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I Can’t Survive Like This…

Do not read this title and assume this is a suicide note. This is a note of self-realization. The reality is that I can’t survive NOR thrive like this! I deal with depression and anxiety like many others. Not only that, but I work a full time job as a High School Teacher during this whole panorama, I interned at a local non-profit where I still continue to volunteer, I’m in graduate school part time with assignments due across three classes weekly, and I am in a long term relationship that has hit a rough patch. Can you believe I still feel like I am not doing enough? I know you may be saying that this is an unbelievable load. Trust, I know it is. I have been burnt out for the past month or so, steadily pushing through with nothing left for myself yet giving to everyone else. All I know how to do is be a pleaser. I don’t know how to please me. I am in therapy and taking medication. I journal daily, have increased my exercise again, meditate twice a day, talk with people. All of that still doesn’t seem to be enough. The reality is I can not survive like this. Survival to me means to be able to push through the motions and not just go through the motions. Many times after my days helping others I have nothing left to will myself. I just want to be free but I understand that some of my burdens are permanent. It’s an ongoing battle that I will be fighting forever…

With Love and Pain,

Tatyana

Featured

Vulnerability Post

Many of you don’t know what it’s like to be me. I’m a black woman with acne, body fat, and generalized anxiety disorder. Some days I feel beautiful. Most days I can not take a compliment. Most of the time I feel ugly, fat, and like a failure. I take medication for my anxiety just to get through these times. If I didn’t take it, I wouldn’t be able to get through what I do now. That still doesn’t stop me from burnout, heart pain, acne, feeling worthless, and panic attacks. All of that stuff continues and I have to find ways to continue to function. I’m also dealing with feeling like an outsider in most places, watching people be happy on social media, and wishing that would happen for me. I’m also trying to tackle my demons. I’m triggered easily. All people see is a smile. They see what they feel success and beauty are like. A lot of times all I see is a broken girl who is trying to learn to love herself. And that’s perfectly okay.

New Year, Back to Me

2021 is here! We have made it through many deaths, a global pandemic, and the blatant racism that is America. And while none of these things are going anywhere, one thing is for certain, and two things for sure: We survived. Of course, naturally the motto is “New Year, New Me”. But as you see from the title, I am proclaiming New Year, Back to Me.

Here me out. March 2020 marked the change of my world as I knew it. My job immediately stopped and went to remote learning. I was thrown off of my meal prepping and workout routines. I stopped taking care of myself and just simply ate for survival. My summer was even stressful. There I was in June 2020, taking graduate courses at two different universities to attempt to receive my teaching certification and continue my studies towards my MSW. In August 2020, the turmoil continued. Here I was at a new job with new stress. Balancing graduate classes, internship, full time work, and a long distance drive.

I totally lost myself. I gave up on my weight loss journey. I truly gave up on me. I stopped enjoying life. Anxiety attacks on Sundays became a regular occurrence. Faking happiness and health became a regular occurrence. Slowly, but surely I started to see the damage I was doing. Honestly at that point, I was in too deep, so I continued on that path until I could finish the semesters out. Until I could just simply breathe. Now, I am at the end of my winter break and I have been experiencing nothing but anxiousness day in and day out regarding how I will handle another year with the same responsibilities.

And don’t get me wrong. Some good things came out of this year too. I secured a new teaching role during a pandemic. I achieved a 4.0 in my teaching certification courses and in my MSW program so far. Alongside my sorority, I hosted a Thanksgiving Holiday Drive for my internship and with the help of family and friends, I was able to sponsor a family for Christmas. Still, all of these things honestly gave me no fulfillment. I was pouring from an empty cup and I had knew it all along.

This is why I am declaring my motto for 2021, “New Year, Back to Me”. What does this mean? This means that I have set some goals for myself that have and will always be apart of me; I am just going to get back to it. Here are my 2021 goals:

  1. Read 12 books by the end of 2021
  2. Continue good standing in my MSW program
  3. Improve my teaching abilities through learning trauma-informed practices
  4. Attend career building seminars for social work or teaching practice
  5. Save $2,400 by January 2022
  6. Attend a pole dancing class
  7. Take a solo trip
  8. Pass the PLT K-6 and apply for Professional Teaching Certification in the state of South Carolina
  9. Lose 28 more pounds!
  10. Remembering to take care of myself first!
  11. And… blogging at least ONCE a month!

In writing this, my hope is to hold myself accountable to these goals that I absolutely KNOW are attainable. And of course as I type this, Shine by Tobe Nwigwe is playing. Reminding me that yes, this world may be toxic especially for people that look like me. But despite that fact, continue to shine my light and shine on all of them. Whomever “them” may entail, I plan to do just that! Watch me work.

With Love,

Tatyana

The Two Ps and the Pandemic

This year, I switched schools in the midst of a pandemic. While it has allowed me to feel more effective as a special educator, it also came with a new set of challenges. I went from teaching all subjects in 4th and 5th grade self-contained in a rural area to teaching reading, math, and organization/study skills to approximately thirty 9th-11th graders who all come with their individual sets of needs. To top that, the district ensured to apply the two Ps: pressure and performance. Needless to say, it has been a disaster.

The pandemic has already affected our very nature. Humans, by nature, are creatures of habit and creatures who need socialization. Millions of persons are now forced to (or have chosen to for safety reasons) work from home. Many have even lost their jobs. Students everywhere were forced to go into a new normal. Forget seeing their friends, extended family, or even their teachers. We decided that it was okay to sit them in front of technology 24/7. And because the whole goal of education in South Carolina is to make students “college and career ready”, the need for performance was on.

The performance.

Everywhere, all levels of students continue to take district and state assessments, are forced to learn exorbitant amounts of information in shorter amounts of time, all while feeling the pressures of wanting to succeed from their parents, their families, and themselves. Teachers continue to have to perform miracles in a virtual Hell. We are micromanaged, underfunded, and most importantly underpaid. Observations continue, the show must go on, and the performance must be great! From my observations of my students and fellow teachers, there has been an increase in symptoms similar to depression and anxiety. Many breakdowns, angry outbursts, and losses of motivation have occurred.

The pressure.

Instead of grace being extended, both students and teachers alike are being forced to perform normal duties during an unprecedented time. Pressure bursts pipes and this result has shown. Teachers calling out sick or leaving schools in the middle of the year. Students having meltdowns at night and forcing smiles by day. Most simply just giving up and hoping to survive another day COVID free. And of course, systemic racism in the education system does not forget to rear its head. Black students up against white teachers who could not give a damn if they succeeded or not. Black students tears being silenced and white tears being heard.

The solution.

I don’t have one.

With love and exhaustion,

Tatyana

Live in Your “Right Now”

Hey ya’ll! I haven’t been here in a lil minute! But I kept receiving messages not to sit on my gifts. So, I wanted to share my gift, as well as a message for us perfectionists, people dealing with anxiety, or us that just don’t have confidence in our “right now”.

Over the past few weeks, I continued to get affirmations and confirmations that where I am currently is where I am supposed to be. I am supposed to be an outspoken Black woman pursuing my Masters in Social Work. I am supposed to be a resource teacher at Westwood High School. I am supposed to work on my art. I am supposed continue learning all things special education. But, because I am a Black women, living in a racist society, I humbled myself a little too low. And I allowed others to attempt to humble me.

There are a couple of times that this has occurred. Once, with the White school psychologist who insinuated that I did not understand what she was stating and needed “teacher words” as if I was incapable of understanding the jargon she continued to use. Another time, with the same person who refused to acknowledge my statement that a Black male student was indeed depressed because they saw me as “just a teacher”. The most recent time, a White professor in my graduate program attempting to instruct me on “softening my words” when I was just trying to acknowledge that whatever I do, because of my identities it would be seen as aggression.

All of this lead me to become depressed and filled with doubt. I kept asking myself, “Why am I doing this to myself?”, “What is all of this for?”, “Is this even worth it?”. I allowed others interpretations of me to continue beating me down into a space that was unmotivating, discouraging, and doubtful. At the same time, I continued receiving messages from strangers and those close to me that both confirmed and affirmed that this is my “right now”. Yet, my anxiety, mixed with depression and perfectionism ignored this very message: This is where I was supposed to be in this moment of time. I am supposed to be here and everything occurring is contributing to my Why.

Sometimes, we ignored the affirmations and confirmations because we are so deep in our own heads. We also allow others to interpret what is right for us. I encourage you to take a moment and acknowledge those feelings. Ask yourself where those negative messages are coming from and acknowledge who told you that. Then, ask yourself what is going well and what is it that brings you joy. I promise, it is a lot closer than it appears. Your “right now” is leading you somewhere. But if you refuse to acknowledge this, your “future now” will pass you by.

With Love,

Tatyana

Extend Yourself Grace

Today is Sunday. A perfect day to be transparent. Since I have started teaching at a new school with a new age group, I have been doubting my abilities. There is so much more work associated with virtual learning. So much more paperwork, more energy expended to engage the students, much more planning so you can ensure technology works. It’s all beginning to be a bit much.

So even though I have been meditating, working out, cooking, eating healthy foods, and journaling twice a day I still had an anxiety attack from it all. My chest tightened. My breathing became labored. It was hard to catch my breath. All from stressing about impressing administration and my students. I put everyone else before myself.

I have been able to extend everyone grace but myself. Perfectionism is debilitating. It poisons your thoughts and infiltrates how you feel about yourself. Perfectionism will have you believing that nothing you do is ever good enough. Perfectionism will have you believing that you are consistently failing even when the experiences say otherwise.

The only way to fight this is to extend yourself grace. Be extra kind to yourself. Especially in times such as these. No one could have predicted that all of this would occur. And no one is absolutely crushing it during this time. Everyone has their own struggles. Everything is not your responsibility. Your responsibility is to ensure you are taking care of yourself financially, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Working to impress others will leave you drained and struggling.

With Love,

Tatyana

Expressing Gratitude

Hello all!

If you are anything like me, this summer has seemed like hit after hit. And loss after loss. For me, this summer brought the stress of balancing five graduate courses split between two different universities. It brought the sudden death of my cousin, the reveal of my childhood sexual trauma, and much, much anxiety surrounding switching jobs in the middle of a pandemic. I often wondered, “How am I going to handle this?”, “How am I going to do it all?”.

Unfortunately with these questions came answers that involved a lot of negative self talk. I put so much focus into what I hadn’t done and what I still have to do, that I neglected to acknowledge what I did accomplish this summer. This summer I:

  1. Conquered graduate school again with a 4.0
  2. Completed my graduate course requirement towards my teacher certification courses
  3. Spent some time loving myself
  4. Battled with my anxiety, and won the majority of the battles
  5. Spent time with my niece for a weekend
  6. Strengthened my relationship with my significant other
  7. Strengthened my relationship with friends
  8. Strengthened my relationship with my mom
  9. Rekindled my love for writing and reading
  10. Started releasing this blog to the public

More importantly, I allowed myself to feel everything. I allowed myself to be vulnerable with those close to me so that I could begin my healing again. I know that in times such as these, death and the stress of the unknown seem so suffocating. Everyone thinks that we should push and be fully productive in spite of a pandemic. While I now acknowledge that I am not as fully productive as I was before, I do acknowledge that despite it all, I have accomplished things. And for that I express my sincere gratitude to those who have loved and cared for me despite of this. I express my gratitude to myself for taking care of me.

So I encourage you all, despite what has happened in these last six months, take some time to write a list of things you have accomplished. Take time to list what you are grateful for. No matter how big or small. Look at it and tell yourself, “I did that!”. What you will realize is, you have done more than you once believed. And express gratitude to those who helped you along the way and to yourself for getting through. Wishing much love and peace to you all as we conquer the rest of 2020.

With Love,

Tatyana

Fear

Fear. Fear as a verb describes the act of being afraid of something or someone due to the likelihood that it is dangerous or threatening. Fear lives within all of us.

For me, fear has become self-sabatoging. Fear distances me from having any kind of faith in my capabilities. I have been living in the fear that I won’t impress others. I have been fearing that my finances will crumble. I have been fearing that my relationship will run its course. I have been fearing that my friendships will end due to me being too much to deal with.

The truth is, none of the aforementioned things are true. Yet, I still fear these things happening. I am even fearful as I write this, wondering is anybody going to read this. I’ve become so comfortable living fear’s grasp to protect myself from things that haven’t even occurred. Because for me, fear seems simpler than facing it head on and embracing it.

This fear keeps me on-guard. It creates insults out of compliments. It creates rejection in a supportive environment. And even though the fear creates the fallacies listed above, I still choose to rest inside of it instead of simply asking, “What are you hear to tell me?”. Fear has become a protection from any potential failure I may experience.

Sometimes I wonder why I am fearful of a loving and supportive environment? Why am I fearful of positive remarks, celebrating my skill sets or praising me as a person? It’s because I am fearful of what would be left if this is removed away from me. When I live in my fear, I can sabotage so I can control what affects my feelings. But, I lose everytime.

With Love,

Tatyana

Childhood Traumas and Adult-Sized Problems

*Trigger Warning: Sexual molestation, sexual trauma

The following story is not for the faint of heart…

From the ages of approximately 3/4 to 8 years old, I was sexually molested by two adult men who were almost like family. Beginning at around 3/4, I was made to believe that in order to get something, I had to give something in return. What I was supposed to give in return was my body. I remember shouting out, “He’s bugging me!” to his siblings and no one came to my rescue.

Fast forward to around 5 years of age. His older brother forced me to perform fellatio on him. When I did not get it correctly, he verbally chastised me and sent me to look for lotion so he could finish. I remember crying profusely and feeling like a failure early on for something I was not even supposed to know how to do.

At 8 years old, the perpretrators visited my home. One came into the room and allowed me to play games on his phone. But of course, in order to play those games, I had to allow him to touch me. Eventually I became so uncomfortable that I walked out of the room, with his phone, and stood under my mom for protection.

To get away from the pain of it all, I sought refuge in school. But as a Black girl, even that was not a safe haven for me. I can recount numerous times my White female teachers questioned my intelligence and rendered my prescence invisible. To be honest, it was not until I entered graduate school that I started to recognize my brilliance.

Through these experiences, perfection became a means of survival. Now it is the very thing that I am battling to break down. I did not share details of my sexual trauma until the age of 22. I did not feel that I was in a healthy space until the ages of 24 and 25. I say all of this to say, that while you may have judged me for being too strong or too vocal, there was a time when I was too afraid to say anything. Everyone has a story. So don’t judge others until you know their history.

With Love and Pain,

Tatyana

Black Kids Neglected

“They claim our kids are the ‘problem’, yet provide no treatment or intervention for this ‘problem’.”– Tatyana Donaldson

Keep in mind that this blog post is only opinions. It’s no secret that there is a lack of Black people sitting at the tables of these organizations that continuously release statistics saying that our Black children are the problem. Because of poverty, neighborhood environment, violence, crime, etc. they claim our kids are always predisposed to all types of conditions that automatically deem them as the problem. Yet when the conversation turns towards how we can alleviate these “problems” the same people are silent about the solutions.

So do our children really have this problem they say they have? No. It’s purely propaganda to keep the message of Black people being to blame for systems we can’t even control. They made sure of that. Below is an excerpt from a paper I wrote on school-based social emotional interventions that are targeted towards Black students diagnosed with Emotional/Behavioral disorders (EBD). This research paper led me to my why and explains how Black students continue to be identified as “problems” but yet aren’t provided with any solutions or interventions similar to their White peers.

“Black students, males and students with disabilities continue to be disproportionately excluded in terms of discipline (GAO, 2018).  These populations of students are often criminalized in public school systems as early as pre-kindergarten and are being suspended at higher rates than same-aged peers of other races, genders, and abilities. Suspensions do not solve disciplinary issues. Instead, they impede the student’s growth and leads to the likelihood of the student to repeat a grade, become suspended or enter the juvenile justice system (GAO, 2018). Black boys were suspended at a higher rate in 2013-14. Black boys represented about 15.5% of all students in the public-school system, but were suspended at a rate of 39%, an overrepresentation of 23% (GAO, 2018). With the added layer of mental health and a diagnosis of emotional/behavioral disabilities, it makes navigating the spaces of public schools even more difficult. 

Not only are Black students disproportionately represented in discipline statistics, they are also overrepresented in special education. During the 2017-18 school year, students diagnosed with emotional and behavioral disabilities (EBD), represented 5% of students served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (Office of Special Education Programs, 2018 ).   Black students represented 7% of students served diagnosed with emotional and behavioral disabilities, an overrepresentation of about 2% (Office of Special Education Programs, 2018 ).  The issue is that these statistics may not represent a factual picture of Black students in the school system. Schools are one of the most significant units of socialization. Not only do schools serve to educate on subjects, schools also serve to help produce solid members of society. This is shown through certain behaviors that are taught such as to sit still, do not move, and do not challenge authority. When students display behaviors that are problematic, it is viewed as even more challenging when it is demonstrated by Black students (Simmons-Reed, Cartledge 2014; Webb-Johnson, 2002 ).  Teachers often are not trained on how to respond to these different behaviors and schools usually resort to methods of discipline such as expulsions and suspensions.”

What I found through doing this research is African American students diagnosed with EBD continue to be disproportionately excluded through discipline in the school systems. Yet very little interventions were created nor utilized to alleviate the “issues” that many school systems claim to have seen. Instead of interventions, they funnel our kids through the school to prison pipeline. But when White kids have “issues” new research is released discussing interventions that can assist such as Social-Emotional Learning Foundations (SELF), School-Wide Positive Behavior Supports (SWPBS) and SAFE practices. Our Black kids continue to be disproportionately neglected ya’ll.

With Love,

Tatyana

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