“The damage I would do to her if I were you…”
Apparently finding himself funny, Mr. Henry continued to speak inappropriately as we both sat in the school’s auditorium early on Monday morning.
I was barely listening. He was referring to our school’s young (single) guidance counselor, whom sat on the stage in front of us (looking gorgeous as always). “Could you please stop talking!” I thought to myself, lost in my own thoughts-fearing why we were now here.
The weekend was uneventful, but then on Sunday night I got a text on my phone that told me to check my email:
“EMERGENCY STAFF MEETING MONDAY MORNING BEFORE SCHOOL,” was the email’s headline sent to all teachers and staff in capital letters: “There is something we must discuss prior to the students arriving tomorrow. Please be at school at 6:30 a.m. for this MANDATORY meeting.”- Sincerely, Principal Sam.
I barely slept after reading the email; worried that this had something to do with the ‘Ham Sandwich’ article I shared with the students on Friday. Anxious and embarrassed, I found myself now frozen in fear sitting next to Mr. Henry in the school’s auditorium.
Not knowing the things that were going through my mind, Mr. Henry leaned over towards me yet again, “Grow some balls and ask her out…if not for you…for me,” he whispered, referencing our school councilor yet again.
The principal stood up and walked to the front of the stage…my heart sank…
“A tragedy has occurred,” the principal said as I sat still; worried someone would hear my heart beating out of my chest, “Two of our students are in critical condition as we speak.”
A deafening silence filled the room as my heart began to slow…
Reading from an index card a speech ensued, “The incident happened yesterday, but because of privacy laws we cannot share any details with you yet. It is very likely however that the other students will come into school today knowing certain things and we needed to have a discussion regarding what we can, and cannot, say to them right now. I’m going to invite Kylie to speak with you about how to best emotionally support our kids. I apologize for being so vague with you at this moment in time, but my hands are tied. I hope you listen to what Kylie suggests and see me privately with any concerns you may have after we break from this meeting. Thank you all again for all that you do…these children need you now more than ever.”
No one spoke as Kylie talked to the staff. Glancing over I saw that Mr. Henry had stopped looking at her with hungry eyes, and now looked broken with concern just like everyone else in the room. I listened to every word that was said-not having any clue what could have happened. Frustrated by the lack of details we were being told, I heard Kylie finish, “As a councilor I am more of a friend than a teacher to our students. Hoping to know what they might need, I’m going to meet with a few of you one on one after this meeting-Specifically with those of you that I think might be most affected…and most helpful…with the situation we now find ourselves in.”
The meeting ended and we began to get up from our seats. Looking around the room I watched as adults seemed lost; not knowing what to say, or what to do. Between scattered bodies I locked eyes with Kylie. Seeing me, she smiled meagerly, and began walking towards me like an arrow.
My heart sank….
Week 10- (11.13.20) – “P.A.I.N. through Anxiety”
I once heard someone compare life to baseball.
While the sport seems so simple to a beginner (hitting a ball), there are, in fact, many things that make the game very complicated. This can make the sport both wonderful and miserable to different types of people. Such is life…
Some of us strive on the complexity of life. The more going on the better. For others the increasing complexity overwhelms us. Those that struggle with life understand this analogy far too well. But even if you are someone that loves all the different pitches life can throw at you, even if you think you’re the best hitter in the world…a fastball can still come and hit you square in the face; can’t it?
Will this only hurt for a little while? Or, can trauma like that affect you for a very long time?? If that happens, will you ever be the same???
No matter who you are in this world, a wild pitch can always change the game. For some of us, that is when we anxiety hits.
On November 19th, 2013 one of my childhood best friends sat on a bed covered with pictures of his family. On that bed-on that day-he shot himself through the head.
Let me take a quick second here to tell you that I grew up loving guns. Owning one is ‘Patriotic’ where I am from. I make this disclaimer only so that I may now tell you that I think I was wrong. In my life, I have only seen guns hurt people I love, and not once in my life used to protect them. We guard ourselves with weapons, and we videotape everything…all in hope of keeping us ‘safe’. But honestly, what is the psychological damage we are causing by convincing ourselves that we are in such danger? Perhaps the real danger is not what we imagine?
When I first heard the news about my friend, I remember feeling sad. While saying I was sad may seem to some as putting it lightly, I do not find the need to dress the emotion up with any fancy words. Though the word is simple, the feeling is anything but.
This friend had a wonderful wife, amazing parents, a nice house, a great job, a beautiful baby girl. Just a year prior I had completed a kitchen remodel for him. Everything seemed fine then. What could have gone wrong?
Prior to his death, my own life was not going as I had planned. Without going into detail here, the fact is I was struggling mightily with depression and was ‘self-medicating’ with substances. Simply put, I was not in a good place. Even before losing him, I was very sad. I had convinced myself that I was no longer a good person, and accepted never being one again.
At the funeral, sitting by myself, I experienced my first anxiety attack:
It had become clear after his death that my friend’s brain had begun playing tricks on him some time ago. Things got so complicated and convoluted in his mind that he decided that this world would be better off without him.
If he only knew I fought with similar feelings myself.
While I did not suffer exactly like he had, I sat at his funeral with a million ‘what if’s’ running through my mind.
What if I told him of my struggles? What if we could have helped each other?? What if I could have saved him???
As I sat alone, fully grasping the reality of the moment, my mind swelled to the edges of its skull. I began to sweat profusely. Breathing air made me feel like I was going to puke. Holding it together the best I could, my body began to literally shake. And then the tears came as I openly gulped for air….
The walls were closing in, and all eyes were on me. Everyone there saw the guilt that was eating me alive.
Earlier this year you heard me say, “to survive this thing called life, it is important to ask questions.” This story reminds me to tell you that there are always exceptions to any rule; as asking questions during times like the one I’m now sharing with you will not help. “Why am I so anxious?” is not a question I suggest you spend much time thinking about. If you do, it is likely to only get worse.
Take it easy on yourself. Be patient and have faith that how you feel is only temporary. Just keep telling yourself that this world needs you, so don’t give up!
Over time, I came to accept the fact that I could not have saved my friend.
A year after his passing, at a memorial held for him, I had a revelation; “this world needs a superhero to fix things.”
I did not know exactly what this meant at the time, but I promised myself that if I ever did, I’d make sure my friend would forever be remembered.
-I love you AJR….You are missed.
Week 10- Question for Reflection:
Who could you help today?