I have always wanted to teach. For as long as I can remember. School and some really awesome teachers were, for me, my absolute saviours. Without them, I don’t think I’d be here now. When I secretly left my first year of a business economics degree to study History and Education, I knew I was doing the right thing.
So why now, ten years down the line, have I just handed in my resignation and decided to leave teaching?
It’s simple really. Postnatal depression made me realise what actually matters. Not marking books, holding revision sessions, entering endless amounts of data, going to meetings, planning lessons or constantly nagging GCSE students to work harder. What matters is ME. And my family.
I had a difficult pregnancy, plagued by Symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) and chronic indigestion, and was signed off work from 24 weeks as I couldn’t walk properly. But after a speedy labour and a little hassle sorting out silent reflux, we settled in nicely to being a family of three. I LOVED being ‘mummy’. It was everything I hoped for and I finally had everything I had ever dreamt of.
But being a teacher comes with a lot of baggage. Namely ‘teacher guilt’. I am the only teacher in my department and the school had trouble with my replacement. So I found myself, baby in sling, holding revision sessions 3, 5 and 8 weeks after she was born. I was in constant email contact with my exam students, helping them revise and as September arrived, I was in for the INSET days, to make sure I didn’t miss anything vital.
I think this is when it started. Even though I now had a steady replacement, I seemed to have a lot to do. My GCSE classes were really behind, no one seemed to be keeping an eye on things and as the months went on, and I started doing my ‘keeping in touch’ days, I became more and more anxious about going back to work. I started having complete meltdowns about the smallest thing. Some tiny thing my hubby said in passing could render me hysterical. I didn’t want to leave the house or leave our daughter with anyone. She was the only thing that made me feel calm and in control. Eventually things became so bad, my husband sat me down and said the thing he had been worried about for months: ‘I think you have postnatal depression, call the health visitor’.
So I did. She came really quickly and I did the multiple choice questionnaire they give you and scored quite high. We talked and decided it was circumstantial so I’d keep in touch as I went back to work. I was completely honest with work and by the end of second week; I had gone to the Head and asked for my hours to be reduced. So I was working three days a week. It seemed manageable and I thought I was doing ok. So much so that I decided I needed to up to four days after the Easter break so that I could be there more for my exam classes.
The reality however, was that I was doing a full time workload in three days. I was planning lessons off the cuff; I was miles behind on marking and losing my rag with exam classes and their lack of commitment. We had an amazing holiday in Cornwall and by the time the new term had come back around I had wound myself up so much about work that I ended up taking two days off because a migraine rendered me blind! I realised I didn’t want to do it anymore. The sleepless nights and nightmares weren’t worth it. I started talking to my husband about leaving after I had seen the mental health nurse and she had given me the option of being signed off. Being signed off sick felt like more hassle than it is worth. I’d have to set cover work and with exam season here, the guilt would make me feel worse. But leaving at the end of the academic year seemed achievable. I talked to lots of family and friends, and obviously my husband and the decision was made. I told my line manager of my plans and booked a meeting to see the Head.
So it is done. I have given my notice and will no longer be teaching from the end of July. I have started a training course to be a wedding, naming and funeral celebrant, writing and conducting people’s important family ceremonies. I’m also going to rest; I’m going to take my daughter to the park and on play dates. I’m going to spend time with my fabulous husband. I might even get my hair cut or my nails done.
Most importantly, I’m going to look after me. I’m not going to be dragged down by endless marking and assessments. I’m not going to be the one causing stress to teenagers who already have enough going on. I’m just going to be happy. And strange as it sounds, I have postnatal depression to thank for that.