Remember how I told you guys in my last post that I ended up just straight up telling the whole freshman class that I have anxiety?
It has already paid off.
At the beginning of each year, I have my students fill out a sheet about who they are. At the bottom, I give them space to share up to three things with me that they think are important for me to know about them. Usually they mention having an attitude on bad days (which, I mean, DUH. They’re teenagers), or sometimes they tell me that they have to take their little siblings to school so they’re often late. Rarely do they divulge anything truly personal, and I get that. They’re 14. They don’t know me. I wouldn’t either.
But as I was reading through them this weekend, two students had written that they have anxiety. I felt so much empathy for them both; this shit was hard enough as an adult. I can’t imagine what it must like to be a teenager. It’s gotta be the absolute worst.
I starred their names on my class lists, and today as students were quietly working I spoke to them both privately and let them know that if they were ever feeling anxious, they had the freedom to leave the room. I also told them that I hoped they’d feel comfortable enough to tell me, because I know what it’s like. They both said thank you, and went back to work.
Even if we never talk about it again, I hope that just knowing that one of their teachers also deals with anxiety is helpful for them. I hope that they feel like somebody gets what they’re going through, and they don’t feel so alone. Being a teenager is so hard already, and I hope that my presence can help ease some of the extra discomfort that anxiety brings. I don’t know if it will, and I don’t know if they’ll want to talk to me about it, but I hope they do. At the very least, I hope they know I’m there if they so choose. I hope they can have faith that I will treat them with empathy and compassion if they choose to share their struggle with me.
Brene Brown says that “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” This might be one of the best moments of authenticity I’ve had recently, and it feels really good. It feels good not to be actively hiding the anxiety or avoiding mentioning it to certain people. I feel like I’m fully owning it, not just in the sense of accepting it, but in a bigger way: volunteering it as information about myself. Identifying it as a struggle that I have. As a place where I’m vulnerable. I hope it encourages my students to embrace their authenticity and they places where they struggle, as well as the places they succeed.
And you, too.