Tess gets back to teaching
The first time I contacted Roy I was getting counselling and they suggested I speak to a Twining Enterprise Employment Specialist concerning my work issues.
Roy gave me some very good advice and I made a good recovery and returned to work. Three years later I became ill again and I still had Roy’s contact details so I reached out to him again.
I was under the care of the mental health clinic and I had been referred for long term counselling. Roy was seeing me about once a month for updates and advice. He was suggesting to me that I don’t give up teaching. When I was adamant that I didn’t want to return to teaching anymore he helped with alternative job ideas.
Roy just listened really, the main thing about Roy is that he was strongly in my corner. No matter how much I degraded myself he always tried to give me some strategies, some real things I could focus on.
He tried to give me practical strategies to use. I was off sick from work. Every time I thought I was making a good recovery I’d see an occupational health doctor and they would say you are not ready to return to work. This went on for three months. I would be given another three months off. Then the school and my NUT rep were anxious for me to return to work. My NUT rep said I need to decide if I return to work or resign so that the school can fill the place.
Roy gave me some homework to update my CV. This went on until I had a very good CV that we were happy with. Then I started counselling and my counsellor suggested I start volunteering at a local school. I literally had to force myself because I was having very severe anxiety. They put me with a year five year group. Which was three classes and I listened to children read for about three months.
I found this quite boring. I requested to support a group in the classroom and found I was enjoying being in the classroom again and helping the children. Then very slowly the passion came back and I was able to very slowly increase my days.
I have been doing supply work, initially starting with one half day a week and slowly increasing to 3/4 days a week. I continued with counselling for six months and then went back to the doctor as the anxiety was not dissipating. The doctor put me on Sertraline, a very low dose to be taken in conjunction with the Mirtrazapine. Within a week I started to feel different like the grey clouds were parting and letting the sunlight in again.
Then came a nine day booking with a school in Feltham. I enjoyed it and realised that I missed having my own class. A few days later the agency mentioned a long term supply booking starting Friday to the end of the year. The agency arranged for the Head and deputy to come to the school to observe, which they were very happy with. So there it is I started on Friday, I have my own Teaching Assistant in the class with me the whole day, on site parking, rate of pay equal to what I was getting before, smart board programme that I have used for years and a class with 25 children. Happy Days!
I am so grateful for all that you have done for me, particularly encouraging me to stay with teaching, which at the time I couldn’t understand why you wouldn’t let it go but I’m glad you kept encouraging me to stay on the right road.
I am so happy. I have changed the way I think about myself. I felt worthless and useless when I was off sick. And that is when the suicidal thoughts started. I went walking in the lakes and I remember just imagining how easy it would be to walk in.
The way I think about myself now. I was my worst critic, I was always negative. My whole thought process was negative. Even when I achieved something. I think the counselling helped me look more at the things I had achieved. Now I find myself seeing the positive in things faster than I would normally. I am praising myself in my head now. I’ve changed the way I think about things. Even when they don’t go how I want them to I still see the positive.
One time I actually said I’ve had enough, I just want to kill myself. I’ve had enough I cannot go on with this anxiety. And the tears welled up in his eyes. And he said “what would your children do, what would they think.” Basically he talked me into not killing myself and I would leave thinking that there was light at the end of the tunnel. He had great empathy and strong belief in me as a teacher. And it annoyed me & he kept on saying it! Teaching is what made me ill and I thought I would get ill. He kept on going with it he was serious about helping me whatever way I wanted to go but gently pushing.
I can honestly say I think Roy saved my life.
I have had no Sertraline for over a month now. Strangely I noticed a lift to my mood after taking Sertraline for one week. Over the next couple of months I noticed that I was not feeling shaky or anxious at all, my brain was functioning more efficiently and was able to think on my feet. Which is essential in the classroom. Since stopping Sertraline I have found that I still have no anxiety and my brain is functioning at a high level of efficiency.
I hope teachers get to read the blog as I think it would help so many. Whilst I was ill I found comfort from reading blogs from teachers who were suffering anxiety and depression. It made me feel that I was not alone, that it wasn't just happening to me. That I wasn't a bad teacher or person for falling sick and that my illness had a lot to do with the way I was treated in my old school.
It would be good if head teachers and senior leadership could have training on mental health and also how to help and support teachers suffering.
I think if senior leadership got training they would be more careful about what they say to teachers suffering with mental health.