In case you don’t actually know me (waving hello!), I am a laid back person. I am an eternal optimist. I believe we can, and will, get through things. I know there will be rough times and bumps along the way, but I am always confident that we’ll come out just fine in the end. I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember. It’s so well established that when I have moment of panic or stress it causes panic and stress for my family because it is so deeply out of character for me. I go with the flow.
For several weeks now I’ve had chest pain. It’s on the right side of my chest, thank goodness, meaning I haven’t had to question whether or not it is heart related. It’s not constant but it is definitely regular, daily, happening frequently. And it hurts. Enough that I often put a hand on my chest and press, hoping to ease the pain. As I write this it is happening. It feels as though something is pushing hard against my chest, from the inside, squeezing me. It hurts.
When it first started happening I did some online searching (probably not super smart but as I am an optimist I don’t usually freak out when I search health concerns). My diagnosis was that it is stress or anxiety related. My oldest, who has been dealing with anxiety for more than a decade, confirmed that for me when she told me she gets the same kind of pain. (That was both reassuring and heartbreaking for me to learn.)
I’ve been working on deep breathing practices but I can’t tell that it makes any difference.
I share this because I think it is a signpost worth noticing. I can’t pinpoint one reason why I am feeling stress or anxiety on a level to cause this pain. I don’t feel more overwhelmed than normal, especially heading into the holiday season. There’s a lot on my plate and that’s a norm for me. I don’t like to miss out on things and I function better when I’m busy. I could list reasons for stress but they aren’t new so I don’t buy that.
I think this chest pain is a flashing neon sign of what it means to be a teacher 18 months into a global pandemic. (Probably not just teachers, I’m sure, that’s just my world.) I don’t think there’s one thing, or even six or seven, that is making my body respond in this way. I think it is the reality in which we live.
I’ve said before that teachers are not okay. It remains true.
I am, because of who I am and how long I’ve been doing this job, probably as okay as anyone is going to get in education right now. And I am clearly not okay.