"Happy Pills"

Discussion in 'New Teachers' started by d_anne5, Nov 23, 2008.

  1. d_anne5

    d_anne5 Rookie

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    Nov 23, 2008

    I haven't posted in a while, but to all of those struggling first year teachers, like myself, I took the route of going to the doctor to get on anti-depressant pills.

    This first year has been so overwhelmingly stressful that, like many of you first year teachers, I had been bawling my eyes out every free moment I had to myself. This is sad to say, but thoughts of suicide crept into my mind. I just wanted to get away from it all.

    I woke up one morning feeling nautious along w/ other icky symptons, so I called in and took the day off. That entire day, I did some serious thinking - thinking about how much I hated teaching and spent the whole day searching for other jobs. I cried excessively throughout the day as my moods coasted up and down, over and over. I finally called one of my VPs and told her everything. She ordered me to take the next day off and go to the doctor.

    I did, and he got me on Lexapro, an anti-depressant pill. Let me tell you, this pill works wonders. It smoothed out my mood swings. I went from "I can't do any of this" to "I still hate this, but if it gets done, it gets done. If not, screw it." I've been on them for about a month now, and I will continue to take them.

    It didn't dismiss my thoughts of abhoring teaching, but it did help w/ the overwhelming mood swings I had been experiencing. So for all of you new teachers out there who need to smooth out all of those crazy mood swings, I recommend going to the doctor and seeing if you can get on anti-anxiety/depressants. Happy pills are great. :D
     
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  3. chemteach55

    chemteach55 Connoisseur

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    Nov 23, 2008

    I have to agree "happy pills" can work wonders. I have been on them for years. I was on LexaPro but am now on Cymbalta. It keeps me on an even level and my mood swings are not there anymore. I am not a first year teacher and am in a wonderful school now but I have spent the last 5 years at the most stressful school in the world and would have to take a "mental health" day every once in a while. If it is the stress that you do not like about your job, then it does get better (after the 1st year and in the right school). Good luck with your decision!
     
  4. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I believe that depression is a medical condition.

    That said, if this or any job brings it on, think about changing jobs. No job is worth your health.
     
  5. d_anne5

    d_anne5 Rookie

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    Nov 23, 2008

    I'm sticking out the rest of the year, but I'll be job hunting, too. The only issue is that I have many financial responsibilities that teaching is taking care of. Once I have my debts paid off, or close to it, I'll definitely look into a career change.
     
  6. newexperiences

    newexperiences Rookie

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    Nov 24, 2008

    Hi d anne5,

    I did the same thing you did- I took anti-depressants in my first year. I also did therapy. I think you made a smart move. The stress is harsh the first year of teaching, and I think a lot of teachers get depressed. I honestly would not have made it through my first year without the pills. But I think therapy was also a major help, because otherwise you are just covering up the problem. With therapy you can begin to make lasting change. Because, who knows if this depression might come up again in the future? Maybe at your next job? What steps can you take to reduce stress?

    Depression is your mind telling you that you have to change something.

    For me, procrastination was a big part of it, and being overwhelmed with so much work. So I took steps aimed at working on the procrastination.

    Another thing is, you are teaching a sometimes difficult grade level- 6th grade. Before you throw teaching out completely, maybe you should look into teaching other grades. What is it that is so depressing about teaching for you?

    1. Identify the sources of the stress
    2. Figure out some ways in which you can deal with them
    3. If no solutions come, just accept that that's the way things are. Some things we cannot change, and grumbling about them isn't going to change them either.

    Good luck!
     
  7. Grammy Teacher

    Grammy Teacher Virtuoso

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    Chem, Lexapro is a wonder for many. May I ask why Cymbalta?
     
  8. lemonhead

    lemonhead Aficionado

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    Sort of a hijack...isn't there an antidepressent that causes weight gain that many people are against?
     
  9. chemteach55

    chemteach55 Connoisseur

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    Lexapro made me gain weight. Cymbalta works on the same neuroreceptors in the brain but I have been able to lose weight on it. My problem is a little different than the OP because my depression is actually caused by a chemical imbalance which means that I will probably always be on anti-depression meds. Because of this every few years, I will have to change meds as my body gets used to them. Cymbalta is not prescribed as often as Lexapro because of the expense ($150/month) and many insurances including mine do not pay for it.
     
  10. chemteach55

    chemteach55 Connoisseur

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    They can all cause weight gain but it depends on your body chemistry. LexaPro made me gain 20 pounds in the 2 years that I was on it and I was not able to lose any weight. I lost weight while on Paxil which causes many people to gain weight.
     
  11. lemonhead

    lemonhead Aficionado

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    Nov 25, 2008


    I think my friend is on Zoloft and her weight has stayed the same.
     
  12. Rockys_Mom

    Rockys_Mom Rookie

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    Nov 25, 2008

    Last year was my first year teaching. I was the only C.D. teacher in a high school, 13 students ranging from k to low 6th grade, all new paras, and no real support system. A year ago this month I was injured severely on the job and was on major pain killers. I cried almost every night and oftentimes on my lunch break. I didn't get a prep and when I did have 10 minutes of quiet, I was so exhausted I just zoned.

    In december I went to a gen practice doc who prescribe lexapro. Lexapro and I DID NOT get along well. I was ill, dry mouth, all the symptoms and very few benefits. Because of this I was getting bad markdowns from my associate principal (are you even HAPPY being a teacher. Do you even WANT to be here?). In March I took a mental health day because my S.O. was concerned. I was at the brink of being suicidal. I went to school and got, well, reamed for taking a sick day.

    I admitted myself to the hospital for observation, met with a psychologist and psychiatrist weekly. I was taken off the Lexapro and put onto Cymbalta and Xanax. I was non-renewed in early May (my associate principal was STILL mad a spec ed class didn't run like a science class).

    I found myself a new job, same type of position, but all my students are the same developmental level. I have wonderful co-workers who are supportive and just all around amazing. I'm technically in clinical remission and will be working on weaning myself off the Cymbalta come January. I'll most likely always take the Xanax for my anxiety.

    Moral of my VERY long story. The right antidepressents can help perform miracles, but the counseling helped me the most.
     
  13. PinkFish

    PinkFish Rookie

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    Nov 27, 2008

    This is my first year teaching. I moved 1000 miles from home for my job and after a month I was ready to pack up and move home. I was homesick and trying to figure out a new job. I was crying all the time and freaking out in the morning because I didn't want to go to work. I went to the doctor and he gave me Xanax for my anxiety. It worked wonders. I took it when I started feeling anxious about going to school. I took it daily for three weeks and I noticed a MAJOR change. I was able to focus and get things done. I was myself again. Now I don't even need the pills. I have them in case I need them but I rarely need them. I just needed time to adjust to my new environment. With help I was able to LOVE teaching again.
     
  14. LA/FLnewbie

    LA/FLnewbie Companion

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    Dec 4, 2008

    I also started taking antidepressants last year, my first year...I wasn't sleeping, not eating, and having constant negative thoughts about myself and my teaching...not about hating teaching, but thinking I was no good, not meant to be a teacher, etc. Now in my 2nd year, I am still on the meds, I still have negative thoughts on bad days (like today) but I can stop myself and say, no, it's not that I'm no good. It's that I'm in a tough inner-city school, with no resources, little support, and heck, 8th graders are tough anywhere! So I can see through the difficulty and remember what I DO love about my job...the moments when they "get" it, when they write amazing essays and journal entries, when they give me a hug, even just say "have a good weekend, Ms. S!"

    I still question whether I am really meant to be a teacher...or a teacher of 8th grade...or a teacher of 8th grade in a struggling urban school...and on and on! But I also know I am not going to let my brain play mean tricks on me and send me into that downward spiral. Whew!

    And, I have gained about 15 pounds since this time last year, but then again, I lost almost that much from not eating and sleeping then. So, I don't know if it's because of the meds, or just because I'm actually eating again!
     
  15. MsBee

    MsBee Devotee

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    Dec 4, 2008

    Do these meds help not only with depression but with social anxiety? Its hard for me to talk to people..confidence is also the issue.
     
  16. d_anne5

    d_anne5 Rookie

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    MsBee - I'm not sure about the social anxiety. I've never really had issues w/ talking/approaching people. I'd ask your general physician. Who knows, they might. I know LexaPro helped calm me and smooth out my mood swings. So, they might help smooth out your anxiety w/ social settings. Just a thought.:)
     
  17. MsBee

    MsBee Devotee

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    I think I just need to see a therapist and talk to someone. I can talk to people but I just get nervous and feel out of place.
    So the "happy pills" just help with depression, mood swings, and help you calm down?
     
  18. d_anne5

    d_anne5 Rookie

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    Yep! I went from balling my eyes out every day and having anxiety attacks every few days to not having cried in a few weeks.

    Basically, I went from, and pardon my French -- "What the f***??!! AHHHH!!!" to "I don't give a flying f***."

    I get done what I can get done. I teach what I can teach. I do what I can do. If it's not good enough, oh well. For example, my principal came into our Eng. dept. meeting yesterday. He asked how we re-teach objectives that students missed on the TEKS checks. I basically told him how I'm frustrated b/c we have sooooooo many objectives to cover PLUS writing an essay in a six-weeks period. It's hard to find time to pile on those objectives that students didn't get. I do the best I can, and that's all there is to it.

    Ok, so the point of that story was that on the first TEKS check test, when I looked up the score during lunch, I cried b/c our 6th graders scored 68%. This time, they scored 58%. Did I cry? Nope. While they bombed it, our school came in 3rd in the district. The highest score was 62%. Call me crazy but if the entire district bombs the test, there's something wrong w/ the test. I just brushed it off. I'll briefly hit those objectives in passing, but I need to focus on my objectives for this time.

    Maybe if the school system were designed to focus on grammar in elementary, I wouldn't have to be focusing on objectives that they should've learned in 3rd grade and could be focusing on the objectives in my curriculum.

    Ok, this is going off onto a random tangent, so to answer your question - yes to everything you asked.:)
     
  19. MsBee

    MsBee Devotee

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    Dec 4, 2008

    Ha!! It did start to get random...j/k.
    Maybe I should look into these pills. I don't know about the weight gain though. I am really tiny and like the weight I am now.
     
  20. MuggleBug

    MuggleBug Companion

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    This thread genuinely scares me. I don't want a job that I need meds just to make it through. :unsure:
     
  21. Blue

    Blue Aficionado

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    Dec 6, 2008

    My body told me to get out of my job because of the stress. I am pretty good about the mental stress, but my body began to hurt--aching joints, back aches, etc.

    And, my soul needed healing. So, I am unemployed and really enjoying the new search for the meaning of life. (luckily, I do get umemployment)
     
  22. teacherstudent1

    teacherstudent1 Companion

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    Just a couple of comments ...

    MsBee: yes, there are medications that help with social anxiety. But it is also important to find a good psychologist who can give you strategies to use when you begin to feel anxious. You are not alone; there are many people who need help in this area ... some are just better at hiding it.

    As far as the stress of teaching: I began in a backwoods town that still had a segregated waiting room in the one doctor's office and where it was acceptable to many parents for their kids to fail in school and go on social services as a means of support. The stress was extreme, but I managed it OK, and even enjoyed the process of problem solving, even with all of the job's frustrations.

    Over the years I've changed jobs and positions many times as we moved (due to husband's career), and each held its own type of stress and challenges. Yes, it was very difficult at times, but I would not change my career for anything. The rewards of teaching for me are enough to outweigh the stress.

    And as for psychotropic medication: it is like any other ... some need it, some don't. Some people may only need it for short durations, some may need it for long periods of time, and some throughout their lives. It depends on the combination of their own body's chemical nature and the particular circumstances they encounter. Some may find the stress of their job, whatever it is, is too great, and in those cases may need to look for a less emotionally demanding position. But in many cases, those feelings of anxiety or depression may be internally initiated by an individual's personality or chemical makeup.

    I was on anxiety medication twice, once when I was having a hormonal imbalance (chemical imbalance), and once when I was dealing with trauma in my family (tremendous emotional stress). Both were relatively short lived (about a year each), and both times they were a wonderful medical intervention for a very difficult time.

    Any drug can be overused or used inappropriately. But used judiciously, anxiety medications can be a godsend.
     
  23. MsBee

    MsBee Devotee

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    Problem is I can't afford to go get therapy.
    I guess I could try finding a book or looking online for strategies. It all boils down to a self esteem issue.
     
  24. BioTeal

    BioTeal Rookie

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    I just added a quote to my list of favorites the other day...
    "Therapy done by amateurs is usually an especially ugly form of psychological violence."
    - Parker J. Palmer - The Courage To Teach, 10th anniversary edition.

    That said, I would suggest looking into "Mind Over Mood" by Greenberger and Padesky (who are professionals).

    Sometimes student therapists or support groups can be more affordable options for near-professional feedback. If you've already started work on your own based on a reputable book you can likely make efficient use of time without too many visits.
     
  25. MsBee

    MsBee Devotee

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    I will def look into getting that book. I went to the bookstore yesterday trying to find something and didn't really know what to look for so this will help.
    Thanks
     
  26. UVAgrl928

    UVAgrl928 Habitué

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    You have to find the school that fits YOU! This will help tremendously. I am a very uptight person who has to get things done a certain way, and I have had to let some of that go. However, I am still not laid back by any means.

    I am 1 1/2 months into my first year of teaching, and I am adjusting just fine. Everyone has their days where they feel like they aren't making a difference... that's normal. We had a talk at our last team meeting about how several of us feel like they really can't get through to our kids.

    You also have to have a good balance in your life... it helps a lot. Do some things for yourself, not just your class.

    I heard a lot about people crying everyday their first year, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fit of the school (and your teacher preparation program). I came in knowing what I wanted to use for classroom management, how I wanted my room arranged, etc. And (knock on wood) I haven't cried about my class yet (and I am a VERY emotional person), and I have a VERY tough group of kids. But I also have people that I can go to... a great team, I have a great relationship with my P and VP, a very helpful guidance counselor, and a parent liason (since the majority of my parents don't speak English). So don't get too scared... it just depends on who you are as a person, and your exact situation!
     
  27. MsBee

    MsBee Devotee

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    I am the EXACT same way but I don't really see myself crying everyday during my first year and I am very emotional as well. I am kind of like you where I already have how I want things and I haven't even started my student teaching yet. HA!
     
  28. d_anne5

    d_anne5 Rookie

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    There's absolutely nothing wrong w/ taking meds. Some people adjust differently, and I'm not adjusting as well as I thought I would. There are sooooooo many different variables that factor into each person's teaching experience, and if many of those variables are screwing with someone's emotional health, then by all means, pop those pills!

    I'd rather take meds and be emotionally stable than feel ashamed of taking meds and being absolutely miserable. JMO.
     
  29. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Dec 7, 2008

    I'm glad that you have found some relief from your stress and anxiety. Depression is a serious matter and I'm so glad that you've found professional help considering your thoughts of harming yourself.

    That said, 'I don't give a flying f***k' is not a good attitude either...While your health is of course top priority, the needs of your students need to be considered...having a teacher who DOES give a f**k makes a difference in the experience kids have in school.

    I admire your decision to stick it out through the year and agree with the recommendation that another career choice may be better for you. Don't be afraid to ask your colleagues and here on the forums for help when you need it. Take care of yourself but do think about the kids you teach as well. :hugs:
     
  30. d_anne5

    d_anne5 Rookie

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    I was being facetious. My point was my moods totally flipped for the better. Of course I care about my kids and what I do. I just don't have emotional breakdowns anymore.;)
     
  31. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Sorry, I take depression seriously enough as to not be facetious...Glad you are feeling better.
     
  32. d_anne5

    d_anne5 Rookie

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    I do too, but in order to keep my sanity, I need to be facetious at times. I'm sarcastic. That's just my personality.:D
     
  33. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Dec 7, 2008

    Sending you peaceful thoughts...:hugs:
     
  34. 1angel

    1angel Rookie

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    Dec 11, 2008

    Yes, in my second year of teaching I met a teacher who informed me that she tells all of her student teachers to sign up for counseling during their first year of teaching. I wish I had been told that!
    My first year wasn't too bad actually, but my second year was horrible. I had the group from you know where. I was given the behavior issues because "I can handle them". Yes, I am a good teacher but no one can handle all the issues that were placed in the same classroom. It was ridiculous.
    Now in my third year I have decided that although I love to teach I absolutely hate the school I am in. I started counseling to get through the rest of the year and have been considering anxiety medicine. I just hate medicine though so I haven't yet made up my mind.
    I tell you what though I really should not have come back to this school. I went through too much last year and cannot get over it. I was actually diagnosed with post traumatic stress syndrome after having that class!
    Well, lucky for me it's about time to start job hunting for next year. I am so out of this school I will even work outside of teaching if I have to.
    Honestly, I am beginning to wonder how I will make it through the rest of the year! Venting on this website certainly helps though!
     
  35. raneydae

    raneydae Companion

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    I'm here at home on my "mental health" day today. I am SO GLAD I called in sick today and for the first time in months, I'm just chilling and not stressed and it is so nice.

    But reading this thread made me kind of sad. On one hand, it's nice to know that I'm not the only one this miserable as a first-year teacher. But on the other hand, it makes me kind of annoyed that it's considered "normal" for teachers to just have to go through this misery. Surely throughout the history of teaching this has not been the norm, has it? What has changed in recent years? Is there too much expected out of teachers now? Or are teachers not respected as much? Or has administration and politics just gotten out of hand?

    I NEVER thought I would feel like this. I knew the first few weeks would be difficult, but I figured that by Halloween it'd be manageable. I have no problem being busy all time, I've had previous stressful careers. I like teaching. I like showing things to students. I don't mind being in the front of the classroom. I like organization. I worked with kids/teens in so many other capacities and I know I work great with them.

    I thought I would really enjoy classroom teaching, once I worked out the kinks. But no - I instead feel like I've given up 4 months of my life to nothing. I have no kind of social life and I don't even talk to family/friends anymore. This is not at all like I thought it would be. I'm not an overly sensitive person either.

    I just feel like something is wrong with teaching in general if the only way to survive it is to take "happy pills". I'm not saying anything is wrong with those who take them, as I'd probably benefit too, but that something is wrong with the profession.
     
  36. MsBee

    MsBee Devotee

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    Dec 11, 2008

    I will be a first year teacher next year. Is it really this bad. I mean I fee like I need "happy pills" now but I can still function and its not so bad.
    What is it about teaching that makes you need these pills? Is it all the work, behavior problems, no support. This thread really does scare me honestly.
     
  37. raneydae

    raneydae Companion

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    Honestly, if I were teaching a the school I did my student teaching at, I probably wouldn't be like this. So maybe it is just the school, and then finding one that matches you. I'm still hopeful that somewhere out there, there are actually teachers who enjoy their jobs. And that maybe I could become one one day.

    I feel I was very misled when I was hired. Now I know why they try to pay teachers more at my school - because it's the only way they could get people to stick around! I don't want to continue to whine about this stuff, but my school has the strangest scheduling I've ever heard of. We also don't have a real building and no normal classrooms. I feel like I show up to school, teach my classes, and then leave. No one, other than my particular students, knows that I'm there. Until administration decides they want to step in and regulate something. It's just a very weird place.

    I can't get into the groove I thought would start to come, and I'm very worn out. The entire set-up of the school lends itself to disorganization and this transfers over to the students. And since it is a performing arts charter school, the kids are already the energetic and distractable kind. I'm tired of trying to have control. And try to hold the kids to these ridiculously high standards administration somehow thinks they should.

    Anyways, I don't want to scare you. It really may be just the combination of my school and my teaching style that's gone bad.

    All I know if that this is not what I thought I signed up for, and I don't know why teachers should have to put themselves through this.
     
  38. MsBee

    MsBee Devotee

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    Dec 11, 2008

    Thanks for the insight raneydae. I asked my friend who is a 2nd year teacher what he thought of "every new teacher needs therapy" and he said not at all. He loves his job. He also told me not to go into a job worried about this. Just be positive.
    That's what I'm going to try to do.
    Hopefully your situation changes for you.
     
  39. teacherstudent1

    teacherstudent1 Companion

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    Dec 11, 2008

    I have found teaching to be a wonderful career. I get to help others, be a positive influence on children, intervene to make a meaningful difference, and watch children grow and develop, knowing I played a part.

    Yes, there are struggles and challenges and even bad days. But what job doesn't have these? And how many people can come home knowing that what they do each day has the potential to influence and even change a life?

    Don't be discouraged before you begin, MsBee. I have been in education since 1980, and if I could do it all over again, I would.
     
  40. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Dec 12, 2008

    I don't agree that everyone has an awful first year. I know I didn't. (I started in 1980 too :) )

    You only hear from the people who (rightfully) need to vent. You don't hear much from the people for whom things are working out well.
     
  41. Canadian Gal

    Canadian Gal Habitué

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    Dec 12, 2008

    I worked at a school where over half the staff was on ADs. A couple of years later, after a miscarriage, I am on ADs. I see nothing wrong with it. My job, combined with the hormonal changes in my body from the pregnancy and the loss of the baby, combined with the isolation I lived in last year, cause ADs to be a requirement.

    Many things can happen to a person that mean that they now require meds where they didn't before. That doesn't mean they need to get out and find another job.

    Many teachers are also perfectionists and there can be a lot of stress in that first year. I've been teaching since 2003-2004, but it is my first full time contract in awhile (I've worked between .75 and .90 for the past couple of years) and am teaching in another language for the first time, and both of my adminstrators kids are in my class.

    I'm not saying I can't handle the stress - but the fact is, the meds help a great deal, and next year will be better.
     

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