I’d originally intended to use this title for a piece on the ridiculous nature of marijuana laws, but since I’m on a catharsis kick, I figured it could use it for something else.
In case you’ve never met me (and from what WordPress tells me about my followers, that’s actually a fair percentage of my readership), I suffer from what is commonly referred to as “Social Anxiety Disorder”.
I struggled for years trying to figure out a good way to describe it, a simple pithy witticism that could encapsulate a condition that destroys lives and relationships.
Finally, it came to me.
It’s like sitting down at a card game where you know the stakes, but not the rules.
To elaborate: Sure, you can see the other players and what they’re doing. You do your best to figure things out by watching them, but things move so rapidly it’s nearly impossible to follow. You try a few big plays and you get burned, so pretty soon you start making your bets as small as you can, trying to stay in the game, hoping to figure out a winning strategy before you run out of chips entirely.
Some people eventually figure out how to fake it well enough to play the game without going out entirely.
Evidently, I am not one of those people.
Which is not to say that I’m always stumbling through social encounters with the grace of a giraffe on roller skates. I figured out that much of the game, after all, at least well enough to give most people relatively little idea that I’m on the verge of a frothing fit whenever I have to interact with people I don’t already know.
What I’m absolutely terrible at is being placed under the microscope. Which is probably why I managed to fail my student teaching internships.
Both of them.
Not because I didn’t get along with the kids, or my mentor teachers (though there was occasionally friction there, as in any working relationship), but because if you put me in front of 20-30 kids with two teachers watching every move I make, I start screwing up. Which makes me anxious. Which makes me screw up. Ad infinitum, world without end.
It’s a matter of cumulative stress, one that wears me down over time. I start strong, and within a month or two, or three, I’m just clinging on by my fingertips. I can’t sleep, but I also can’t stay awake. I’d come home and collapse in exhaustion, but I couldn’t ever get caught up on rest. I’d wake up after four hours of sleep if I was lucky, drag myself to the classroom, and do it all over again. My performance would suffer, my emotional state would become increasingly unstable, and my ability to actually do what was expected of me would diminish.
And eventually I’d just lose my shit entirely.
The College of Education at WilmU was gracious enough to allow me a second chance, for which I was genuinely grateful, but in the end, it turned out pretty much exactly the same way as the first attempt did, albeit slightly before the part where I had to leave in the middle of a lesson to go throw up.
I’ve been anxious about the idea of writing this piece. I’ve been even more anxious about the idea of publishing it, since it’s something that could have negative impact on me professionally, and it’s something that I’ve been deeply ashamed of for over twenty years.
But y’know what?
If I’d been born without legs, I wouldn’t be ashamed at having difficulty with stairs. Frustrated, yes. Irritated, maybe even angry, and certainly embarrassed from time to time.
But ashamed? No.
I’m writing this now because I find myself facing the idea of going under that microscope again, this time looking for work, trying to figure out how to market my consolation degree (General Studies) when I have no idea what use it’d be, and desperate to find something remunerative I can do that doesn’t make me want to kill myself within a few months.
Aside from writing, which I do rather enjoy and am supposedly rather good at, but which is also distinctly difficult to pay the bills with.
I figure that maybe if I get it all out in the open, it will be one less thing I feel I need to hide, one less thing to worry over and obsess over and lie awake at night over. It won’t solve the problem, of course, but it will alleviate my perceived need to conceal the problem.
Even if it hurts my chances, it can’t hurt me to share part of who I am.