There is a dignity in surrender. Only a fool continues to throw herself against a wall that won't move. Only a fool refuses to quit the game she has lost.
After 13 months of battle, I gave in. I refuse to abuse myself by fighting any longer. I have nothing left to fight with. Every attempt to change, to stem the disorder led only to disappointment, frustration and seething anger. And the waiting. Waiting for the spiral upward to mental health. Nothing worked. Crushing disappointment followed disappointment. Until I couldn't take it anymore. The screaming rages, broken appliances, heaving sobs that resulted from my failed hopes and gargantuan efforts have drained me of the will to continue.
"I am broken." With that acceptance, I have found peace. Now I can relax. Now I can stop judging myself, stop scolding, stop failing. My friend said that I can't quit, that I might as well just shrivel up and die. But the fight was killing me--driving me to madness. It was the frustration that had me bawling in the doctor's bathroom stall for an hour, banging on the door. Surrender has already yielded benefits.
But first, I should explain what led me to this.
Several weeks ago, I was observed while teaching. I did well. Especially compared to last year's fiasco. I let myself hope a little bit. Then I got the report and she said nothing positive. I emailed the woman and asked if she could say something about my rapport with the students because my future employment may depend on her. She said she didn't want to because she couldn't say anything good about it. I made her nervous because I was so obviously nervous. And I seemed afraid of my students. She didn't think it was a serious problem but certainly there was nothing to praise.
I felt crushed. I had tried so hard to improve.
Then I finally went in to discuss the paper I spent 8 months writing. The prof hadn't submitted a grade so I figured it must be so bad he wanted me to rewrite it. That was not the case. He said it was a B+ paper. The arguments were weak and unconvincing. I think I'd have preferred to hear that it was so bad it was unacceptable--that way I could excuse it because of my mental state. Because only someone so irrational could have written something that bad. Nope. My work is mediocre.
That same week, my mind started up again. Over and over it kept saying "I'm sorry." Then filling my head with every memory of everything I have ever done wrong, or failed to do, or didn't do well enough. Then my whole body would flood with shame. Sometimes I found myself saying it out loud, "I'm sorry". That afternoon after it had been going on for a few days already, I had to sing as I walked uptown to campus to keep from saying it out loud. Did it get worse because I was upset over the paper? Probably, but there's no way to know.
Then my sister came to visit. I was actually excited. I look forward to one weekend that I wouldn't spend alone in my apartment. But then she went to Baltimore to see friends for the weekend. I asked her to stay with me. But she didn't. I understood why she went, I would leave myself too if I could. But it still hurt. Then I wasn't invited to my friends' house for Thanksgiving because one of them didn't like the way another friend behaved around me. Again, I completely understood that I had become a killjoy. But it still sucked.
The only way to stop the incessant shame and non-stop mental "I'm sorrys" was to distract myself: read of novel, watch 5 tv shows at once, or see a good movie.
All this occurred in October and brought me to the conclusion that I have failed. I am not good at this. I've lost. Nothing brings pleasure, the best I could hope for was a break from the pain. I have stuck with this grad school thing out of loyalty to the person I used to be, to the person who wanted this so badly. Until the end of October when I knew I was exhausted. No more.
Then a funny thing happened. Because I stopped trying to be a good teacher and stopped caring if I was doing well or not, something changed. My students began to react differently to me. They started to chat with me after class. The ones who always seemed diffident and repulsed by me suddenly seemed to let their barriers down. Then I was observed by someone at the Long Island college. I didn't really prepare and was rather sloppy with my lecture-- I even let class go early because I ran out of material.
But the prof said she was impressed. (!! what?!!) She thoroughly enjoyed class, blah blah .....huh. So the chair said I should start thinking about next fall, they wanted me to come back and one of the full timers would be retiring soon. huh. At one point in that conversation he said, "You have such a good rapport with the students you must really be enjoying yourself, right?" I balked. No. No, I'm not at all. I hate this. But that's not what one is supposed to say. Instead I said, "Yes, yes I am." and managed a feeble smile. Probably most unconvincing.
I spend all my time watching TV, commuting, teaching, and reading novels. And now I don't have to feel guilty about it. I don't have to fear failure because it's already happened. What's next for this weary traveler? Who cares? She may check herself into a hospital when the semester ends. Perhaps in surrender she will find rest.