Overcoming Social Anxiety and Adversity with Manjari Ford

Mikaile Ford (Kai), Staff Writer

I wanted to describe someone close to me who struggles with a lot of anxiety. For years this Santiago student has had to deal with severe test and social anxiety as well as separation anxiety from her twin (me). Her name is Manjari Ford and she is my twin sister. She has been able to plaster smiles on so many faces and impact so many lives directly and indirectly in positive ways. She volunteers in her community, committing many tireless hours working to improve the living conditions for retired military veterans, wrapping donated toys for children who wouldn’t receive presents for Christmas without her, and even riding horses with disabled children. Battling her anxieties in a new environment has been difficult for her. Her social anxiety prevented her from reaching out and forming study groups, doing any form of leadership, and just making friends in general. She would go home crying at the fact that she couldn’t say something to a teacher when she needed help, she would lose points for not participating in-class presentations or discussions, and she’d fail tests because she would overthink every answer and panic every time she took a test. She was tired of letting anxiety ruin her social and academic life so she finally decided to take charge. She channeled her feelings of anxiety into her art. She has been best known for drawing gory, grotesque drawings of creatures that you’d only dream up in your nightmares. These drawings brought her joy and helped calm her anxiety. With the help of her twin, she decided to step out of her comfort zone a little bit more. Coming into high school she joined an organization of mothers and daughters volunteering called the National Charity League. This organization forced her outside her comfort zone as she volunteered for various organizations, problem-solving in different situations, and providing forms of leadership to get things done. She then took these life skills and put them into her academics. She problem-solved with teachers as she suggested alternate assignments when there were class discussions or presentations and alternate times or locations to take her tests in secluded areas. She had her own little room where she could test by herself with the supervision of a teacher who made the environment comfortable for her. Her academics improved and so did her social skills. All though she still battled severe anxiety, she refused to let her anxiety control her life. She didn’t even let her social anxiety stop her from improving her high school romance. Manjari is an out-and-open lesbian woman who wasn’t as out-and-open as she is now when compared to her sophomore year. In her sophomore year, she met the beautiful Shaylee Mutka, who was coming in as a freshman. No matter how hard she tried, Manjari found it extremely difficult to talk to Shaylee out of fear of rejection, but with the help of her awesome twin (me), she was finally able to muster up the courage to land herself in the friend zone. For a year she battled her anxiety, constantly fighting the urge to give up on Shaylee, even though she was confident she was in love with Shaylee, but as she pushed through her anxiety with occasional motivational speeches from me and stepping way outside her comfort zone, she received the answer she waited so long to receive. Shaylee returned her feelings and on June 1st, 2021 they finally got together. They will be celebrating a year together this year on June 1st, 2022, and feel confident that they are going to spend the rest of their lives together. Shaylee Mutka explains Manjari’s anxiety as comical and interesting because “She always asks me to ask someone something that she wants to ask.” She continues to grow with the help of her twin and her girlfriend who she refers to as her wife, she’s been able to survive 4 years of high school. When Manjari is asked to summarize her high school experience she says “I think it’s alright”. A woman of few words.