Returning to my blog is cheaper than returning to my psychiatrist. I hope that some of my T1D friends can feel useful by offering their advice, or maybe not as alone in their own struggles. I hope that parents of T1Ds can see the promise of a long, healthy life as a diabetic. I hope the rest of you enjoy the fabulous writing. Just kidding.
I have felt particularly called by God for three things in my life: 1) Jeff! I knew the first week that I met Jeff that I would marry him. I didn’t know how a long distance relationship was going to work, I knew that I was only 18, but I knew that he was my soul mate. 2) Teaching! I had a classroom in my bedroom when I was in elementary school. I thought I was avoiding a career in education by majoring in psychology, then found myself back in the classroom and in graduate school. Teaching is a calling and I was blessed to be in the classroom for four years before my boys were born. 3) Motherhood! I knew always that I wanted to have children and that I would have to work to control my diabetes long before I was ready to be pregnant. And I did. For 14 years I ate the right things, checked my blood sugar, didn’t drink, didn’t sleep in, regulated my insulin + exercise + stress intake. I knew that I had to be an A+ diabetic to have a chance at delivering a healthy baby. Once my doctor gave me the “approval” for pregnancy I knew the life I was living was no longer just for me. Fast forward a year and then 19 months after my first child was born and I was the proud Type One Diabetic with two healthy pregnancies! While I was pregnant I managed my stress, exercised, checked my blood sugar 8-12 times a day, God has blessed me with two healthy boys and I am more thankful for them every single day.
With two of God’s callings in the right place (happy hubby, happy kids) a year ago I returned to teaching. I had been blessed to be home with my boys for seven years and didn’t miss a single “first,” but was thrilled with to be back in the classroom. When I am teaching I am being true to who I am, to what I think is part of God’s purpose for my life. I take great care in being a fabulous employee, a great colleague, a good neighbor and facilitating a safe and positive environment where all students can learn. In my classroom there is a clear sense of my purpose and I truly am good at what I do. I am not just saying that, you can ask all four principals I have worked for. I have been gifted with the skills needed to manage a middle school classroom and make learning fun and different nearly every single day. I have been gifted with creativity to meet the needs of 25 students at a time while following the district’s curriculum guidelines. Although I run a classroom with high expectations, my students (all except one in five years, seriously) appreciate me by April and have learned what focus and hard work can achieve in a classroom where they feel safe and able to make mistakes. I love teaching, I love being a positive part of an adolescent’s life and assumed it would always be a part of who I was.
When I returned to the classroom in August I knew that the task of being a good Mom and being a good teacher would be a balancing act. Throw in a chronic illness and you have a three ring circus! Beginning in November my endocrinologist was concerned about my stress level and how it was effecting my body, my blood sugars, my overall health. I tried to reduce stress, let go of some things, etc. Anyone who is associated with public schools in 2014 knows that there are great differences than there were 10 or 20 years ago. Curriculum has changed. Testing has changed. We would get through one realm of tests and by the time you assessed the data and altered your teaching, it was time for another realm of tests. Parenting has changed and that affected which students I worried about, who I worked extra to help, who I spent time trying to find services for. I exercised more, I did more deep breathing, I drank more water, I let go of what I could let go. By April it was clear that this full-time dream job in an amazing building with incredible colleagues was not agreeing with my body. My beloved doctor made it clear that if I wanted to work full-time I needed to find a less stressful job, I was slowly undoing all the hard work I had put into my diabetes control over the last 22 years. She insisted that a better balance would get me back on track.
So, I put together a stellar presentation to ask my principal and the district to allow me to teach part-time. It is an impressive slide show if you’d life to see it, complete with how much money the district would save and how easy it would be for me to teach only three classes. I highlighted success from other school districts and their part-time employees and how the American Disabilities Act was on my side. This modification seemed so simple! Unfortunately, HR in my district did not see things my way and I was given the choice to stay employed full-time or to resign.
Devastated does not even begin to describe how I felt. I went through all the emotions of grief. Denial, shock, anger, sadness. I have had to make choices forever to make sure I was healthy. Sleep vs. wake up and take a shot. Alcohol vs. Diet Coke. Exercise vs. Better Exercise. Crummy doctors vs. Outstanding doctors. Easy answers vs. Honest Answers. Never in a million years did I expect that I would have to choose between taking care of my health and my job, my passion, part of my purpose.
So, after the anger dissipated I explained to my boys what was happening, we packed up my beautiful classroom and I gave my principal my letter of resignation, along with many tears. I sent an email to the teachers in my building explaining my situation, yet every time I see one of them out and about all I can do is cry. I have seen a few of my students this summer and explain why I am not returning with a lump in my throat and a pain in my being. I am not over the hurt that I had to choose between my health and my career. I know that leaving the full-time physical, mental, emotional stress is the right choice, a choice I would make 100 times, but the ache is terrible.
The school supplies are on sale, the teachers are imagining their next set of students and I am so very sad. I am mad that this chronic illness that became my life so many years ago is affecting who I can be. When I was diagnosed I remember the doctor telling me “Well, diabetics can’t be pilots or truck drivers, but you can be anything else!” I seriously did not think that diabetes would effect my career until I left the HR office in May.
So, for my readers who are fellow Type Ones, please let me know what you think of my most recent struggle and how you would deal with it. I have been applying for part-time jobs, have been offered some amazing full-time jobs, yet continue to look to find something that I think will create balance for me as I begin my 23rd year as a diabetic. What would you do?????
For my readers who are parents of Type One Diabetics, know that there will be challenges until there is a cure. Take today’s challenges and make them your own, be proud of the challenges you have overcome and trust God for the challenges you can’t yet imagine. Living with this disease is just that, living with it. Every single moment of every single day.
For my readers who have been my colleagues, thank you. Thank you for stepping in to help with my classroom when my blood sugar bottomed out or when my pump site malfunctioned. Thank you for being a part of my dream job and purpose whether we learned together in Tacoma or Gig Harbor, I shared your classroom at Marcus Whitman, was proud to be part of your pod in Severna Park, or you became my friend in Owasso. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
For my readers who are part of my support group, thank you. The beginning of June made me an unpleasant person and the beginning of August looks like I should be carrying a Kleenex box around with me at all times. This disease is so much more than pricking fingers and inserting pump sights. It is more than a modified diet and control over activity and stress and timing. It is constant calculations that results in a multitude of emotions. It is every moment of every day and so much hard work and I would not be as happy and healthy without you, so thank you.
Thanks for reading, I truly appreciate it. Until my next blog post/therapy session…