When I went to school in Olympia, And everyones the same – We look the same, we talk the same….

There are a lot of ‘A’ words.

Avocado.

Apple.

Apathy.

Asshole.

But no other A word has featured as much in my work and life lately as the big one. Anxiety.

In my daily dealings with the wonderful and inspiring youth of tomorrow, when they actually came to me in my office; to have ‘casual chats’ or confess their latest sin – ‘forgive me mama Becker for I have sinned…’, or simply to check in with me because we had an agreement – no one word was uttered more frequently than Anxiety.

Let’s do the oxford thing and define it officially;

1 [uncountable] anxiety (about/over something) the state of feeling nervous or worried that something bad is going to happen. Acute/intense/deep anxiety. Some hospital patients experience high levels of anxiety. Waiting for exam results is a time of great anxiety.

Which sounds sounds largely intellectual – but also let’s define it physiologically, shall we? (according to WebMD of course);

It depends on the type of anxiety disorder, but general symptoms include:
  • Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness.
  • Problems sleeping.
  • Cold or sweaty hands or feet.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Not being able to be still and calm.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet.

The nasty thing about Anxiety, it seems, is that it is different for every single person that experiences it. And a lot of the time, anxiety’s first approach might manifest itself in a full blown panic attack. Which feels like you will die. And that’s never cool.

My grrls might not have been able to get out of bed for school. Or hand in an assessment on the due date, even though they had been working on it and it was finished. They may have stopped eating. Or showering, or speaking to their friends.

I could tell you about anxious moments in my life where I worried I would vomit/fall over/ black out, or do something else inappropriate when I needed to do a public speech, and you could all relate to that I’m sure – even those of you who are hardened public speakers will feel me. We all have an intellectual understanding of Anxiety.

And there is the normal everyday anxiety that goes with taking two small boys to ANY FORMAL OCCASION (that I believe is universal), and has led to many public displays of marginal, if not a little shouty, parenting: ‘NO YOU CANNOT TAKE YOUR TROUSERS OFF RIGHT NOW THE BRIDE IS ABOUT TO SAY HER BIT – SIT DOWN!’

We have been invited to fewer and fewer weddings.

There is the anxiety that hits you the morning after a big night out, when you are piecing together the fragments of the evening and trying to remember if you did indeed accuse all of your friends of having White Male Privilege, lecture them about what they could do to help the ‘downtrodden masses’, and make one of them cry in the process. (Authors note – they are white, AND male, and DO have inherent privilege, and bloody well would do well to own it, EVEN if they grew up in west Auckland, and I don’t think they have forgiven me yet so my social life is slow tbh).

And that morning after regret is enough to scupper some people. I have been known to hide from the world for weeks at a time after a lovely – a fucking lovely – evening out with my loved ones, and it is not until one of them says ‘nah don’t be a dick you were SO fine’ that the sick feeling has left me and I am able to face the world.

And there is anxiety that leads to self-harming, depression, disordered eating, self-medication (alcohol or drug abuse) suicide and a myriad of other harmful behaviours. It fucking sucks balls. And it takes real strength to ask for help and to take oneself to an appropriate agency to get help, or to ask a trusted person to do that for them.

The tricky thing for ‘the people’ to discern is whether you are dealing with this bitch who just wishes she never got so drank or someone who genuinely needs your immediate and loving help. I have a rule I follow to figure this out and it has never let me down;

TAKE IT ALL FUCKING SERIOUSLY.

Whether you understand it or not, whether they have an experience that matches yours or you ‘believe’ in mental health issues (what the fuck? You don’t get to ‘believe in this shit because it’s SCIENCE but I’ve heard all the shit), whether you think it is an ‘appropriate’ response to a situation or not, whether you have a human heart beating in your fucking chest or not – you take that shit seriously.

Because. That person who told you they feel anxious? Or they ‘have anxiety? They fucking trusted you with that shit. And believe me, when you are up in your head feeling all anxious and shit; When you are eating ALL the food or NO FOOD at all? When the thought of leaving your bed makes you physically ill or you can’t look in the mirror for fear of what you see looking back at you – if you are the one they choose someone to talk to about that shit they are working SO HARD to take care of themselves. They are reaching out, facing fear – they are basically Bruce Willis in Die Hard (How hot was he in that? bald and everything? wtf?). You respect that shit.

I know I haven’t covered everything, I am NOT a psychologist, or a doctor or a counsellor or anyone who is normally trusted to talk about any of this stuff. I am merely a hooman, who has chatted with other hoomans and I have opinions.

I have a terrible feeling my eldest already feels the niggle in his bones, and I hope that if he lives in a house where we talk about it openly, and take it all seriously he will find support in his parents. There is no miracle cure I know, and everyone will find their way and you bet I’m gonna be there to prop him up if he needs me.

Because I am a responsible human being here are some places you can get support if you want it/need it – also if you don’t want/need it I know these places NEED you support so send them five bucks au.

I fucking love you guys. Take care.

 

National helplines

Lifeline – 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland

Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Healthline – 0800 611 116

Samaritans – 0800 726 666

Depression-specific helplines

Depression Helpline – 0800 111 757 or free text 4202 (to talk to a trained counsellor about how you are feeling or to ask any questions)

www.depression.org.nz – includes The Journal online help service

SPARX.org.nz –  online e-therapy tool provided by the University of Auckland that helps young people learn skills to deal with feeling down, depressed or stressed

Sexuality or gender identity helpline

OUTLine NZ – 0800 688 5463 (OUTLINE) provides confidential telephone support

Helplines for children and young people

Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email talk@youthline.co.nz or online chat

thelowdown.co.nz – or email team@thelowdown.co.nz or free text 5626

What’s Up – 0800 942 8787 (for 5–18 year olds). Phone counselling is available Monday to Friday, 1pm–10pm and weekends, 3pm–10pm. Online chat is available 7pm–10pm daily.

Kidsline – 0800 54 37 54 (0800 kidsline) aimed at children up to 14 years of age; 4pm to 6pm weekdays

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‘Another song I cannot sing

Of sport of joy or woe, I cannot let my voice ring out, nor let my spirits flow, ’till I have sung one grandest song – the best, the first, the last.

To show my school my love is strong, until our time be past.’

Today was my farewell. A moment I have dreaded since I first sat through my very first round in 2004. The introvert in me has worried and fretted and hypothesised terrible, embarrassing fuck-ups in my speech for 11 years since that very first year.

But it was ok. I lived. This comic by Sarah Anderson sums it up;

sarah-anderson

 

I didn’t let myself have a glass of wine until I had done it, no-one wants to be addressed by a red faced baboon, and it was fine. I write this more to reassure me than anyone else.

Here is my speech;

‘I have been dreading this moment for 12 years so I will keep it brief and to the point.

Auckland Girls was actually my high school from third form until I finally convinced my mother to let me leave at the end of fifth form.  She thinks it is hilarious that I ended up working back here but it has grown to make sense to me because it feels like a second home to some extent.

My house growing up was loud – at one point I was the eldest of 7 siblings – but we always had music playing in the background and people visiting and general loud life happening regardless of how many people were actually living there at the time. I think I had my teacher voice and volume down pat by the time I was 12.

This chaos and noise suited me I think because I am by nature relatively introverted and could curl up in the corner with my book and be content in the knowledge that life was happening around me and I could partake if I wanted to or not. AGGS has been the same for me – full of life and love and – crucially – large enough for me to fade in to the background if I needed to.

I am under no illusions that there is no place like this school and I vacillate constantly between being excited about the challenges ahead of me and absolutely terrified of teaching science and maths and not messing it up completely.

However teaching at Auckland Girls and working with all of you has taught me so many things that I am fairly confident I’ll be ok.  I have been mentored by some amazing people, supported in my various roles by experts in their field and have valued and appreciated every wise word that has come my way.

The heart of this school is its people. The staff and students bring these buildings to life. 

Where I am going I will be one of one and a half teachers – no anonymity for me there. It’s also really, really quiet so I think I am going to be making some changes.

I will miss this place more than I think I realise just yet but it is a good time to go – to end with my Deaning cohort feels right – and I know that you can take a grrl out of AGGS but you’ll never take AGGS out of the grrl. Damnit, Mum was right.’

SO that’s me. I am going to drink a LOT of wine now.

I’ll be back, don’t you worry.

 

 

#devilchildren

We all love a good morning routine right? We rise quietly, bleary-eyed but excited about the potential of a new day, stumble out in to the rising sun and greet the songbirds as they sing in the new dawn.

Ha ha fucking ha.

Today I am lucky I got to school before the first bell – as it was it was lucky I didn’t run over the girls as they lined up for assembly as I sped in to the grounds much MUCH later than I intended to be on this bloody Monday morning.

I get up in the morning in a good mood. Pretty much every day without fail. It’s one of my most annoying habits. But I have spawned offspring that do not. And the GD has his own ‘routine’ that may or may not involve the rest of us depending on whether he has decided that he is in a terrific hurry that morning or not.

On days that I don’t boot-camp or run – more frequent in my old age than I’d readily admit – I get up and feed the pets, put the coffee on and I go through and wake the rest of the house. The 6 yr old gets up immediately with me and I/we make him breakfast; I go through multiple times to the bedroom and remind the 9 yr old that he needs to get up, all the while finding their clothes and shoes for the day and ‘laying them out’ for them like they are fucking little princes or some shit. The 6 yr old clings like a limpet and will often follow me through the house with his cereal or toast in hand all the while leaving a trail of food for the dog to follow. The dog loves him for this – who doesn’t appreciate a second breakfast?

Once they are up and getting dressed I make their lunches and put a piece of toast in for me. (I haven’t had coffee yet – I like to have my coffee WITH my breakfast). Then, before I get to my toast I find something that the 9 yr old will deign to eat – he is very anti breakfast – and help the 6 yr old get dressed because apparently he ‘can’t’ by himself.

Then I find my toast – if I’m not there to witness it pop my toaster flings it high in the air and it can land anywhere – and sit down to have breakfast and my first cup of coffee with the 9 yr old (who is often in the other room sulking because I haven’t found him the right tee shirt/ shorts/ shoes and he won’t eat with the food I have made on pain of death).

Then just as I am finishing up and getting ready to shower the GD will come through and announce he is getting in the shower. This is the beginning of the end.

You see, the GD’s routine consists roughly of getting up, making coffee/pouring his cup and going outside with it to have a cigarette (which actually means staring at his phone for twenty minutes), then if no one is nagging him to do otherwise (read: me asking him to either feed the animals or children etc) he comes inside and goes and sits on the toilet for half an hour (he’s staring on his phone there too), then he comes in and showers, dresses and comes in to the kitchen to announce that he’s in a terrible hurry because the motorway is ‘crazy’ and he doesn’t want to be late. Then he just leaves. Just like that, He fucking leaves with no fighting and no one screaming about their shoes or anything – it’s a fucking miracle.

Naturally at all points in his routine I am doing my damnedest to disrupt his happy little meandering, and this all comes off as me badgering him because if I can get in the shower first it will dramatically change the morning for all.

If I can get in the shower first then the GD has nothing to do while he waits so he can in fact, make sure the little Dutchmen have their shoes on, their school bags packed and are not killing each-other as they wait for me to be ready to take them to school. On these mornings we leave much closer to 7.30, have a pleasant ride to school, and I get to school before eight am with my waking morning sunshine-y ass intact.

But mostly lately, even on days that I boot camp because usually the routine starts the same way once I get home (only we’re now 45 mins behind so that’s fun) we have the shitshow that was this morning. ONCE everyone else is ready to go, and the GD is out of the shower and walking out the door – because he’s going to be so late remember?, Then it is finally my turn to start getting ready.

Now, it should be relatively simple in fact for this to happen, I shower, I get dressed, we get in the car and leave. Simple.

But as it turns out, once the #devilchildren are ready to go to school they can’t actually be trusted alone together because that’s when they go in to full hellion mode. I can bargain with them, bribe them, threaten them – or even, in an attempt to be positive, remind them of ‘that one time they played nicely together while they waited and then we all drove to school together cheerfully and it was wonderful?’ but to no avail.

Today the water wasn’t even running before the screaming started. The youngest child has a shriek that is piercing no matter how far away you are and I feel it physically. I can’t ablute with the door shut – too dangerous to not be within earshot – so it was but a matter of seconds before I had both of them in the bathroom with me listing the others crimes and trying to drown the other out with sheer volume. Banished separately – one to their (shared) room with the other to the lounge didn’t work because one’s toys were in the others time out zone and he swiftly set about breaking as many as them as possible much to the horror of his offsider who started screaming profanities that would have made a pirate blush.

Cut to me standing naked in the lounge (in full view of any neighbour who wanted to be put off their breakfast) pointing dramatically down the hallway and shouting that ‘EVERYONE IS FUCKING WALKING TO SCHOOL AND I DON’T CARE HOW LONG IT TAKES FOR YOU TO GET THERE!’.

I finally showered with the 6 yr old sobbing piteously outside the glass, the 9 yr old in his bed refusing to come out (blankets over his head and blinds drawn – shades of his teen years I fear) all the while cursing my beloveds name.

We all sulked on the way to school. No mindless chatter about whatever is in the 6 yr olds head (I’ll give you a clue – it’s usually poo) or any deeper (more worrying) questions from the 9 yr old like ‘WHY did the Americans vote in Trump and does this mean all the black people are going to be shot now?’ for example.

I drove to school feeling guilty for getting so mad and hoping that they wouldn’t have a shite day at school as a result of our bloody awful morning.*

There are ways to mitigate this madness. If I break the ‘no screens before school’ rule they will stare like zombies at their chosen screen while I shower and dress and get myself in the car – but as soon as I turn the screens off so begins the 20 minute meltdown over putting a pair of shoes on because the flickering blue lights have taken away their ability to determine between a reasonable request i.e. put your shoes on and get in the car and that tantamount to pain and torture and endless suffering.

Some mornings I get home from boot camp and run to the shower while no one is looking and issue instructions from inside my watery haven. Those are good mornings.

And if I have to be fair, and godamnit the GD reads this so I have to be, some mornings he has fed one of the children by the time I get back and might have started a lunchbox or two before he sees me and skedaddles. To be fair he goes in the opposite direction of the kids school so dropping them off doesn’t make sense. But I’m not in the mood to be fair and it’s not that part that fucks with me.

It’s the way he just GOES. ‘Oops I’m going to be late!’ he sings out gaily and runs out the door. As if somehow me being late to work every single fucking day isn’t as bad as if he was ten minutes later. Don’t forget that I stop on the way with the kids too, and although I basically slow down, kiss them and drop them off, more often that not lately I have to get out and walk them in because they are so tired and sad about mornings (normal end of term stuff). This adds a good fifteen minutes to an already to-long routine.

I know this is end of term stuff and everyone is exhausted. And I know that some people will be reading this and thinking WHY don’t they make their lunches the night before, and foster more independence in their children to make their own breakfasts and all that happy helpful shit that I would mutter under my breath too. And I do mutter that shit under my breath at me. But tbh at the moment I am hanging out until JUST AFTER my kids have hit their pillows before I collapse in to mine. Our routines go to hell when we’re tired and that’s just the sucky, sticky reality of it.

Just the freedom of being able to leave when I’m ready like that. The miracle of it. I’m always reminded of this bit by Michael Mcintyre about Leaving the House.

Little do the #littledutchmen know that I have plans to ride my bike to my new job next year. I wonder if that means the GD will be dropping them off and I can just leave when I’m ready? Huh.

*They had a great day and all of the mornings dramas were forgotten in minutes as soon as they saw their friends of course, it was just Mummy who thought about it all day and felt like shite. Happy lads upon afternoon pick up. Because I knew you were wondering.