One day, hopefully soon, I will write an update and it will be lovely.
I’ll talk about my new teaching job and how I’m looking forward to it.
I’ll go on about how well my arthritic knees are responding to aquatic therapy.
I might have even lost a few pounds.
Surely my mental health will have improved.
This isn’t that day.
I hoped spring break, which ends Monday, would be a time for rejuvination.
I picked up a chest cold at school the last week before break. My doctor diagnosed it as an inflammation of my asthma. She prescribed a steroid inhaler.
The inhaler works great except for one side effect: It plays hell on my anxiety.
Such a side effect normally tortures me enough in more steady times.
These aren’t steady times.
I’m trying to finish graduate school, earn my teaching license, and survive on the thinnest of financial margins.
I made it through midterm. I received my report. I talked it over with my mentor teacher and my supervising teacher. It seemed a fair assessment.
I wasn’t where I wanted to be, but my mentor teacher and the Drake professor overseeing student teaching assured me that my development was on par with where they expect novice teachers to be at this point in student teaching.
Alas, a brain affected by acute anxiety rejects positive information. I’ve written before that most problems occur in the space between emotional reaction and intellectual understanding. Feelings overrun facts and thoughts run haywire.
I took the midterm and my wild thoughts decided I had already failed as a teacher and that I was going to die broke and alone and my nest dispatch would be from temporary housing at a YMCA.
I didn’t do this on purpose. It’s just a bad thinking pattern developed as a survival method to deal with childhood trauma. It’s the same bad thinking that leads me to overeat to morbid obesity.
So when the steroids hit the bloodstream with already jangled nerves, that was cherry bomb in the toilet. Everybody I’m in close contact with knew I was depressed and tried to assure me I was going to be OK. My teachers tried. Parents 2.0 tried. Friends tried.
The trouble is they used intellectual reasoning and the chemical malfunction I was dealing with mucks up emotional reactions.
The combination of physical illness and mental health struggles put me to sleep for the first four days of spring break.
My therapist finally helped me reason out the situation and come down from the rush of negative emotions.
Then I got my vaccine booster shot. That made me sick with fever and chills for about three days. I suppose a few miserable days are a good trade for avoiding the full force of a potentially lethal virus infection, particularly with my comorbidities, but it’s still no fun.
So spring break week has come and gone and all the books I was going to read for fun and all the schoolwork I was going to accomplish remain in the same state they were before break began.
There’s a possibility that would have happened even if I had been healthy, but I want to believe my better intentions would have prevailed if I wasn’t fighting a double- or sometimes triple-whammy of health problems.
There is a bit of good news. A friend of mine, a fellow former paragraph stacker, left the trade to become a lawyer. He reviewed the administrative law judge’s rejection of my appeal for a special benefits program that would extend my unemployment.
He and his boss offered some suggestions for an appeal, but my friend told me the appeals judges almost always side with the administrative law judges.
But an appeal costs me nothing but time. I appealed. The state is moving in its usually speedy way. The form says it could take up to 75 days. I would guess that figure will be doubled and add five more days for that.
I did my taxes. That was a brutal bummer. I’m due a refund from the feds that will be completely wiped out by my tax bill in Iowa. So the hope that a tax refund would keep me in rent, groceries, and gas for a month or so dwindles.
Some hope rests in some federal government deciding what income might be declared tax exempt because of the pandemic disaster. My tax software company says the feds haven’t decided this yet. No rush. Taxes are due in less than a month.
Why would we expect the federal government to serve the people in any speedier fashion than any other government?
Ah, but why bother with politics at a time like this.
As my friend Todd often reminds me, the only way through troubles is straight through them.
I hate to trouble all of you again with my tales of woe. I hope you know how much each of you has helped me. These contributions have kept afloat during one of the most challenging times in my life.
I’m learning to be a teacher while I’m also learning to live with the disability from my arthritic knees and facing financial struggle. It’s a lot of stuff to worry about all at once and, frankly, sometimes it gets to me.
But you people, you floor me. I don’t know many of you personally. I dare say I don’t know most of you personally. Yet you give and give. You send positive messages.
I hear the negative ones, both in my own thoughts and from others.
I want you to know how much your letters have touched me, how much your faith in me becoming a good teacher keeps me going when the doubts mount.
And, yes, money is important. I wish I never had to talk about money, but we live in the real world. The electric bill is due every month, just like the rent, insurance, and other bills.
I’m hanging in there. I live frugally. I clip coupons now. OK, an app does it for me, but I never did before.
So, this is a day I wish never comes, a day in which again I ask for your help. I need your support. Don’t overextend yourself for me; your first duty is always to yourself.
For those who do help, I will remind you of the promise I’ve made many times before: I will become a teacher and eventually a very good one. I will pass on all that I have learned about writing and creativity and passion for a craft. I will be honest, tender my truths with kindness, and be the person you believe me to be.
And one day, soon, I hope, this will be a different kind of message.
Blessings to you all.
Daniel P. Finney wrote for newspapers for 27 years before being laid off in 2020. He teaches middle school English now. He writes columns and podcasts for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating $10 a month to help him cover the expenses of this site.
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