By Kat, published with permission. Original blog posted here in 2015.
She once told a professor she had enough anxiety to power a small city, that it got her stuck in the mire of worry loops. And yet she finished that class; she did it anyway.
Her diploma will have an asterisk, with a footnote below, finished this PhD with anxiety and familial trauma – a neurotype that felt so awkward in the midst of the majority.
And so she learned to imagine these things were possible, that she could manage, not in spite of, but because of.
What would you think of someone who’d been through all of that, who was where you are now?
She’d be pretty amazing.
She looked back at the girl with a knowing look reserved for processing and responses to Socratic questioning. So there she was in the land of coping and somehow managing, and yet she did it anyway.
She remembers the side of shame, implicit, but nonetheless there, that came with a paper extension.
But you always turn things in on time…
She walked back into the conference room the following day, giving a presentation she felt was poorly thrown together – ill-prepared. But you know what, she did it anyway. And sat through the barrage of criticism that followed. She waited to cry, feeling numb and clinical instead.
Minutes later, after making a deliberate exit – let me know when she leaves – she collapsed into the neighboring cubicle. This is what a meltdown feels like – tears and talking about nothing and everything, letting a friend now in the know, put dividers in a project binder.
She let herself go, shields down; she tried to explain. Wounds in full display, she did it amongst the shame. Vulnerable and confused – a bit dismayed and lost – she did it anyway.
In between the apologies and shame of being helped, she let her words fill the space in between the freshly carpeted floor. These words flood out, like a pent-up storm – clouds released as the showers pound the ground below.
She isn’t sure how to be grateful. We’ve moved past vulnerability. I wish there was a word for this. Emotions on display. To the just is – I can’t stop this flood anymore, not without a subsequent numbness. We sit together, for she is paralyzed, sitting against the wall, remembering to breathe.
This ends soon, she reminded herself. She cares and will sit with you through this. Perplexing, I know, but you’ll live through this. Relief and embarrassment is a muddled mix of emotion she is trying to explain to herself. I don’t know what happened, but it did.
Her feet touched the ground as she saw the adjacent hallway; I suppose I’ll have to leave here eventually – and so she slowly got up, afraid to pass by onlookers’ glances, but she did it anyway.
This hallway stretches into an L; door in the very corner, and so she kept walking, avoiding eyes and searing glances.
Am I still blotchy? I redden in the midst of tears.
You’re fine. You can do this.
This support was unexpected, but welcome; she has no idea how to let people in, to give a measure, even a teaspoon of trust – but she begins anyway.