By Holly Miller
“Are you ready for the new school year?” is a question I hear every year earlier and earlier into my summer break. It always makes me squirm with anxiety in a regular year. This year, when the questions started coming in July, I answered with “I can’t even get my head around that yet!” I spent the good portion of August ignoring it. Even as I woke to attend my first in-service, I was still in denial that the new school year was starting. To say the start of this year has been challenging is an understatement. Teaching always presents new challenges from year-to-year, but with all of the Covid restrictions, seeing my classes for only 88 minutes once a week and coming up with digital lessons for the rest of the week for them, managing students in-person as well as live on Zoom, ensuring I am covering all of the high school math curriculum at the same pace in this platform, and trying my best to keep my students and myself safe with sanitizing, social distancing, and mask-wearing, I do not recognize what I am doing this year as teaching. And I have 100% NOT been ok mentally. I have sobbed every day after work for at least an hour when I got home up until last week. I wrote this social media post in the height of my anxiety:
I’ve had 5 panic attacks in the last 5 days. I am 100% convinced I cannot do my job. The only way I could convince myself to leave my house today was to mobile order a Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew from Starbucks. Something good waiting for me outside of my house. I picked my drink up and headed to work. Except I didn’t. I went the complete opposite way. Trying to get myself turned around and heading in the right direction, I drive by the place where we found Murdoch after 3 weeks of hopeless hell. I am taking this as a sign that there are things I was convinced were impossible but they came to be and it can happen again. I’m completely lost. But I’m going to do the next right thing.
"I've seen dark before, but not like this
This is cold, this is empty, this is numb
The life I knew is over, the lights are out
Hello, darkness, I'm ready to succumb
This grief has a gravity, it pulls me down
But a tiny voice whispers in my mind
You are lost, hope is gone
But you must go on
And do the next right thing
Can there be a day beyond this night?
I don't know any more what is true
I can't find my direction, I'm all alone.
How to rise from the floor?
But it's not you I'm rising for
Just do the next right thing
Take a step, step again
It is all that I can to do
The next right thing
I won't look too far ahead
It's too much for me to take
But break it down to this next breath, this next step
This next choice is one that I can make
So I'll walk through this night
Stumbling blindly toward the light
And do the next right thing
And, with it done, what comes then?
When it's clear that everything will never be the same again
Then I'll make the choice to hear that voice
And do the next right thing"
- The Next Right Thing, Frozen 2
Murdoch in this story was our beloved dog my husband and I had before we were married. A friend was watching him in 2012 when we went to New York City for the day. He was a very anxious dog and when she went to let him out, he snapped his leash and ran off. Murdoch was lost for 3 entire weeks. 21 days. Over Christmas. We did absolutely everything we could to bring him home. We barely slept, barely ate, and were out in the cold and snow non-stop posting flyers, talking to people to ask if they saw him, checking out reported sightings, trekking through wooded areas, streams, and fields to find him. While we felt so hopeless, we never gave up. I never prayed for something harder in my life. 21 days later, down to the hour he escaped, we got a call that he was sighted near a housing development in a field. We were able to secure him. We got him back 6 miles from our house. It was an unbelievable miracle that came true. I always look to this as my personal miracle and proof that with God, all things are possible.
I bring up this story because often when I read in the Bible of Jesus performing miracles and his disciples doubting him, I always get kind of frustrated with his disciples at first. “Um, He is JESUS! You’ve witnessed this man do miracle after miracle! How can you doubt him?!” And then I realize I do the same in my own life. When I got lost on my way to work (seriously, how do you get lost on your way to a place you have driven to over and over again for years) and drove by the spot where God granted me the biggest miracle of my life, I knew it was no mistake. I was being reminded of who is in control when I feel out of control. Despite how terrible I am feeling mentally, how difficult I am finding it to do my job and even just function as a human being, despite my fears, doubts, and worries, I know I have already won this mental battle.
“No, we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” – Romans 8:37-38
I sometimes get so caught up in drowning that I forget to look up to see that I’ve been rescued all along. While starting the school year has been tough on all of us, teachers, students, and parents, I am trying my best to remember that this battle I am trying so hard to fight has already been fought and won. Not only will we get through this rough patch, we will more than conquer it.
While Holly Miller has eclectic passions, interests, and hobbies, she is easily summed up as a high school mathematics teacher who found a way to thrive despite her anxiety and depression. Her goal is to spread awareness about mental health, inspire those who struggle to see that they are not alone and show them that they can find light in even the darkest of places. She enjoys spending time with her husband Luke, their two dogs, two cats, and Russian tortoise. While she may not have many impressive credentials, Holly believes there is magic in the ordinary every day and that a simple life is a good life. Holly can be reached email@example.com