As your teacher I’m supposed to keep a boundary between professional and personal life. There are things to be shared and things to not share. My anxiety has always fallen into a gray area.
I feel like you need to know I am a teacher who has anxiety.
My anxiety is constant but occasionally spikes to panic attacks. I try to hide these moments from all of you and put on a brave face. My mental illness is not for you to worry about, but I would love to help you understand it looks different to everyone. Remember, I’m your teacher, but I’m human too.
1. I like routines. Routines make me feel comfortable. I like having a schedule. I understand field trips and assemblies are great for you because it means you can get out of classwork, but these days normally set my anxiety off, and this means I don’t always enjoy the events as much as you do.
2. I worry about what you think of me. Although my self-worth is not based solely on your opinion of me, I want to be liked. When you make comments about how so-and-so is a better teacher, it makes me feel more anxious. It would be great if you could phrase it as, “I understood so-and-so better when they did this… do you think you could try it?”
3. When I sit in my rocking chair, it’s not about avoiding you. It’s about getting my anxiety under control so I can walk around the room and not feel like I’m going to die. Please know this is my personal trick, but other teachers have a different safe place, like their desk.
4. When I see you anxious, I want to make it better. I know how anxiety can feel, and I want to give you the tricks I know that help me. I can’t promise it will work, and I can’t tell you it’s a cure. But I wish just one of my teachers would have helped me identify simple techniques for controlling my classroom anxiety. I’m not a medical doctor, and I won’t force my strategies on you, but if you’re anxious, know I understand and wish I could do more to help. I recognize what each of your faces look like when you get anxious because I know asking for help isn’t easy.
5. My panic attacks and anxiety are not your fault, but the rules I put in place help reduce my anxiety. One of my triggers for feeling anxious is when students have food allergies that could be life-threatening. As a result I don’t allow food in my room. When a student sneaks food, I freak out because it could be dangerous for others. The no food rule keeps others safe but also keeps my brain from going to the worst-case scenario.
I’m not an anxiety expert, but I’m an expert on my anxiety. People make me anxious, and I don’t enjoy social gatherings, but I love being your teacher. I love seeing you learn and grow. I’m your teacher, but my anxiety is a huge piece of me.
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