I went to work today. I’m a science teacher. It’s the school holidays at the moment so school was empty. I missed the last few weeks of term due to illness. Mental illness. I’m taking the next academic year off unpaid so that I can focus on getting better. So I was in work today not to return to normality, but instead, to further remove myself from it.
I packed away, removed and threw out my things. I removed ‘me‘ from my classroom. It was a horrible thing to do; a bitter pill. Unless you have found yourself falling from a great height career wise it won’t make sense. Believe me when I say it hurts.
The psychiatrist and Nora don’t get it – you’ve got a good, stable job! They proclaim. Yes, I do but they’re looking at what I have, not what I have lost. Four years ago I was full-time and part of the Science faculty leadership. That’s all gone. Because of mental illness.
It was hard in work today for lots of reasons. Being in that familiar place with the bright blue walls took me back. I realise how crazy I was when I was last here. I shudder as I walk past a place I had decided would be an ideal hanging spot. I wonder how on earth I managed a class of 30 whilst simultaneously plotting how to steal a scalpel from the set that was out in the lesson. It’s quite scary to be back in that place. I say to myself in my thoughts ‘you were mad here, properly mad.’ I hurt myself in school. I punched walls, I unfolded paper clips and stabbed at myself with them – I was mad in this place. I think that I am better than this now. Perhaps it was the pressure of work? Anyway facing it causes all kinds of mixed emotions and handling emotions isn’t my strong point.
Working through the practical task of clearing the lab helps. I violently throw stuff in the bin. I sing along to my angsty music. Hey, I even kicked a few doors (naughty!). Then, quite by accident, I got a small piece of glass stuck in a finger. Sensibly I decided to get some tweezers to remove it. It’s great working in a science department, there are all sorts of useful things around. So I went off to the Biology store room for tweezers. I’ve not spent any time in the Biology store room previously. This was on purpose. The Biology store is full of dangerous objects which I really needed to not be around.
I located the tweezers. They were meticulously stacked in the same drawer as the scalpels and razor blades. Oh shit. It’s the holidays. I could take a blade now and no one would know. Can I be a thief? I pick up a scalpel and press my thumb gently against the blade. It doesn’t cut. I didn’t press hard enough and I decide not to try again. I carefully put the scalpel back. I pick up the transparent plastic case containing the razor blades. I actually murmur to myself holy shit, no, this is dangerous, put them back. Which I do. I remove the glass from my finger with the tweezers, return them, wash my hands and leave the Biology store. Back to work.
I notice that a list has been pinned on a notice board: Science Faculty Staff. My name is absent. It’s upsetting; like I don’t exist. Like I was never here.
I throw out a lot of resources. Hours and hours, in fact probably weeks, of my life was spent finding, making, copying and filing these resources. I used to find comfort in them. Sheet on Rocks? Yup got one. Word search on Metals? Hey I got 3! But today I threw a lot of it all away. They are from the past. If I return to this place I will be returning as different. The past must be discarded. If I could throw myself in the bin I would but I’m stuck with me.
So today I went to work and it was horrible. It’s only by trying to do something so normal, something that was my life before, do I realise how ill I am and have been for some time.
That was me: erased.
12 months from now I should go back into that classroom and unpack all the things that I stored away today. I daresay a lot will happen in those 12 months. It always does. I wonder… who will unpack those things? Will she be someone who can say that’s she’s recovered from mental ill health? I hope so otherwise the stuff will never see the light of day again.