This is something that happened to me in grade 12.
I stood at the head of the classroom, waiting for everyone to quiet down. I could feel my heart beating rapidly and wondered if anyone else could hear it. I had never been the type of person to challenge myself, especially when it came to my anxiety disorder. But when my English teacher told the class that we could do our final presentation on anything we wanted, I knew I wanted to do mine on Generalised Anxiety Disorder.
I was diagnosed with the disorder when I was 14. Too young to know what disorders were but old enough to get diagnosed with one. My four years at high school were coming to a close, and not many people understood what it meant to have a mental illness. So my final project became more than just a project, it became a way for me to communicate with my classmates what it was like to live with this disorder.
I had prepared a slideshow full of facts, photos and funny quips that would help them understand what daily life, and anxiety attacks, were like for me personally. Throughout the presentation I noted multiple times how not everyone with Generalised Anxiety Disorder experience the same feelings and symptoms. I saw heads nod in understanding, and a few classmates commented about how they also had anxiety and experienced similar symptoms as me, which blew my mind because I had no idea they also dealt with mental illness. At the end of my slideshow everyone clapped and gave me reassuring comments. I was ecstatic and my face
Later that day as I chatted on Facebook, I received a message from a classmate in my English class. Not just a message, but a long rant towards me. He completely bashed my entire project and wrote that I was a fake, my anxiety was fake, and that I was an insult to people who really dealt with anxiety. I was so crushed by his message and the aggressive way he wrote it that I laid in bed and cried for hours. Then I became angry at his ignorance towards my anxiety. I asked other classmates what they had thought of my project, and all responded that they loved it. Hundreds of possible responses ran through my head, all equally as aggressive as my classmate’s.
But I knew none of them would better the situation. None of them would have made him see any different. So I took a few minutes to calm myself down, took a few deep breaths, and sent him a message back.
“If this is how you feel about it, I will see you tomorrow in our principal’s office.”
I hit send and waited. I hated confrontation, and had never been in a fight of this sort before. A few minutes passed by before he replied telling me that he would rather us deal with this matter the “mature” way, but that he’d see me tomorrow. I took a screenshot of our entire conversation, saved it onto my memory stick, emailed my principal and vice-principal about what went on and that I would be in tomorrow morning, and went to bed.
The next morning I got up earlier than normal, but I was still exhausted from crying the night before. My anxiety was in overdrive as I walked in to the vice- principal’s office. My classmate was already there talking to her. She was looking over our conversation from the night before, and was listening to my classmate’s side of the story. I was asked to sit outside the office and wait. As I sat there, my mind was swarmed with all the possible negative outcomes this could bring. I had to keep reassuring myself that this was a form of bullying, and that I did the right thing in not starting a fight over Facebook. I felt alone.
Since my mind was somewhere else, I didn’t notice my homeroom teacher coming in to the office. She spotted me and came over to ask why I was there, since I had never been in trouble before. As I explained to her the situation, I could see anger seep in to her eyes. She turned around and walked straight in to the vice-principal’s office without knocking. She told the vice-principal that she would certainly vouch for me that I did indeed have anxiety, and that in no way did I fake anything. She has seen over the past four years what anxiety can do, and for my classmate to send such a message to me was bullying.
The vice-principal sat speechless. I felt a swell of pride and affection for my teacher. No one had ever stood up for me before like she had. After talking to both my classmate and myself, my classmate was forced to appologize to me for sending the message and for not taking a moment to try and understand my point of view. It was the best outcome I could have imagined, and four years later, she’s still my favourite teacher.