Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Fighting my Own Brain

One of the things I hate most about BPD is that my brain fights my brain. The rational part of my brain knows how I’m supposed to think and feel, but the emotional part tells me different. The emotional part is usually overpowering and tricks me into thinking I’m supposed to feel all these negative emotions. Right now, it’s telling me I’m supposed to feel anger and jealousy. Let me explain what’s going on (mixed with story time).

Back in 2013 I got my master’s degree in psychology. Yay! Unfortunately, the school I went to did not explain the degree I chose was not eligible for licensure.  Thus, the only way for me to become licensed was to get a second degree (nope, I couldn’t just take the missing classes). That presented a problem financially. You see, the government allots you a certain amount of money for each degree you pursue, and I had basically used all of mine up. It seemed my only options were to take out private loans (not a good idea) or go for my PhD (ha ha, nope!) For years I was stuck. I had a degree, but not many options.

In 2014 I got a job working in a therapeutic day school. It was at this point that I started to realize I had a passion for education. I worked on and off as a paraeducator for several years and loved it. I was still stuck, though, in the education front. Then, in 2016 I got hired at my current job and everything changed. I learned they partnered with Boston University and offered employees scholarships. I could finally afford to go back to school! I started my Master of Education in Teaching and Curriculum (focus in Special Education) a year ago this month. I was on way to becoming a licensed teacher! However, I ultimately decided that I did not want to go through with the practicum. It felt too overwhelming, and I knew it would be difficult if not impossible for me to pass the math MTEL (this isn’t me putting myself down. MA has some of the hardest state tests in the country, and the MTEL represents everything my NVLD causes me to struggle with). To put it in perspective, I took three practice tests and maybe got a handful correct. I just didn’t want to shell out hundreds of dollars over and over.

Originally, I decided I would just stick with being a Para. It was a perfectly respectable career choice. However, things changed once again when I did some research for my boyfriend (who lives in NH). Let’s switch gears and talk about him for a second. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science. Back in 2014/2015 he started grad school to pursue his teaching degree but had to drop out after a semester because of surgery. He has Avoidant Personality Disorder and has always been scared to basically move forward; so, for years he didn’t work or go to school. We’ve been together on and off for 4 years and on for 2 years. Since he met me, I found him his job (which he loves) and got him back into therapy.  I also spent a ton of time researching school and program and licensure options for him.

During my research I learned that NH has various alternative methods for pursuing licensure; one of them being the, “Critical Shortage List.” The way it works is you need two classes in SpEd and passing scores on the Praxis. Once you have that, you fill out a statement of eligibility, and you are able to be hired as a SpEd teacher in a NH district. You are then assigned a mentor (through the Department of Education) and fill out a beginning of plan. You go through a list of competencies to see which you’ve fulfilled, then you make a plan to complete what’s left (you have 3 years to do it, but it can be done sooner). I was excited because this seemed like a much better route. One that aligned with my style of learning; learn as you go. Plus it worked cause we are moving in together in July, and we will be closer to his area.

Originally this was the plan my boyfriend was going to go with as well. However, yesterday he was officially accepted into a grad program and they told him he’d be able to get his license within a year. This is when my emotion brain started to get to me. It wasn’t fair that I’ve had a passion for teaching and special education, that I struggled for years to figure out how to move forward, that I kept hitting roadblock after roadblock; and he basically avoiding doing anything until I came and pushed him and helped him, and now he’s going to become a licensed SpEd teacher before me. I mean, this has been my dream longer. Yes, he started going for his teaching degree in 2014, but it wasn’t SpEd. He just decided he wanted to do SpEd this year. I felt angry, jealous, and like why isn’t there anything that I “have over” him? I felt inferior, like a failure.

It's hard for me to get out of that kind of thinking, the black and white brain; but I managed to write down some rational thinking that has helped. Here goes…..

  • I already have a master’s degree. One where I wasn’t told I could not get licensed. Therefore, I was stuck for several years with little to no options. My roadblocks were more of less out of my control. Even if I wanted to go back to school sooner, I couldn’t unless I put myself it debt I couldn’t pay back (private loans are not eligible for forgiveness).
  •  NH has an easier route to licensure than MA does. They only have one teaching certification while MA has three (primary, initial, professional). I wouldn’t even get my professional license until I worked three (?) years under my Initial. Aside from that the MA state teacher tests are a lot harder and there’s more of them.
  • I could have gone down a licensure root in my current program, but deep down I knew that wasn’t right for me and it would have been bad for my mental health. I shouldn’t force something because it’s the traditional route.
  •  I have been in the actual field longer than him. He works as a life skills tutor and I am a Special Education Associate. I’ve been creating behavior plans, taking data, writing progress notes, going to IEP meetings. The degree program I am in is for people who already have experience in the field. Most stuff he’s going to learn, I’ve already learned or have been doing.
  • He may not even look for a lead teaching job until 2019/2020, which is when I plan to do it (I could do it for this year, but it seems a bit too soon and I want to finish my degree first). If this is the case, we’d both be working as lead teachers at the same time. Another thing to keep in mind is that I will be under the Alternative IV program and I’ve probably already completed a lot of the competencies.
  • Technically he could have been licensed years ago if it wasn’t for the surgery.
  • One of the main reasons he is doing this is because of me. His own words were that he would not have been able to do this on his own, and I am the reason he has his job and is going back to school. I’ve been an inspiration to him, and it’s because of me he’s moving forward in his life.
  • He hasn’t had it easy. He’s wanted to move forward, but his disorder has stopped him. We both struggled to be where we are at, but for different reasons
  • Like he says, we are a team and when one succeeds we both do.
My emotion brain is still fighting me, it is still telling me I am inferior. But my wise mind is slowly getting stronger. I really am proud of him because I know how hard this has been. I know that's how I really feel. My brain just wants me to believe different.