My story begins when I was about 22 years old. I suppose you could say I was known as being a bit of a worrier but nothing out of the ordinary. I was working in a big office for a well known firm and I was lucky enough to be put forward to attend a three day soft skills course. I can’t actually remember the name of it or much of the actual content but I will never forget it for a different reason...
We were all sat in a circle and the trainer introduced himself, said a little bit about the course and then invited us to introduce ourselves one at time going round the circle. I had done this sort of thing before without incident but for some reason on this day my body had other plans.
Perhaps it was the added pressure of being asked to provide an interesting fact about myself, or that the trainer was quite good looking, or maybe that I knew no one in the room. Whatever it was I began to feel a rising sense of panic as my time to shine drew ever closer like a creeping death. My heart by this stage was pounding out of my chest, I felt sure everyone must be able to hear it as it was the only thing I could hear. The next thing I know, I feel a complete dryness in my mouth and an overwhelming desire to just up sticks and run for it out of that room and away!
I’d never experienced anything like this before. Somehow I managed to stay on the chair but when it came to my turn I literally couldn’t speak, my tongue was stuck dry in my throat, all I could feel and hear was the sound of my own heart beating and the mortifying thoughts of ‘what must they all be thinking of me’.
The trainer was very kind as I remember and I managed to at least say my name but this was a three day course. Now I found that it was as though my body had learnt a new behaviour and sure as eggs are eggs, whenever it got a sniff at a potentially similar scenario (you know, the old going round the circle for individual input thing) BANG the whole rising panic, wanting to bolt, heart beat thing happened and I become incapable of functioning.
Needless to say this happened a lot throughout the three days. I considered phoning in sick after the first day but I had agreed to give a manager a lift to the course venue each day and I knew he was relying on me. Unfortunately since that day, body regularly betrays me but only where it perceives the threat of a similar circumstance, I guess it’s when I have to speak to a group of people.
Over the years, I have learnt how to lessen the crazy effects of this adrenaline rush but that’s because I can now have an internal conversation with myself about all the times that this has happened to me before and how nothing bad has actually happened. Those three days back when I was 22 really had a profound effect on my life. I became almost obsessive about not putting myself forward for any training courses for a start and most of all it really shook my confidence.
What I learnt from this particular experience:
I learnt that most people feel anxious when faced with public or group speaking and they have been happy to share this with me as I've fought to find my way through my difficulties.
I have learnt to prepare well and think things through when it comes to public speaking.
I've also realised I can get up and speak aloud to people, I still recognise the old familiar increased heart beat and dry mouth. However, these days my body is a bit more trusting of my mind and willing to listen!
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