Musical Interpretation of Anxiety, Depression, and Mood Disorder

As I’ve indicated before on this blog, I write instrumental music as part of ongoing personal therapy, and for the simple joy of it, too…it’s usually not a chore, but it can stir up strong and not-aways-pleasant emotions. Ultimately, writing music is cathartic for me, even if the process is sometimes painful.

When I wrote the first part of a piece I’m tentatively calling “Losing the Sky of my Mind,” I didn’t expect it to cause such an emotional reaction in me, but in listening back to a rough cut of the track, I felt uncomfortable, uplifted, scared, anxious, and happy all at once (perhaps because I haven’t been able to refill my medication?). Like I do with poetry, I’ll go where the music takes me, though I suspect I’ll write two more parts and combine them all in one piece.

Until then, if you’re curious, you can check out the track on my SoundCloud page.



Anxiety Continues to Rear its Dreadful Head

“Dread” is quite an appropriate word with it comes to anxiety, at least for me. Usually, every day around 9:00 AM, a pit of cold dread forms in my stomach. It’s the same feeling I’d get before teaching a class of middle-schoolers. Since I no longer do that (the story of that year will have to come in a series of posts when I’m ready to think about it again), I was surprised when the anxiety struck with the same ferocity and at the same time. I suppose there’s no rationale for irrational emotions; I know I’m fine, I know I don’t have to be in battle/survival mode for eight hours a day, I know that my family is safe and healthy, and I know I’m on the right track with sobriety.

sober time
Sadly, this pic is from two days ago…it’s not a drunken selfie.

As I’ve said before, I see a psychiatrist regularly and am on a good combo of meds. I try to remind myself to breathe properly, and I’ve started using essential oils to help combat depression and panic. I also gave yoga a shot for eleven day before concluding that it wasn’t for me. Writing poetry and music also helps, but I’d really, really like to avoid anxiety altogether.

I know that’s unrealistic, and it’s one of the reasons I used to drink. I could change my mood in under five seconds by taking two or three shots of vodka; I could be pleasantly numb to most things by drinking a bottle of wine. It’s tempting to think that I’d drink like a normal person again if I ever picked up a glass, but that’s utter and complete bullshit. I’d drink my face off and would do the same thing the next day.

So I do what I can to curb the anxiety. I began this post a few hours ago, thinking the dread would pass like it normally does, but it’s still with me. Slightly lessened, thankfully, but hanging around like an unwanted guest.

Such is life these days. It will still be a victory to put my sober head to sleep tonight.

Thanks for reading. Happy sober Monday.

me and the lady
After looking at the picture above, I shaved and got a haircut. And then cut my eyes at the Lady of Shallot



I Survived Middle School…

…for the second time. The first experience was as a kid, moving from the relatively safety of a single teacher in one room to the middle school where I had a locker and various teachers. Some of my worst memories of school come between 6th and 8th grade, as I’m sure is the case for a lot of folks.

This time, I’ve survived middle school as a teacher, and I won’t be returning. Not that the school would have me–I didn’t score especially high on my evaluations, which didn’t suprise me in the least. Practically from the beginning of the school year in 2016, I was in survival mode. Once the students got a feel for me and realized that A) I’m not an intractable, unfeeling automaton who only understands screaming and writing discipline referrals, and B) I’m fairly easily distracted and often get lost in what I’m teaching to the point that I tune out other things, it was pretty much over. It isn’t that I lost control of my classes (except one over which I never had control to begin with, and that particular mix of students was so bad that it prompted the first panic I’ve had in years), it’s that I have no idea how to relate to middle school students as a whole. I’m also not spectacular at setting up and following routines day after day without fail, which is what administration wanted me to do. I see the benefit of doing just that; the kids I taught needed routines and clear directions, and I’m more of the type to walk in the room, chat for a bit, and then launch into a lesson which might look completely different from the day before and will certainly be different the next day. When I tried to put in routines and rituals, it didn’t work. I went back to my default setting, and my personality and perferences rocketed back as if nothing had changed.

I became worried about half-way through the year that I wouldn’t be able to continue. I would shake while driving into work; on more than one occasion, I pulled into the parking lot, opened my van door, and threw up. Good lord, I remember thinking, this is what would happen when I drank, and I’m doing it because of nerves? This was right before the panic attack that sent me back to my psychiatrist to talk about medication to keep me calm for the remainder of the year.

My other option was finding another job and convincing the county I didn’t have to pay the $2,000 penalty for breaking my contract due to my mental distress. Both my primary care physician and psychiatrist said they would sign off on a document declaring that the work environment had a deleterious effect on my mental health to such a point that I couldn’t perform my job.

How did it come to this? I thought more than once. I’ve been teaching for nearly eighteen years in various capacties (private schools, colleges, alternative schools) and middle school is what breaks me? Correction: it didn’t break me, but it came damn close. Now I have four days of so-called “post-planning,” all of which could be done in two days, but I digress. I’m not exactly proud of myself for sticking it out, though perhaps I should be. I’m just relieved and faintly surprised.

My experience here wasn’t entirely bleak. I met some wonderful people, as well, both teachers and students. Last Friday, which was students’ last day, one of my kids walked up to me and gave me a long hug. I hugged her back and told her I enjoyed getting to know her this year, and I wished her well in high school. One of my guys came up to me and blinked back tears, “I’m really going to miss you,” he said. I hugged him, too.

Those moments are what I choose to dwell on going forward, as well as the various lessons about life I learned while helming middle school classes. It isn’t the right fit for me…or at least, this school and county isn’t the right fit. I suspect I won’t find myself back in a middle school classroom, but I’ve learned to never say never when it comes to teaching jobs.

I did it. And I didn’t drink, by golly. I was tempted, of course, but the thoughts were mostly fleeting. I got through the year with the help of coffee and herbal tea, and those were the strongest things that passed my lips.

Now it’s time, once more, to look for a job. I’m not terribly worried about it…the sense of relief is powerful and touches other aspects of my life. I’ll find a job and move on to another experience.

That’s all for now. Happy sober Monday, people.