know what? Very few of them involve people. Alas, one cannot make a living without people, so what am I to do?

    Just to add a point about the great Michael Jordan, him giving his best wasn’t based on wanting to please his fans; it’s because he is a limelight hog, an entertainer-he just happened to be an athlete. He needs to perform and do ridiculous stunts because he needs attention, not unlike Rodman or any other crazy people. Nothing wrong with it if people give you a wide berth, but watching Jordan was like watching a student in class that needs to raise his hands all the time because he knows the answer ALL THE TIME. Or the student that acts up because he needs attention ALL THE TIME. It’s exhausting. Now I like him, but sometimes, I need a Scottie Pippen. you know what I mean?

    Sorry for venting, but I really would like an article about depression or Asperger’s that involves a real tangible solution, without drugs or head “shrinking.”

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  80. Johnd95

    I keep listening to the news update lecture about receiving boundless online grant applications so I have been looking around for the top site to get one. Could you advise me please, where could i acquire some? bddacegaddac

    • Being in the subtrap, where I long term sub or get automatically called everyday via an automated system, the former me, who used to teach, and tried to get back into it to no avail, would have said at least you have a so called stable job. However, things have changed with me because when I was teaching up until May 2013, I look back and realized how miserable I was and after wasting money and time on applications (long ones to say the very least) and the stupid ass job fairs the stupid balloons, I would rather clean human or animal defecation.
      . Back in 1999. I had a genuine interest and passion for teaching, but by 2004, I had people constantly telling me I was not good enough while teaching in a rough ghetto environment. I had this one administrator who could not control kids when he was a teacher, all of a sudden become an administrator because he probably knew who to suck.
      . Anyway to make a long story less long, I am doing something else because I was miserable looking for a teaching job and once I almost got one earlier this month, I tasted the misery that I was slated to have. The kids run the show and because administrators know it, you as a teacher take all the bullshit and the bullying. It is as though a teacher is like the fat kid in middle school being picked on everyday. Kids have all the knowledge as to what is going on, even if they are forever stuck at the 4th grade reading level. In other words, your locus of control no longer exists and it will only get worse before it gets any better. When you are out of control, you become depressed, you rely on pills, alcohol etc to get you through. Summers off are either spent working crappy job to accommodate you pittance during the year or you are experiencing PTSD from the previous year only to fear the onslaught of the upcoming year which gets closer by the second and fast
      . Wish I had a magic pill for you, but I find myself happier for bailing out. Please don’t go back to school, cuz you will find yourself drowning in debt all because of a knee jerk reaction to get out of the field. Seriously, how can me, you, or anyone else ever have a passion to set yourself up for being bullied. You can be big, strong, a black belt, etc., but when it all boils down to it, you are the fat middle school dork with no self confidence. Sorry for being negative about it, but that sums up the field in a nutshell.

  81. Patty

    I have taught special education for over 23 years. Last school year my dad died after a long illness, where I cared for him. Since my mother has passed also, I now have guardianship of my adult autistic brother. I have had to leave my house and move in with my brother. I am in charge of two estates, my dad’s and his sisters. I have two other siblings who will never call or visit and don’t want to help with my brother. I had to be out a lot last school year but this school year I’ve worked hard to get back on track and do my job. I am now being transferred from kdg-2nd to middle school collaboration. I have never taught that age of kids or done collaboration. My position is not being cut it’s just that my director was not happy with me last year so she’s moving me. I know that I have reached the end of my strength. I take meds for depression and anxiety and see a therapist. I have high blood pressure, cholesterol and numerous other medical problems. I feel I have no way out and I know I can’t do the new job. I literally have no one to turn to.

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  84. Josie

    I’m a junior in high school and I suffer from depression and anxiety. I often worry about my future. I am a bright student, yet I still feel like I will amount to nothing. Teaching is one of the only careers I can see myself doing, but I fear my depression and anxiety will get in the way. Reading this post really helped boost my confidence on being able to pursue teaching.

    • As a former teacher, I would warn any young person to avoid the profession altogether. Sorry if I have to be a dream buster, but in reality, it will more than likely exacerbate your anxiety and depression.
      . For me teaching made me feel bullied and more inadequate about myself. From here on out I am going to forget about being well written. The job sucks shit and once you hit the 40s you are done. There is no advancement and if you teach in a ghetto school district, you will be discriminated against in multiple ways. Nobody can give you a direct answer on how to right everything you are doing wrong, which in turn fosters more inadequacy on your part. You get asshole administrators that only care about themselves and they will toss you under the bus to save their lazy asses. Hopefully they will pay in the afterlife.
      . Teaching has fucked me up so badly that I had to pop anti depressants and anti anxiety meds like candy just to get through the years. Now I do not rely on pills too much. School is a waste, thank god I did not accumulate debt over the degree, wouldn’t be able to do that today. The school process drags out and you will be in abject poverty during school after school, while teaching in this downwardly spiraling country, and after you realize the field sucks and you are out of work and more broke. Whatever you do, do not uproot yourself clear across the country to take a teaching job, because it will surely more than likely put you in a financial hole. Fuck, I almost lost my wife because of most of the emotional trauma it caused
      . And if you teach in a right to work state, you can forget any job security, in other words avoid Arizona and the like. You will get those stupid profit minded education associations that are self serving and will scare you into paying around 50 bucks or more a month as though you have a union behind you, not. In other words, you strike if the work conditions suck, which they will
      Oh and don’t get me started on common core or no child left behind, which puts students in the drivers seat and you as a teacher are left kissing all the students asses, being manipulated by them, parents, administrators, other teachers who think their shit doesn’t stink.
      . Don’t teach in rural USA, whether you are in NE Maine, the eastern plains of Colorado, because people will make up shit about you and you cannot even fart in peace.
      . Teach in inner city USA, you will be within martial law, and the inner city I was in was not as severe as the worst parts of Los Angeles, Houston, Brooklyn etc., Administration especially fears the worst kids in the severe ghetto areas, and if you are a timid person, you always have to walk every which way on pins and needles.
      . Forget sleeping, and there is a 90 percent chance that a teacher has some form of insomnia, but you have some of the summer to make up your lack of zzz due to the 10 months of inadequacy and bullying.
      . BTW, I have been a teacher mostly in HS, some middle school too, but subbing in elementary school can be a challenge, let alone teaching in it, not for me.
      . No offense about all the negativity, but please look it other options especially if you have math, science, or computer aptitudes. Being in the field for a long time also made me obsolete, now I am job hunting and I feel like my computer skills are outdated, as well as any other outside knowledge. Or perhaps it could be my age. Maybe I don’t have to worry because Russia, N Korea, and increasingly more nations across the pond are either going to see the USA self destruct or the next antichrist will annihilate the USA. Asshole Obama should try to enable able-bodied and willing Americans steady work, and not allow so much employer exploitation, saying the economy is improving. Putin, like me thinks he is a joke, and more innocent lives will be lost because the way this country handles shit or doesn’t do shit.
      . Politics aside, please, please, please, think of another vocation, and whatever you do, even if you have some clergy like call to be a teacher, don’t take out a shitload of debt. Even if you can afford Middlebury College in Vermont on a cash basis, your better of going to a community college and driving a brand new 370 Z, which will save you money.

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  90. I was a high school English teacher and I quit because the demands of teaching only made my depression worse. Being in a position where I was expected to be perfect, the emotional demands, and neverending workload made my depression worse. During my teaching career, I seriously thought about ending my life twice and on the edge of alcoholism. Clinical depression was something I battled since I was young (elementary school) and developed because of a dysfunctional family (alcoholism, domestic violence, and abuse).

    Every year, I was deteriorating. I knew I had to quit but I spent all this time and money on my degrees so I want to persevere. I didn’t like the thought of failure so I was reluctant to quit. I then realized it’s not just for my students but also for my own sake. I quit. I’m glad that I did. My current job is administrative in healthcare. I also freelance edit and write.

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