DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have decided to apply for a master’s degree, despite having an exorbitant amount of anxiety surrounding academia. It often feels like I require 13 tries before even understanding concepts that other students pick up immediately (even though I know every individual has their own personal struggles!).
I meet regularly with a therapist and stick to a regimented sleep, medication and exercise schedule to keep my anxiety under control. Despite this, I still occasionally find myself becoming extremely emotional around tutors, teachers and other mentors trying to help me reach my goal.
I do my best to excuse myself if I need to wipe away some tears, but there are many occasions where time simply does not allow for this. I’m very curious if there are any etiquette tips for situations when anxiety gets the better of me. How do I explain to others that my reaction is not their fault, and how do I deal with these exhausting emotions when they insist on coming out in public?
GENTLE READER: The situations you are speaking of are not public – you will exchange tutors, teachers and fellow students periodically, but not daily or even weekly – a point Miss Manners makes for a reason.
Most academic programs provide for individual contact with teachers, tutors and mentors, which is the proper place to mention your situation, preferably prior to a demonstration. Those professionals will then be aware what is happening and in a position to help, by, for example, calling on someone else or excusing you. This is not a step to be taken for every diagnosis or discomfort, but only for issues well outside the range of average behaviors. You do not, after all, wish to be the student whose dog is always eating his homework.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My mother passed away. She was aged, and it was not unexpected. At a family dinner, I mentioned that it was not a good year for me, as two acquaintances of mine had also passed away, both of them very suddenly.
My sister-in-law asked what caused their deaths. I replied I didn’t know and didn’t ask. She replied that she would want to know. I said that out of respect for the families in their time of grief, I could not do such a thing.
If a family member had told me the cause of death, and someone else asked me, then I would say, “I am not a detective. I am a mourner.”
Sadly, the discussion went from talk to debate. I excused myself and went home. I later apologized, but am still taken aback by her lack of manners and courtesy. Is there a situation where one may ask the cause of death? Should I just remember the decedents and mourn? They were beautiful people whom I shall miss.
GENTLE READER: Your sister-in-law does appear to have missed the point of funerals, which is not to gossip about the deceased to whom you are paying respect, but to comfort the living. Discussions of even the most peaceful and expected deaths are likely to upset the other mourners. And not all deaths, Miss Manners reminds your sister-in-law, are peaceful or expected. You were right not to inquire.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com.
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