The Great Escape

By: (@primaryteachew)

After posting a tweet this week which informed the twitter world that I was off work with anxiety last year, I felt relieved.

For a long time, I felt it was something I wasn’t ready to talk about. I wasn’t ashamed, but I felt as though my confidence was still too low to put that out there. For me, it wasn’t the stigma that was attached to mental health that made me worry about speaking out – I was very open with people who knew me. It was because I still feared the person who made me feel that way (especially as they still make comments about me today!), despite no longer having to work with them.

But then, what happened to me, happened to someone else I previously worked with. Someone who then asked me for help. And it suddenly made me think, what if by speaking out, I could help even one more person? What if, it could be the support they need?

During my time off work – all 5 months of it – I was really lucky to have support not just from my ‘real-life’ friends, but also support from a number of people on Edu-twitter. It was, other than Love Island, one of the ways Charlotte & I actually connected! People gave me advice, help and most importantly, friendship during that time. People I hadn’t even met, even took the time to send me flowers and gifts to cheer me up.

For obvious reasons, I won’t go into too much detail about what happened -but I felt I was bullied while in the work place. I was told I was inadequate and ‘poor’ at my job, lacked empathy and even had a ‘poor appearance’. I was being made to feel like I wasn’t even just a rubbish teacher, but an awful person. I questioned on a daily basis whether teaching was the job for me. Looking back now, I can’t believe it got to the point where I contemplated leaving the only job I ever wanted.

The negative atmosphere was so awful, that 6 of us left the school (which was one-form entry) that year. 3 of us handed in our notice with no other job to go to.

I applied for only one job during my time off, because it just seemed so perfect; it almost seemed like fate. A local school wanted an experienced Year 6 teacher – a new school, which had not yet had a Year 6 cohort. Not only was it for the year group I loved but it was also a new challenge.

I looked round the school and put in my application that same day.

I, in my naivety, thought that leaving my previous school and moving to a new, supportive environment would be the end of my work anxiety. I was so wrong! My first appraisal was mostly just me crying and saying how rubbish I thought I was at my job (and there are still always tissues on the table when I go in now!).

Only after months of being treated with respect, supported whenever I asked for it (and even sometimes when I didn’t!) and given opportunities to progress have I realised that it really wasn’t me who was the problem.

After the tweet, I had several DM’s which asked me for advice or support, as well as teachers who were sharing their own experience. I didn’t send a tweet to make myself feel better – I wanted to help even one other person going through the same as me. But seeing those messages and comments made me feel proud that I had reached the point I am at now – which I didn’t expect.

I know I speak for both myself and Charlotte, when I say our DM’s are always open. If you feel alone, or that you need support, we are always willing to listen.

B & W x

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