It was the breakdown that did it. One minute I was just about coping, the next I was wanting to hide in cupboards. Then the tears came. Not a good idea in front of a class of arsey Year Elevens on a Friday afternoon.
I had been trying to explain to the class that whilst they might find baiting and bullying the teacher great fun, I didn’t. Trying to appeal to their better natures I said that as new member of the school they had no history with me so this could have been an opportunity for a new start. With my extensive experience and knowledge I was in a position to help them, but instead they had prevented me from doing my job, one which I was passionate about. Then Suzy started to smirk.
‘You find this funny Suzy?’ I asked, my blood pressure rising again. I knew that I was desperately near the edge and only hanging on by my fingernails.
‘No, Miss. I feel really sorry for you,’ was her reply.
That was it. Her unexpected sympathy was more than I could take and the floods of tears forced me to withdraw from the room and I sat sobbing at the top of the stairs. I could hear nervous laughter, the sounds of chairs being knocked over and tables pushed around the room but I was beyond caring. In the six months I had been at the school I’d been spat at, accused by a gang of Year Nines of hitting a girl, had rucksacks, books, and a table thrown at me, my car vandalized and every lesson was like entering a war zone. And now I’d lost it in front of the biggest bullies in the school. Great!
I was eventually taken to the staffroom by a passing member of staff and the Head was informed. Once I’d calmed down enough I was sent home and the weekend lay ahead of me. As I drove out the car park I never wanted to go back but I’m no quitter. I gritted my teeth, told myself to stop being a wimp, and went home to shut the door, drink a bottle of wine and listen to loud music.
My grandson’s birthday was the following day so I set off, doing breathing exercises and trying to think positive thoughts. Nothing worked; I dissolved into tears as soon as I arrived at his house so immediately turned around and drove back home, much to the consternation of the family.I already had been diagnosed with MG, which is exacerbated by stress, so maybe I needed to see the doctor? If only he’d give me something to calm me down, or even a few days off, I’d be fine and my physical symptoms would improve. Unfortunately on the Monday I couldn’t stop crying enough to tell him what was wrong. In fact, I couldn’t stop crying, period. An appointment with a CPN followed and on an assessment of 1-10, 1 being suicidal and 10 being happy, I scored 2. Not good.
At the time I was living in a house I would have died for, in a small village on the Cumbria/Northumberland border. It had a huge mortgage, which seemed worth it at the time – who needs clothes or food for heaven’s sake? Living alone has its advantages, one of them being you can survive on the basics and spend your money on what you really want. Not the healthiest way to live but at least I had a beautiful home to be depressed in.
After six months and very little progress I was about to go on half pay. Either that, and get in debt, or go back to work. The latter option panicked me so much I sold the house (in 10 mins after the sign went up!), paid off my debts and bought outright a small, cheap house with lots of work to do on it in SW Scotland. This was my salvation. Without threats of having to return to work or make enough money to cover a mortgage my anxieties lessened and my physical well-being improved. I even had enough to go on holiday with a friend to Hawaii and San Francisco and that brought the laughter back into my life. Now I have a lovely home that is still a work in progress but I’m inspired daily by the beauty of the area. Since retiring I now have time to write, travel and be involved in lots of community activities and projects.
When people hear my accent they often ask, ‘What brought you here?’ I’d like to say ‘Divine Intervention’ but an easier answer is ‘To write.’ Whatever winds blow us around or gnawing darkness seeps in I believe that we all have a journey to undertake. Some roads are easier than others, some are motorways, others meandering country roads, and then there’s mine, littered with potholes. But we’re all where we are meant to be at any given time and all experiences are eventually for our higher good/character building/lessons in disguise or whatever you believe in. I use my experiences to inform my writing and draw on the past, people I know and people I have been, to create my characters and poems. You can check some of them out on my website http://www.krissnichol.co.uk. I’d like to leave you with a short poem that was commended in The Federation of Writers (Scotland)
A Breeze of Restless September
I remember standing by the loch,
an underside of light flickering up from the water
fretting over shoreline rocks
bordering dark fields of night,
where hollows fill with mist and call to hillocks
covered in coarse pelts of grass,
and a breeze of restless September
blowing across my face in the grey before dawn,
where time belongs to no-one.
Life here is watercolour wastes
of sky, sweetness in the air, music of swollen rivers
and the feeling of being home.