Surviving Survival Mode

Oh, my. The last two weeks have kicked my booty, friends. We have been in survival mode around here lately, but I think we are finally coming out of it.  I can’t remember being this stressed out, frustrated, or challenged professionally in quite a while. Without going into too many details, my school is going digital this year. I have been extremely optimistic since the announcement at the end of the school year last year because I love using technology to teach. In fact, my masters thesis was a study about technology in education. I’m a big fan. But this digital format has me completely flustered. I’m pretty good with technology, but the learning curve for lesson planning, classroom management, and technical problem solving on the spot has been hefty.

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I struggle a bit with anxiety. It’s not too bad, but every now and then when prolonged change or stress hit me, my body has a tough time reacting. During the day, I’m perfectly fine. I think I even appear normal (I know, total shock, right?). But all that stress that I carry with me during times of real challenge and change comes out at night. I have trouble sleeping, usually waking up around 1:00am and then staying up all night after that, worrying. Sometimes I worry about what is actually bothering me, and so then I sit up thinking about apps and grades and Google Drive and account management and all the things that are coming along with this technology change at school.

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But sometimes my anxiety comes out in this very weird way. I wake up around 1:00am, as usual, and I am convinced – CONVINCED – someone is trying to break into our house. I know this phobia is leftover from when our house was broken into a few years ago, but it only shows itself during times of stress and anxiety for me. And it DRIVES. ME. INSANE. I sit up for hours just listening to noises that aren’t there and creating horror stories about the normal, regular, nightly noises that anyone would hear in their house. Was that the ice maker in the fridge, or did someone just break a window with a rock? Was that the dogs walking around, or was someone in the living room? Was that the air conditioning clicking on, or did someone just open the garage door?

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When I wake up in the morning, I know that none of those things happened. I know that my house is safe. I know that my family is safe. I know that I was being ridiculous. But the very next time, I’ll go through the entire process again. It is exhausting. And it only adds to my stress level because I’m already tired from work and then I’m up all night with anxiety that is caused by working.

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And if you think I’m driving myself crazy, you should see Chris. He’s about to leave me. Everytime I wake him up in the middle of the night now, he doesn’t even open his eyes. He just responds with, “Yes, Katie, I do think someone is in the living room.” And then he rolls over and goes back to sleep. Party pooper.

This weekend, Chris had to work tech all weekend, so my sweet mother-in-law and her special friend/boyfriend/roommate/fiance/husband/whatever you want to call him, Charles, came down for the weekend to hang with me and the kids. (Jackie and Charles have been together for almost as long as Chris and I have. He’s basically one of the kids grandparents and we love him.) On Sunday morning, we were all going to go out to breakfast before Chris had to head to work, but I had been so stressed lately and we hadn’t been to church in a few weeks, so I snuck out myself and went to the early service alone before everyone got up and going.

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AND DARNED IF THE MINISTER DIDN’T PRAY FOR STINKIN’ TEACHERS. Really. He prayed for everyone who labored in their careers, but he especially lifted up those in teaching roles because of the service they give to everyone else. He prayed that we would reach children so that they would grow up to be contributing citizens in our communities. He prayed that the lives that we touched would go out into the world and cure diseases, fight for good, and seek peace.

In the middle of the prayer, I was so shocked that I actually looked up at the minister and sat there with my eyes wide and my mouth hanging open. Was he praying for ME? How did he KNOW? Who had told him?

But no one had. It was a divine reminder that sometimes the work that we do – be it teaching or otherwise – feels like labor. It feels like work. It is a burden to carry and a challenge to overcome. But that we do it because we can change lives. We can touch others. We can make people better. And God knew that that was exactly what I needed to hear.

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My mother-in-law is a teacher, too. In fact, she was MY teacher twice in middle school. Incidentally, she was the only teacher to ever write me up and give me detention. For talking, naturally. And I think it was divine that she was here after such a trying few weeks of teaching. We talked and we strategized and we shared ideas, and when it came down to it, it didn’t really matter if my classroom was digital and hers was not. What mattered was our students, and Jackie reminded me of that this weekend. I hope that when I’ve been teaching as long as Jackie has, I still remember that lesson every day I step into the classroom.

I hear people tell horror stories about their in-laws sometimes, and it makes me so grateful for Jackie. She just has a way of showing up at the right moment, saying the right things, and focusing on the right priorities. I’m so glad my kids have her a role model as they grow up, but I’m just as glad that I’ve had her as a role model as I’ve grown up myself.

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12 Thoughts to “Surviving Survival Mode”

  1. Kristin B

    Just being curious, but are you also on an X2/Aspen launch? My school goes live this year, and I’m a mess! Teacher First Day for me, tomorrow!

  2. I’m so sorry to hear you’ve been struggling with your anxiety, and I’m happy to hear that things happened this weekend to help you get perspective and a break. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this in your blog comments before, but I’ve done mindfulness meditation classes and they can help a lot with anxiety. Not just in figuring out what the heck to do with your brain when the anxiety hits, but meditation has also been shown to rewire the brain so the anxiety hits less. I was reminded of the idea when you said in an earlier post that you had just sat for an hour on your “retreat.” I’m not a religious person, but I recognize the power of sitting! :-B Also, I’ve been increasing my intake of B vitamins and noticed a real difference in my brain running away with me. Also, decreasing caffeine intake can help (I’ll let you know when I figure out how to make that work :-B)

  3. I hat those middle of the night anxiety attacks! The suck!

  4. Trish D

    Wow! Chris looks like his mama!!! Sweet pictures!

  5. This is the first time in ten years that I haven’t gone back to school. But I remember all too well the absolute anxiety of those first few weeks. Not to mention when we went digital a few years back we used a program called Eduphoria – Forethought for our lesson planning and there were more than a few bugs in the system (it has since been improved). I also do the same thing with anxiety. Things always seem worse/bigger at 2:00 a.m., but last time it happened, I did two things. I made myself sit up and pray. First I prayed for myself and the situation. Then I promised myself that I would stop worrying about it because God is bigger and better than I am. 🙂 Second, I made myself start praying for someone who I knew was in a truly devastating situation. And I’ll be darned if the anxiety didn’t subside. I say all that like it was easy, but it wasn’t. When I get worried/upset, I have a really hard time shutting off my thoughts so I can pray. But I did, and I hope I learned a lesson from the whole situation. Hoping this week is more normal for y’all.

  6. i get that feeling that someone is breaking in in the middle of the night too-it’s the worst and so impossible to sleep when that happens!

  7. Katie B

    I’m so sorry that you’re that stressed out at work, but I’m so glad you have such a wonderful mentor and support person in your MIL. I’m also blessed with an incredible MIL. I always feel uplifted, encouraged, and loved whenever I spend time with her. There’s nothing like it in the world.

    Just a thought about the middle-of-the-night anxiety attacks – I’ve also woken up like that from time to time. One night when I’d gotten up to walk around the house and check on everyone and make sure everything was safe, my husband gave me some wise counsel. He said that if someone had broken in, then our dog would be going absolutely nuts. Judging by her reaction whenever the UPS guy drops off a package, I think he’s right. Maybe it would be that way with big Molly and Lucy too? Just a thought. Definitely praying for you that it stops soon. That’s a horrendous feeling.

  8. HeatherM

    I think that people are breaking into the house too once in a while. My biggest paranoia though is that I ALWAYS think I have a flat tire- especially on road trips or when diving on rough or uneven pavement (and the state of IL is broke, so most of our roads are like that). We went on 2 big road trips this year- one to the badlands and the other to Niagra falls. My husband insists that we stopped to check the tires like every hour, I think it was only 3 or so times per day on the days we drove 10+ hours/ day. It all stems from when I was 18 and had a completely flat tire and didn’t know it (I thought my car was having yet another engine problem) and drove on it for over 30 minutes. The only thing that seems to really help is to turn music on so I stop freaking out about every little noise. And for the house, we also have a stick in our back sliding glass door and bells on the doors (the dog rings them when he wants to go out)- they reassure me that anyone coming in or out will be heard, and they are also great to keep little ones from sneaking out too. Fortunately most technology changes at work are usually a temporary thing, so hopefully things will return to normal for you guys soon.

  9. So I laugh WITH you because I TOO have that same problem. (how crazy!) When i’m stressed out I become ABSOLUTELY convinced that someone is breaking in our home. It’s awful – and i’ve woken the hubs up more times that i’d like to admit – in shear panic that I hear a robber. Once when my MIL was visiting – I heard “the robber” click on the living room light. Turns out it was my MIL reading at like 3am. Everyone laughed.. like what kind of robber turns on the light. But I think my spidey sense were right. And instead, I ask who feels compelled to read at 3am!?! I hope the school years tames down and that you are able to enjoy your fall… and that sweet family. Just remember, God doesn’t give us anything we can handle. Clearly, you can do this!

  10. Anxiety is a heinous bitch. Seriously. Along with my awesome bout of depression came the anxiety. The two things that helped were meds and seeing a therapist. The meds helped get things under control until I got the rest of my life in order. My therapist gave me some great coping mechanisms that I still use today when I need them. I have the meds as backup but no longer have to take them. There’s no shame in getting help.

    On the plus side you have an awesome mother in law! My in laws call me “the girl who gave us a grandson”, like I’m just a giant walking uterus. That’s just one of the fun things that comes from marrying the only son of a 100% Italan mother. Some day I’ll tell you about the time they called me a harlot….THAT was fun.

  11. Katie W.

    Our school went with Google sites, calendar, drive, etc. this year and we’re just starting to feel okay with it after 3 weeks! I see all of the awesome things that go along with being digital, but totally feel your pain!! 😉

  12. Shannon

    God sure does send us things when we need them – you may be surprised to realize it, but YOU delivered that message in this post! I, too, am a teacher, and I took on standards based grading this year. I have been working more than I ever knew I could, and I can see it in my students and all that they are learning, but boy is that hard to remember when you just finished grading at 10 pm!

    My stress can manifest as anxiety, too, and I’ve been dealing with it much better lately, but it has been hitting me hard since the beginning of the year. Basically, I just wanted to say thank you for sharing this and putting it out there – you never know who you are helping. 🙂

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