Lessons from 2019: saved by my tears

Let’s face it, 2019 was a tough year.

Politically.

Professionally.

Personally.

Throughout 2019 I know that my mental health took a battering that, at times, was hard to overcome.

Politically

Prior to the 2016 EU Referendum vote, politics didn’t stress me out at all. If anything, it felt a bit like the moon; a distant, remote world that I was never going to visit or worry about.

However, after the Brexit result was announced, I cried. I cried bitter tears, over all the opportunities that my children would no longer have. I felt like a part of their future was being torn away.

And that was the first time that politics had ever made me cry.

The second time was shortly afterwards, when Trump was elected President, but that’s another story.

That was all in 2016, I hear you say, and I’m meant to be talking about 2019, right?

Well, Brexit has never gone away, even though that vote was way back in 2016. We’ve had two – yes two – general elections since then and two prime ministers. All the uncertainty about what will happen when we eventually leave the EU has caused me more stress than I ever thought possible.

Politics was no longer remote, like the moon, but was here hitting me in the face every time I glanced at the news. I felt helpless, and ignored, and that all common sense had been thrown out the window.

Professionally

I work in a college of further education, mostly with 16-18 year olds.

I work in a stressful environment, with high needs students. We deal with all kinds of issues every day, such as students battling low self-esteem, challenging behaviours, anger, poverty, abuse and self-harm. One of our students died in 2019, which as you can imagine, was a very tough time for us.

Arguably, though, tougher times followed. This past term has been the most stressful time of my working life; we took on a lot more students than usual, and some with more complex needs than we are used to, but it took months to employ additional staff to help ease the workload.

I have felt overworked, pushed to the limit of what I can handle in terms of student behaviours, while our team dynamics faltered and we all experienced a sharp decline in morale.

I have cried at work more times than I care to remember, and if that isn’t an indication of the state of my mental health, then I don’t know what is.

Personally

Finally, 2019 was tough for personal reasons, too. I can’t go intoย  detail here, but suffice to say that parenting is never easy and is full of challenges.

The most recent challenges have not been ones we ever expected to face. Navigating the unknown has become the new normal, but almost buckling under the pressure should not be normal. I spent a good month crying over one particular issue; at home, at work, in the car, in private, and in public.

What I am trying to say, is that I am not ashamed to cry.

Crying is a great stress reliever. It is also a huge indication of what is going on inside.

For me, it is an emotional release that I need.

My tears have shown me that we are living in tumultuous political times.

My tears have shown me that, sometimes, my job is too much.

My tears have shown me that my family comes first; I will never stop being a parent.

Thank you, 2019, for pushing me to my limits. I hope that 2020 can put my tears to good use.

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