I taught public school for 11 years, and every spring we received a special training in “active monitoring.” Nobody looks forward to active monitoring. It is the job teachers take on during the end of year state assessments. All certified teachers must stay on their feet during the majority of the test, walking up and down the aisles, making sure nobody is looking at another test, or marking in another section, or eating, or ANYTHING that would cause them to get marked up as a “state testing irregularity.” I dreaded these days every year, because I knew if I lost focus for one second, something could happen and I would get marked up and have my state teaching certificate questioned or revoked or torn up or SOMETHING horrible would happen.
Living with a mental illness requires active monitoring. Much like how I used to roam the aisles of my classroom, eyes alert for any misconduct or twitch of movement, I constantly roam my brain and my body for signs of disorder.
Last weekend I spent time with a group of girls who have known me longer than anyone else besides my own family. We talked for hours and hours, laughing and sharing stories, erasing years and distance. It was refreshing and healing.
The final morning I found our senior yearbook, from all the way back in 1999. Flipping through it, I noticed something. Page after page, a familiar face kept popping up at me. My own. Every activity, every party, every event. The more pictures I saw, the more I cringed. The inward narrative started.
“Ugh, why did you have to do so much?”
“Why were you always a camera hog?”
“You must have been so annoying!”
“Why are you always That Girl?”
Insecurities surfaced with the old narrative. Yes, it was clear that I lived with a deep need to find my worth in my activity and my achievements. We went to a small private school, so plenty of opportunities for over-involvement existed. Still, it hurt to watch it unfold in this book, as I know I STILL so often act out of a craving for approval and acceptance. Continue reading “I’m That Girl”→
The day started like any other. Kids woke up, ate breakfast, fought a bit, then we headed to the gym (free childcare!) to get some energy out. It’s 500 degrees outside right now and I needed me time. I came home with a recharged battery, but that’s when it all hit the fan.
The soon-to-be-freshman talked back one too many times, so I took away her EVERYTHING. No phone, no technology, no (gasp) music. The 4 year old and 21 month old decided that was a great time to start terrorizing each other. One thing after another. All. Day. Long.
By the afternoon, I was done. My yoga breaths failed me, and my emotional capability to deal with ANY MORE nonsense plummeted. I needed a way to cope, to self-soothe. I could raid my pantry, I could tune everyone out and hop on my phone to scroll other people’s lives that looked so much more fulfilling, or… I could open up some wine. Continue reading “Wine Not?”→
I remember that day at the Social Security office when I went from Brandenburg to Kerry. I wrote my name in the blanks so carefully, the name that I chose to be my legal name for the REST OF MY LIFE. So permanent. To go from 11 letters to 5 was a relief, but to lose the name that connected me to my mom and dad and all my “German” people? It’s a famous gate in the fatherland! It’s a concerto! Not to mention, it’s how I identified myself for 28 years.
I played with the idea of making Brandenburg my middle name, but that’s a mouthful as a middle name even more so than it was as a last name. As hippy-ish as I am in some aspects, I’m traditional when it comes to names. And I chose to go all in and take on the name of Kerry. Continue reading “What’s In a Name?”→