Recently I noticed you were missing more classes than usual. I wondered and worried about what was going on. Did you not want to do the work or simply stop caring? Did the classes become boring or unhelpful? Or was it something else? Then you asked me to talk after class and what you shared touched me in a deep way.
You said that you have been trying your best, but you are dealing with many challenges in life right now. Specifically, you explained you have been struggling with anxiety that is ruining everything. You described the cycle of getting overwhelmed by circumstances that exacerbate your anxiety, which in turn makes those circumstances worse. You articulated how difficult it can be to interact with classmates who you don’t feel comfortable with. You told me sometimes you are on your way to class, then get too anxious and turn around. You said you were sorry and you weren’t doing this on purpose.
My first thought then and now is “thank you.” Thank you for your honesty and courage. I know it took a lot for you to show up and even more to speak up. You may not believe this right now, but you are brave and you are strong.
I am not sure what made you feel comfortable enough to reach out, but perhaps you caught on to the subtle signs that I struggle with anxiety too. Maybe you noticed the way my voice shakes as I sometimes stumble over words standing in front of our class. Maybe you sensed my inner turmoil as I worried you all were bored or not benefiting from the lessons. Maybe you saw this for what it really is — an intense fear of failure and belief that I am not enough.
When we spoke after class, I told you I understood. I hope this didn’t sound trite or insensitive. I recognize how frustrating it is to hear someone say they understand when you are not sure they really do. In light of that, I want to acknowledge your pain is uniquely your own. Your specific experience with anxiety is not the same as anyone else’s. However, I also want to say that you are not alone. You are a warrior and there are many others standing alongside you in the fight.
Lastly, I want you to know I meant it when I said I am here if you ever need to talk or if there is anything else I can do to help. I believe in you, I am proud of you and I hope to stay in touch as you journey forward towards a future of uncertainty, progress and ever-growing inner strength.
Your Teacher Who Has Anxiety Too
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Thinkstock photo via Ryan McVay.