Why can’t you just be happier?

I have a meeting in a few minutes with my principal. Ever since my first panic attack, and ever since my divorce, my brain has automatically equated the phrase, “let’s talk” with “you’re in trouble and you’re going to lose everything”. That’s how the divorce started, and that’s how at least one of my relationships ended. In my professional history, I’ve had a mixed bag or results with “let’s talk”.

Following my panic at work, there was a day when the principal at the high school called me in. He mentioned that I seemed a little more disconnected than usual, and he felt upon observing my class that I didn’t seem to care as much as I should (what the hell does that mean?) I mentioned what I was going through, and his reply was, “Well… just try to be happier!”

And magically, I did! No, not really. I was so angry that it fueled me to become a better and tougher (from the standpoint of not putting up with petty issues and defiant behavior anymore). But it was also the benning of the end of my tenure at that school. More on that later.

A few months later, I had a similar situation in my night class. I was teaching English at the local community college, and this class was a bit of a refuge for me. The adults were respectful and fun. We could talk about pertinent and “adult” topics without fear of getting fired. One night, my coordinator called me in. She asked me what was going on. I was confused because I genuinely thought I was conducting the best semester of classes I had ever taught at that college. Apparently, one of my students complained to her that I seemed “a little sad”, and it was affecting my teaching. I broke down after hearing this and confided in her about me personal problems, and that I was suffering anxiety attacks. Again, the advice I got was, “well, just try to be a little happier!”

No one could see what I was suffering. To the average person, I looked normal, but was behaving weird. There needs to be more discourse about how professionals, not just teachers, can cope with intense stress and anxiety, because it affects everything we do. There also needs to be training for managers so that they understand these issues, and don’t just insult their employees by asking them to just be happier.

Anyway, that’s my 2 cents. I have a meeting to attend now. Wish me luck!

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