The Wasteland

I don’t think I realized the complete and utter wasteland of destruction mania can wreak.

Will and I are teachers. Fantastic teachers, if I’m completely honest. We were the darlings of the school, the two teachers who were so cool they obviously had to get married. No one else would do. After two years of protest against the possibility of that ever happening, Will and I were engaged this summer and that, along with many other things, amped Will up to the longest manic period in his life. It’s been three months and counting.

We did what we could: called his doctors, changed his meds, called his doctors, checked into hospitals, called his doctors, changed his meds, checked into hospitals, called his doctors, ….

Nothing worked.

A month or so into mania he had asked our principal for a sabbatical to regain his footing before going back to teach. It was granted and we all had hope that he would be involved in school and return as the coolest, most beloved teacher at the school.

Then Will, a facebook addict, posted the unthinkable on his wall. The bridge was burned, and he is no longer allowed on campus.

The horror of watching Will destroy his life is so consuming I’m starting to numb at the edges. I didn’t think it was possible to feel such grief and anger—both for the man I love and the authorities who have to ban him from campus.

I understand the need for a school to exercise extreme caution in order to protect its students. I am an intelligent, analytic person. I know that there are children involved. That is why social media has to be highly regulated in a teacher’s (or any public figure’s) life. You can’t have a single spot of instability or darkness on your avatar.

Regardless of the veracity or fallaciousness of the claims in social media, we now live in a society that believes the veneer over the physical, interpersonal interaction with people. Maybe what Will posted online is true. Maybe it’s not. Either way, it doesn’t matter that he would NEVER say or do anything like that on campus or in his classroom. He posted it on his wall where he is NOT friends with anyone at school. Where he is expressing himself in the “privacy” of his own wall. But no: Will is anathema. He is branded as “unsafe” and damned for his disorder.

AND IT WASN’T HIS FAULT. Where was his doctor this summer? The man who is supposed to regulate his ineffective medicine? I DON’T KNOW. Who met with him to help him and keep track of him so nothing like this happens? NO ONE. Did Will make stupid decisions? YES. Was he able to think clearly because his medication was working the way it should, regulating his brain chemistry so he would behave like a “normal” human being? NO.

School started without Will two weeks ago. Many people have expressed excitement over the engagement and sympathy over his illness. I am barely functioning on both levels: grief over my fiance’s illness and perky and invested at school. I am being “supported,” which is code for being observed so that I don’t become a danger to the students by drawing Will to me, regardless of the fact that he has no desire ever to set foot on campus again.

I talked to the school board. I set the record straight and told them the whole story: how his doctor was gone all summer and his meds weren’t working. I told them the good choices he made, despite the mania. I told them he is getting treatment in a hospital. They nodded in sympathy, asked questions, and took notes. Then enforced more rules to protect their children from some heinous monster who is currently five hours away. In a hospital. Getting treatment.

I am no longer trusted with the children. Yes, I’m still here and teaching. But with chaperones. Will can never teach his kids and invest in their lives and nickname them and inspire them and mentor them ever again. Yes, it’s devastating for him. But what about the kids?

Our lives and ministry here is over. There is nothing. It’s the Wasteland—no hope, no life, only resentment, regret, and fear. Sure, we can move and start over. And when mania strikes again, move someplace else. And again. And again. And again.

So what happens when every bridge is burned and there is nowhere to run?


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