*This blog post originally began towards the bottom. I shared the self-care tips before I understood what was going on with me. That portion is still intact, but I’ve added my journey.
Like you, I’m busy. I try not to wear that as a badge of honor but…sometimes I’m guilty of that too. I’d always known that I was a bit of a worrier, but I thought I had it all under control. That was until I had my first panic attack…at school! It was nothing short of terrifying but, I got through it. I’d love to share my story with you.
I’d just come off of an amazing summer. I traveled to 6 cities in 6 weeks- doing conferences, working with freaking BRENE BROWN, and doing PD with schools all over the US. I also had created and launched my first course on the writing process. On top of all of that, it was time to start a new school year. I was a bit nervous because my boss (who happens to be one of my best friends) was out on maternity leave. The beginning of the year is stressful anyway, but without our fearless and amazing leader, I was nervous for lots of reasons. We started the year just fine- but within the first 20 days, I’d been formally observed twice. Over the first 5 weeks of school, there were a total of 6 observations. We’d been doing some curriculum work over the summer, and teams of sometimes 20+ people would come in to see how it was going. Talk about pressure. Not to mention that on top of these things, I’m still a whole wife and mother of two young children that are still in the “mom, watch this!” phase of their adolescence. I was stressed, sure, but I didn’t think it was anything more than normal. I’d heard all of the symptoms of anxiety attacks and even so, when I was crouching down in my supply closet thinking that I was having a heart attack, it didn’t occur to me that that is what that was.
I messaged my interim principal and asked if I could go to the clinic. She let me leave early. I thought they were going to send me to an E.R. because I felt like my blood pressure was going to be sky-high. But, nope. She took it and told me that my BP was great. That’s when she started to ask me questions about stress. I was irritated because I knew where she was headed. “There’s no way all of this is from anxiety,” I was thinking. That was phase one of this situation.
Phase 2 actually began in 2017 but I didn’t understand what was happening to my body. All of a sudden, my skin felt like it was on fire. It was burning with no visible side effects. It felt as though I had a bad sunburn on my cheeks, arms, and legs. I thought I had some crazy disease so I went to every doctor that I could. They ran all the tests. Nerve testing, MRIs, and other things that I can’t recall. I tried a dermatologist. I tried the rheumatologist. Literally, anything to figure out why my skin was burning.
All of the tests came back clear and they made me feel like I was crazy.
Since then, the burning sensations have never been that intense and it comes and goes…until this year. This year right after the panic attack in my classroom, it started again. The full force burning. I’m almost convinced that it was even worse than the first time. It was so intense that I started to look for answers…AGAIN! During this season, I was drawn to solitude and TONS of prayer. There were some other things going on in my body and I felt like something was very wrong. At one point after a prayer, I felt led to Google a very specific phrase. I can’t recall the phrase but immediately a video came up that said, “BURNING SKIN SENSATIONS FROM ANXIETY
” and I couldn’t believe it. I watched that video and bawled. All of a sudden, I didn’t feel crazy- I felt seen. No one could explain this to me but here in this little illustrated video was the answer to all of what I’d been experiencing.
I didn’t know. I didn’t know that stress and anxiety could take such a toll physically. But, I did know one thing: I never wanted to feel that again. I immediately went into self-care mode but for REAL this time. I knew that self-care was important but I never took it seriously. That all changed! I started to identify my triggers. And boy, did I have a lot. I reached out toi mentors for the first time in my life. I started cutting my social media time, feeding my spirit, exercising, and eating well. I learned how to stretch. I started to pay attention to the types of things I was watching on television. I swapped out my mani/pedi self-care appointments for physical therapy to take care of the pains that I’d been ignoring for years. I learned the difference between self-care pampering and self-care for survival and what I like to call “thrival.” Because who wants to just survive? I’m trying to thrive! Lastly, and most importantly, I learned the power of the scariest and the most necessary word in the English language: NO. NOOOOOOOOOOOO. Nope, can’t take on that extra job at school. No, I can’t do that podcast interview. And what’s more- I learned to say NO without EXPLAINING MYSELF. That’s anxiety’s delight right there! I have to think about how to let you down gently, explain my reasoning, and then worry about how you are going to take it!? I don’t think so. I said “no,” full stop.
Out of this, I’ve also realized that there are practical things that I can do during the school day to decrease the starting points for my triggers. I’ve realized that feeling out of control or like I don’t have basic needs met can be very upsetting to me. And I’m talking BASIC. Like chapstick. And gum. When I feel like I am in need of something, I’ll typically bug my coworkers. But even that makes me feel bad! So, I decided to do a little better this year. Below, is where the original blog post takes place. The one I wrote before I was brave enough to share my story. Hope it helps.
I am that
teacher. The one who is at your door asking for asprin, k-cups, and snacks. Trust me, I know how annoying I am…but I’m determined to do better this year! I really wanted to set myself up with as many things that I tend to lack during the school year. Because self care. Since I became friends with Fran, the creator of the Teacher Self Care Conference
, I now take my teacher self-care seriously. There were too many times when I would drop my students off to their special areas class, return to my room, and want to crawl under my desk to rest from exhaustion. Then, it’s usually on a day like that that I left my lunchbox on the counter at home- so there’s no lunch. School lunch? No thanks. Unhealthy option from DoorDash? Yep. I really want to do better this year. I’ve decided to stock my classroom with everything I’ll need to take better care of myself this school year.
I took to Instagram and asked my teacher friends to send me their self-care MUST haves for the classroom. They had some GREAT ideas- so, I curated them. Click the image below to grab your printable. NO ONE is suggesting that you get ALL of these things! I definitely don’t have all of these things in my room- but there were some items that people suggested that I didn’t think about! Have a great year! Click the image below to grab the list!
Wowwwwww, Lanesha! I am so inspired by your post and your courage in being so vulnerable! I hope you receive all the spiritual “cookies” that I find are at the other end of an experience that has stretched me and reshaped me. (I keep thinking of a gospel song they used to sing at Glide Memorial Church in SF called, “I Know I’ve Been Changed.”) Knowing that someone whose work I so admire has walked through this and shared it gives me the courage face my own trials by fire and move through them, too. I can’t thank you enough for sharing this experience. Just from reading it, I know I’ve been changed!