Self -Therapy as a Replacement for Professional Therapy

Self-therapy comes in a variety of forms:

Affirmations. Books aligned on the Self-Help section of Barnes & Nobles. A set of yoga classes bought from Groupon. Walking your dog for a short amount of distances. Changing your sleep patterns. Getting a haircut. Staggering to make phone calls to people, pushing yourself to talk to someone. Volunteering at a horse ranch because that’s a response you found when searching Google for How to get out of depression. Obsessing over something like coffee, tea, and Buddhism. Moving across the United States to a place you have never been to nor know anything about.

I asked another teacher during the past school year how did she overcome trauma and how does she deal with moving on. She is an electric, beaming woman who is a person I’d love to be. She is creative and does not simply care but does. Her voices pitches with vitality and her hugs make you feel like you matter. She believes in atypical changes and pushing students beyond their expectations.  She is someone important and has left for another school to do greater things in teaching.

I’m always the same when I ask theses questions. I always refrain from making eye contact. My voice becomes pitiful; my fingers scratch themselves. It is an out-of-the-body experience for me whenever I ask these two questions. I become observant and can see myself looking at my meager body, upset that I have made myself vulnerable. The Beast of anxiety massages my shoulder as if I am preparing for a boxing match.

She told me that whenever her minds starts to turn on her she begins to narrate her thinking out loud. This was one of the most strangest responses I have heard on this anxiety/depression journey. For example: your brain keeps telling you, you suck. It says in whispers that teaching a dead stop. You were idiotic to ever join a profession that makes you reliant on your partner’s income. Your father must be really proud that you chose teaching over the military unlike your sister—when these moments of poisonous darts come flying from your invisible enemy you deflect them by just narrating it like a poorly written novel— Justo is walking away from another department meeting thinking that he chose the wrong career. He is walking down steps and also thinks how teaching is a dead end. He waves to a student and smilies while talking aloud. The student looks at him as if he is crazy. Justo murmurs maybe I am crazy. Justo laughs and makes his way to the front office to check his mailbox for the third time that day even though the front office secretaries have told them they only fill it once.

A crazy self-help tip from a teacher who seems to have it all and it worked. Slowly, I noticed that once I would begin to narrate my negative thoughts it became comical, a small chuckle.  It would go from thoughts to actions. It may be because I love storytelling. It may be my Literature side of things. But this prescription came with a real, productive effect.

I have missed two recent appointments at my university’s counseling center because I  don’t want to burden someone else with my problems. I hate going in these things, scratching my fingers, and seeing the therapists make faces to my responses. It always starts with a pinch at their crows feet, the shaking of their head, a weak smilie that says “Hey, I feel down sometimes too.” It something about sitting in their leather seats that make me feel like I’m sinking—I always reschedule my appointment when they call because I have missed my meeting with them. I always feel guilting for blocking that time from another lost one like me.

Narrating my thoughts have helped me in someways but it is something I never do while I’m teaching and am ready to jump out the window. Recently, my newest way of self-help is watching  Alpha M’s Vlogs on Youtube. In fact, I followed his tips for successful mornings: Wake up around 5:00am, head to your local Starbucks, order a coffee, and be productive for an hour.

As I write this blog, that’s exactly what I did. I wore the same colored sweatpants  as he did in the video. He had on glasses, so I wore my Warby Parkers. I returned my library books that are extremely overdue and unread. I went to my local Starbucks, order a latte, and I sat my the window overlooking Colorado Blvd. I wrote this blog.

Self-therapy for me is a form of self-emulating. I often think of it as a hermit crab. I continually pick up shells of improvement. They feel comfortable against my weak exoskeleton. I need this hard, protective shell to balance my feeble, molting body. I carry it with me and when I outgrow it, I pick up another one. I feel happy, indestructible until a smal trip knocks the shell of my back. It lays on sand and makes a small indent in it. So I make light, quick movements to another shell, another self prescribed therapy, another trick. Every time I put one on, I hope it’s the last I’ll ever have to do. I’ll finally be a perfect combination. I’ll enjoy the sands and the spray of salt water.

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The First Post is Always the Most Important one.

I have done it again. Every summer it happens. I tell myself: “This time, you’re leaving for good.” And every Fall I find myself once more back in front of the classroom.

This is my first post and I have contemplated for a while of what I should begin writing about.

Should this post be goal-oriented? Should I say what my blog will be about? Should it off the bat bring a wave of pessimism just to show the reader how cynical and manic I can be? I like this one. But I have decided that this a new year and gradually I will become a new me.

So what is it like teaching with anxiety and depression. Well, let’s see how my Summer usually starts:

Day one: I wake up like those Folgers commercial— The one where vapor from the coffee is visible and alive and you suddenly see two hands hugging a cream-colored mug. That’s the one. I soon find a pen and paper and jot down a list.

Here are the usual goals:

  • I’ll bond with my dog
  • I’ll work out and finally get my body tight and ripped
  • I’ll watch a lot of Criterion films, that way I can sound really artsy and intellectual around my co-workers
  • I’ll join some writing workshops and finally have a breakthrough in my writing. Hell, I may even be nominated for a Pulitzer by August.
  • I’ll have a picnic. You know the kind: red and white checkered blanket, with a cluster of red grapes (I also see a baguette), bottle of red wine even though I hate it
  • I’ll write a play, script for a tv show, or comic book.
  • I’ll swim with short-shorts.

But the most important bullet to my list of “Be fucking awesome this Summer” is:

  • FIND A NEW JOB!

That’s what teaching with anxiety does. You look for an exit. Even though you enjoy your job and you’re praised from your administration—you have an overwhelming desire to leave.

I sometimes think of myself as two different people when I’m teaching. Looking back at my four years of teaching, I see a nobody who everyone thinks of as a somebody (I’m playing on Emily Dickinson’s poem).

He is stronger. He is confident. He is a motivator. He trips on their chairs and plays it off. He makes young adults believe in themselves. He tells them that speaking two languages makes them worth two people (I stole this from Quiñonez’s Bodega Dreams but I’ll use this clever line like I wrote it). He tells them that life is worth living. He sarcastically insults them and calls it character building.  Most importantly, he smiles and wears a mask of optimism to make them believe in the joys of life.
He is not me when I leave the school building.

I sometimes wonder what my life would be like if I could be him outside of my classroom. Would people want to get to know me? Would I finally be content with life? Would I finally write my novel?  Would I finally get to my list?

I imagine that if I was permanently him, I would cross out FIND A NEW JOB and put I LOVE MY JOB.

So that’s what my blog will be I guess.

The HOW to,

The WHAT I did,

The HOW I FEEL,

and

the classic teaching post:

These FUCKING KIDS ARE DRIVING ME CRAZY because.

I have become that teacher. Join me on my voyage.