When meeting someone for the first time, often, the following question arises during the initial small talk, “so, what do you do?” At times, I struggle to answer this question. At this point in my recovery, I say “I’m happy to be a stay at home mom.” However, my lips itch with the urge to spill my guts, to answer in a much more truer sense. The answer I would love to give is the following, “I’m a stay at home mom. And, I love it. However, I am also a teacher. I went to school for many years to obtain this degree. I achieved tenure because of my good reviews and practice in the classroom. I fought hard to find a job I loved, and I did find that job. I went back to work when my daughter was 6 months old, and I was OK with that. Physical and Emotional birth trauma eventually caused me to step out of work on a “medical” leave. I loved being a teacher. I still am a teacher. And, I love being a mom. The best thing for myself was to leave work to focus on getting myself and my family healed and better. In fact, I am better now. And, at this point I choose, not my mind, not my body, I choose to stay home with my daughter. I will go back to work eventually. “
Being that answer is often too much, too soon, for casual acquaintances, I often keep that to myself. But, I do want people to know, people who read my blog, that leaving work was one of the hardest decisions of my life. For my physical body, the answer was clearly that I should not and could not work. My fecal incontinence caused numerous accidents throughout the teaching day in which I would need to change my undergarments, take frequent bathroom breaks, feel uneasy about sitting in meetings, and need to remain in close proximity to a bathroom. For my mental body, the toll was far worse in my work environment. Being that pregnant women, the smell of cleaner, and assisting with special education student’s toileting needs (ex. cleaning up bowel movements) were triggers rampant in my work environment, anxiety attacks, extreme panic, and the inability to focus were parts of my daily routine in the classroom.
Leaving work was really the only way I could get better. It took a lot to convince me of this. It took being escorted to the hospital, from the school’s nurses office, when I thought I was having a heart attack. (A severe panic attack). It took being in therapy and realizing the only way I would get better was to stop putting myself in the midst of triggers. It took me swallowing my pride, to leave a job I loved, and was good at, in an effort to reclaim myself.
And guess what, leaving work was an effective way to assist in my treatment for PTSD. Removing myself from a constant triggering situation helped me focus on therapy, my family, and myself. It really was the only way.
Of course, leaving work essentially cut our income in half, caused a change in our health insurance benefits, and manufactured the need for our family to live with and adhere to a budget. A lot of people assume that going out on “medical leave” means you have some sort of disability payment assistance, especially when the medical leave is “prescribed” by the doctor. Sadly, that is not always the case. I still, (2 years later), am fighting to reclaim any disability payments I may have been allotted due to my condition(s). Luckily, I have a lovely organization that can do this for me (for a small fee). However, it is important to dispel the myth that “medical leave” automatically means that the person is being financially supported in one way or another during their recovery. This simply is not true. Hopefully, at some point I will obtain the disability payments retroactively to support my stretch of “medical leave”, but, that remains to be seen.
Thanks for reading,