How can a person value one life above another? This is a question parents like me are being faced with as we decide whether to send our children back to school this fall.
Most of us know there is some risk to in-person learning from COVID-19, but I also want to share that there is a serious risk to virtual learning for some of us.
This risk is to my mental health, which if I’m not careful, can become a real threat to my physical health.
When I say that teaching three small children at home presents a risk to my mental health, I’m being serious. I have clinical depression and anxiety.
I’m not just saying that virtual learning will “add some stress” to my life, I’m saying that this particular type of stress will exacerbate my mental health symptoms to the point where I may have a legitimate breakdown.
I know this because I’ve experienced it.
A few months into quarantine, I went from “feeling fine” to deep depression so quickly that I didn’t even know what happened.
I had been able to somewhat cope with at-home learning in the Spring because of my husband’s laid-back work schedule when COVID was ramping up.
Let me tell you, I was committed to keeping my three children safe at home and to stick to their school schedule.
I woke up every morning feeling positive and determined that I was going to make it a great day, but by the end of the day I had lost it.
I cried every single day.
And over time of having every day be like this, I began to feel trapped, helpless, and like everything was out of control and beyond repair.
I never had enough time to process what was happening or do anything to take care of myself.
My mind began to experience a downpour of shame and thoughts that I was not good enough, that I was a failure, that I couldn’t make it through life anymore, and that I should give up completely.
I was drenched in defeat and the thought of every feeling dry again seemed utterly impossible.
After a while of this I knew that I had to make some changes.
I saw my therapist more often. I talked to my psychiatrist again. I started exercising more. And since school was out for summer, I finally had time to do those things. But it still took me over a month to feel myself again.
My fear is that if I keep my kids home in the Fall, I won’t have time to take care of my mental health. And then I’ll be right back where I started.
I truly wish that this school situation wouldn’t be a trigger for my depression to spiral out of control. I want to be able to handle more.
It is not easy for me to have to swallow my pride and admit that I cannot do this in the long term. I take COVID seriously, so this decision was an extremely difficult one.
Then I see the comments from other parents on articles about school decisions.
People will die because of you.
What kind of person would even consider sending their kids back to school?
My eyes water as I read these comments and I wonder if I could live with myself if I send my kids to school and the worst does happen; if someone does die because of me.
Could I live with it? No, I don’t think I could. I would never forgive myself.
But then I think about whether I can live with spiraling depression if I don’t send my kids to school. Maybe the worst would happen to me.
I could be the person that doesn’t survive, leaving my kids without a mother.
And so I’m left to choose: whose life do I save?
I have to choose myself. Because my kids deserve a healthy mother.
Mental health really is is that important.
So my kids are going to school.