The Balance Button

It’s about balance, isn’t it? It’s about exertion and then rest, it’s about give and then take, it’s about yes and then no. But the problem is I don’t have the “balance” button. I have bipolar 2. 

Of course, it’s difficult to draw the line between the symptoms of this condition and my own unique personality traits. I don’t know where that line is actually. It’s just so fuzzy. I do know, however, that most people aren’t like me. Most people have that ability to self-regulate. I don’t. Do you? 

This week I almost put my 22-year teaching career at risk. After all these years of dedication to my craft, I could have lost it all in the course of one afternoon. And why? Because I don’t have a “balance” button. My reputation as a team player, as a school leader, as a model teacher was put in jeopardy this week all because I couldn’t find a way to bring order to my disordered brain. The passion and fire I feel for education burned so hot that I lost sight of the trivial nature of an issue in my cross hairs. Frankly, I just lost it. 

I’ll spare you the details of the situation as they really won’t seem dramatic to you, I’m sure. But just know that the issue at hand was not unique to me. It involves the implementation of a new practice that every teacher in my building is expected to adopt. One that, in theory, should be useful to us all. Somehow, though, my brain didn’t (and still doesn’t) see it that way. And this little sticking point is, for some reason, the sword on which I chose to fall. 

Was it the perfect storm? Yes, definitely. This new school year has brought with it an overwhelming number of school policy changes that would make even the most seasoned educator take note (in red pen, of course). And on a personal level, I’ve juggled some pretty heavy crises lately. The biggest, of course, is that my 22-year-old son — who has bipolar 1 — is currently incarcerated. Add to that the fact that my medications have been decreased in recent months in an effort to quell a chronic tremor in my hands and legs, plus I’ve recently changed my diet, and I’ve increased my running and exercise regimen and one could see how it could be the perfect storm. 

So I snapped. No, I didn’t do anything dangerous. I didn’t do anything harmful to myself or others. 

I just came unglued in a private meeting with administration. But the fact is I put myself and my impeccable reputation on the line for one, single, minute policy change that in the long run means nothing. For me, this incident will likely be a mere blip in an otherwise perfect 22 year career. But I’m incredibly lucky. For others who struggle with finding the “balance” button it could be so much worse.

Luckily, with the support of my amazing husband and my best friend, I was able to see the train wreck coming before it was too late to hit the brakes. But I realize how close I came to disaster.

The fact that I was so determined to see my argument through, that I would be willing to walk out on a 22-year stellar career is absolutely terrifying to me. It makes me fear for what the future could bring. I feel so fragile and raw. It’s like I’m one piece of bad news away from a complete and total meltdown.  

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