I never really had anxiety until I became a teacher. I’d always been quite confident at what I was doing. Even when I wasn’t writing very well, I knew I was capable of doing it. I, and others, had an assumption of competence. I could actually do it. That confidence meant I relaxed. That relaxation meant I did better. It meant I could improve because I didn’t worry about how I was doing; I just did.
Becoming a teacher wasn’t easy. It uses all kinds of things I’m not massively comfortable with. (Why do it? Because I wanted to try. I knew I could learn. I wanted to see what I could do.)
I’m still not massively comfortable. And I don’t believe in epiphanies. But what’s happened over the past two or three weeks is amazing.
It was only when I found myself ripped out of the fulltime job I’d been doing that I found I could start again. Forced back into supply teaching, I began to realise that, actually, I can do stuff. Do it well. Effectively. And enjoy it.
Enjoyment, bloody hell. I’d missed that. Work and teaching had become something I’d dreaded. It was a thick black cloud hovering over my days and weekends and nights. There was no fun, only failure, only constantly being told it was all going wrong and it was all my fault.
I found a tightness in the chest. A shortness of breath. A pain in the arms. A tightness in the face. “what’s wrong with you?” people would ask. I’ve never been much good at hiding how I’m feeling. It was obvious. And also: why hide? Panic. Panic everywhere. Worry. Stress. Failure.
Then I noticed something. The things I’d been trying, which hadn’t been working, started to work, once I was somewhere else. Once I found myself in places where there was that assumption of competence – and the ability to go home without three hours of exhausting work that still was never enough – I could do what I was supposed to do.
There’s a lot to be said for starting again. Sometimes you just have to break away from the things that made you sad, and release that anxiety. If you can, do. Do it now. You won’t look back. Never look back.