Anxiety and the Fear of Public Speaking

When I was in highschool, the thought of public speaking made me want to throw up. I would stress and panic over it and I would be nauseous all day. I would shake and nearly cry at the thought of having to get in front of a classroom to present whatever it was that I had to do. The more I got my anxiety under control, the easier it got, but I still struggle with it to an intense degree.

To get my college degree, I am required to take a business and professional speaking class. I would be lying if I said I jumped at the opportunity to take it right away – as I am currently taking it in my junior year. I thought that the class would help me immensely but the anxiety remains. I still am nervous to a high extent, I still nearly throw up each time I go to present, and I still shake terribly. I am not as stressed before going up to present, but it is during the presentation and after that gets to me. Sure, I am becoming more comfortable with talking in front of a group of people, but the anxiety remains.
So you might be asking: How does an anxious person get comfortable with presenting in front of a group? The short answer is: you don’t.

Those of us with anxiety are obsessive. We want everything to be perfect to the point it plagues our minds. We stress out over every ‘um’ and the thought of stumbling and fumbling over notes in front of everyone makes us anxious. The presentation I had to give last Thursday was a required PowerPoint. You want to know what made me the most anxious? The thought of getting up in front of the class and starting my PowerPoint the wrong way. I stressed about hitting the stupid ‘start presentation from the beginning’ button. I stressed about whether I should email it to myself or I should put it on a flash drive. But what if the flash drive didn’t work? What if the class saw the start to some of my emails? Was my presentation informative enough? Maybe I should’ve done an easier topic. Is the presentation too intense for some people?

I have gotten to the point now that telling myself that everyone else in the room is nervous doesn’t help. People telling me that they too are nervous doesn’t make me feel any better. Meditation doesn’t work. I have gotten to the point now where I just have accepted the fact that public speaking is unavoidable. I’ve gotten to the point where I just need to be one of the first presenters, get it out of the way, and return to the back of the room to stress over everything that went wrong. It has been four days since my presentation and I’m still stressed about it.

Being a good public speaker doesn’t happen overnight. A public speaking class doesn’t mean you’re willingly going to jump at the opportunity to speak in front of the class. Being anxiety ridden and obsessive equals out to you just having to find a way to be comfortable. Maybe that means going first and getting it out of the way. Maybe that means going last and leaving it in the past the moment you sit back down. Maybe its hours of prep work beforehand (or none at all).

Being anxious doesn’t mean you are a horrible public speaker – as most people can’t even tell I have anxiety when I speak. It just means that you have to push your boundaries and make it so that you are comfortable. Find what makes you comfortable. Remember that every speech has a beginning but also must have an end. That being said, once you start you are that much closer to being done and sitting back in your comfort zone.

Vulnerabilities Part 2

Whenever I first started therapy in my junior year of high school, now 4 years ago, I was embarrassed to say I started therapy. I didn’t want to go to begin with, but as I’ve continued my mental health journey I got more comfortable with sharing my life story. That being said, I’ve become very open and have encouraged people to start therapy. I am the first to start stories with “So in therapy the other day…” or “My therapist said…” I have become someone that is transparent about my struggles and about my mental health journey – and have truly become a mental health advocate. I’ve posted on Facebook about my struggles, and hell, I’ve dedicated an entire blog to my anxiety.

All of that being said – I am still vulnerable.

Yesterday I had to do a presentation in my Business and Professional Speaking class. Yes, you read that correctly. I identify myself as an anxiety ridden little bean, and yet I’m in a class where I have to speak in front of other students. That statement alone shows how much I’ve improved in four years’ time, considering my senior year of high school I had to deliver a small speech from Great Gatsby and nearly threw up. Anyways, whenever it came down to choose a topic, I decided to talk about my anxiety.

Going up to it I was super confident, my professor was eager to hear what I had to say, I talked about it with my therapist, and I felt like it was a really good topic. Making the PowerPoint proved to be difficult, but while practicing my speech I was finishing around 8 minutes – over the set time limit. With a flash drive in hand, I wasn’t nervous until I sat down in my class and looked around at the other students. What would they think of me? How would I go to class afterwards with everyone knowing I have a mental disorder? Would they think differently? I have slowly grown with this class of 12 students, and yet, I was being so raw and open with a group of strangers. Sure, I had other classes with some of the other kids, but they didn’t know me.

When it came time to present – nothing was helping. Breathing techniques, meditation, telling myself that every other person was also nervous, absolutely nothing. By the time I got up to present, my hands were shaking as I turned in my notes to my professor, anytime I pointed to the board my hands visibly shook with fear, and my voice stuttered the entire time. I rushed it so much that I was below the required time frame of the speech by several seconds. What turned into a speech that could be stretched to 7 minutes and 51 seconds turned into a rushed and anxious speech ending in 5 minutes 55 seconds. I felt as though I was going to vomit and felt extremely anxious before, during, and after the presentation.

I don’t regret it in the slightest.

I got to open up my journey to a class of only 12 students. I got to tell them about my struggles. I shared photos of me dancing on stage and showed pictures of my picked to shit fingers after an anxiety episode. I was open. It was raw. It was me showing my demons to the classroom. It wasn’t easy, but it was vulnerable. I could’ve talked about the history of ballet class, I could’ve talked about how to sew pointe shoes. Instead I showed my struggles. In my research statistics show that someone, if not several, of those students needed to hear what I had to say. They needed me to come out and be vulnerable, if not for me, then for themselves.

Being vulnerable is in no way easy. It is not a walk in the park. I did it with shaking hands, busted up fingers from picking, and a speech shorter than the 6-8 minutes required. But I did it. I opened the room up for discussion. I helped open the eyes to students to show that even ‘normal’ students struggle, and hopefully I made those people realize that they weren’t alone.

Vulnerability

I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. As a kid I would write fiction Halloween stories, I would write with people online, and would give out copies to my moms work friends. As I moved into high school I wrote my first novel – finishing at an impressive 100,000+ word length. Even then, however, I felt scared to tell people what my novels and stories were about.

Throughout high school I’d be more than willing to post updates on my writing “I wrote ten pages! Only a short amount of time before my novel is placed into the world!” However, whenever people would ask me what said novel was about, I’d shell up and tell them “It’s too complicated to explain,”

My novel, Selection Day, was written my sophomore year of high school and still has yet to be published. Not because of getting rejected by publishing houses or anything – but because I’m scared to put that part of myself out into the world.

I’m now in my junior year of college and just finished a second novel that I’ve been working on for years. I’ve posted a few excerpts on here and have put pieces of Submerged in Paranoia out into the world. Whilst writing it out in my notebook, I was avidly searching for editors and asking friends if, when I typed it up, if they’d read it and tell me what they think. However, the more I type it, the more I feel myself beginning to close off that part of me again. I keep making excuses. Like, I don’t want to rush it, or I might want to change the ending, or maybe the pace of the novel is too fast, maybe it’s not good enough.

My sister has been offering to take my notebook and type my novel up for me so I don’t have to, but part of me lives in fear of judgment. I’ve stopped looking for editors on Fiverr even though those people don’t even know me. Maybe it’s because the novel itself is dark and deals with topics that aren’t light and fluffy. Maybe it’s because I don’t want my family to worry about me. Maybe it’s because I don’t think it’s as good as it sounded when I was writing it.

I still want to publish this book within the next few months. I’m just struggling on feeling as though I’m good enough to do so. I’m struggling on feeling like it’s possible.

Frustrations

As I write this – I want to drop out of school. The course load is heavy and I don’t feel as though I belong. I’m back to my high school days where I no longer feel as though I fit in. I try to imagine a future in my major but I keep drawing up blanks. At the same time I don’t want to admit defeat and don’t want to feel like a drop out. As I write this I am nearly done with my Fall Semester of Junior year. I truly don’t have that much longer to go. I am doing well in class but I’m not hungry to succeed anymore. I put off doing homework and studying just to stress myself out the night before. This entire process is exhausting and I just wish that I had clarity on everything.

Why Being Lonely Isn’t Always a Bad Thing

The only person that truly knows you is you.

How can we be expected to love someone else whenever we don’t know what it takes to love ourselves?

For many years I would cry due to the fact that I was an outcast – that I was so lonely. I would cry saying I wasn’t going to have many stories to tell my kids whenever I was older and that I would regret sitting at home all the time. In high school, I wasn’t like most teenagers. Drinking and football games had no appeal to me, I wasn’t looking for a boyfriend, I had two to three friends total, and so on. I had labeled myself as an outcast and I hated it. I cried and wished to be ‘normal’.

I struggled with being alone – so much so that I would sit at a lunch table with people I didn’t like just to avoid sitting by myself and looking like a ‘loner’. Even though I looked at other people doing things on their own as a bad thing, I also secretly wished that I had the nerve do just do things on my own.

Flash forward to now, I enjoy going to the movies by myself and I prefer doing things on my own. Whether that is gym-going or shopping, or the occasional concert by myself.

Being lonely doesn’t always have to be a bad thing or a negative character trait.

Whenever you are alone you don’t have to worry about anything or anyone else other than yourself. When you do something on your own, you are using that alone time to recharge your batteries that burn out when you are putting all of your energy into other people.

Doing events by yourself such as going to the movies or going to concerts takes away the possibility of being held back. Maybe if you go on your own you wouldn’t be fifteen minutes late to your favorite movies, or maybe you could get that spot a bit closer to the stage (or further away). Being alone opens up the opportunities to meet new people and to be comfortable with your loneliness.

We live every day in constant social situations. Whether that be work, school, shopping, dining out, you name it. Everywhere you go you are put in situations that slowly drain the battery that keeps you going. It is alright to take time for yourself to be an independent person and to enjoy your alone time.

So go to that concert that no one else wants to go to. Go enjoy that amusement park or ride that no one else wants to ride. Go enjoy a movie where you can work on your own timing and have a whole bag of popcorn to yourself.

Don’t be afraid to live a life of loneliness – because once you stop worrying about everyone else, you can start to live a life of experiences made for you.

Because someday someone will look at you and be inspired by your courage to do things on your own.

What I’ve learned

In a year of blogging I’ve learned that writing is a great stress relief for me. In a year of blogging I’ve learned that you can be strong and independent – but at the same time still be weighed down by a controlling and toxic relationship. I’ve learned that some things just aren’t worth posting about – that some victories and frustrations are just better left unsaid. I’ve learned that keeping quiet is sometimes the best response you can have.

I haven’t been the most consistent when it comes to posting on this blog. I’ve had bursts of inspiration – so much so that I created an instagram page for this blog. I’d feel this excitement – only to be weighed down by exhaustion after I smacked into the wall of writers block. Today my WordPress membership has been renewed for an entire year.

I am uncertain as to where my future with aberrations lies – but I know you will be there with me.

It’s okay to not be okay

She has the tough girl demeanor

She hides her emotions well

For there is never a bad mood that can’t be hidden away

With some makeup or a swipe of a tear

She stays, cloaked in strength and happiness

For tears, she feels,

Are a sign of weakness

Her strength is embedded into her bones,

Exhausting herself with the weight she carries

On weakened and skinny shoulders.

Maybe, someday, she will learn

That it’s okay to not be okay.

The Journey to Find Self-Love

We are built with characteristics that make us special. We are built with certain aspects that make us different from anyone else. So why is it so hard to love ourselves and to love what makes us different from everyone else?

We are surrounded by photos and videos of those that we, or society, deem as perfect. Some of what is perfect is ultimately impossible and we know this – but we still strive for it.

We wake up on the daily knowing that life isn’t fair and that there are some people that are simply dealt a better hand than us.

That being said though – it is still impossibly hard to look in the mirror every day and to like what we see. It is hard to be happy with both looks and with how our lives are going – and impossible to be happy with both of those at the same time. Whether it is seeing engagement photos all over Facebook and still being single, watching the Victoria secret fashion show, or whatever it may be – there is always a certain outside pressure that makes you feel as though there is a certain way that we should be living. A time frame to meet all the expected demands of life.

At some point though – we fall into the frame of self-love. To love yourself whenever you are single. To love yourself in every outfit you wear – and not question whether you look stupid in it. Self-love is different for everybody – whether it is outwardly or inwardly. Some take longer to reach this point than others. Some may never reach it at all.

The journey of loving yourself – and truly loving yourself- is a very long and difficult one. We aren’t built to believe that life and everything about us are perfect.

The journey is filled with disappointment and a pressure to be perfect, but a beautiful journey, none the less.

She Was Cloaked in Bravery

She was cloaked in bravery
And dressed with a smile
She was full of love and experiences
and a sense of expectations for more to come.

She has experienced the lowest of lows,
and yet, she knew that there were more to be expected
and still, she wore her smile, even on her darkest days.

While she remained haunted by certain faces and memories
She knew that eventually, at some point,
she would have her demons on their knees.

Self-Love in Moments of Chaos

We live our daily lives in a constant state of chaos – sometimes it is just a more controlled chaos. Sometimes it is a calm chaos and the other times it feels like there is no end to the craziness in sight.

Our chaos can come in many different forms – whether it be endless deadlines on top of bills to pay, it may be as a waitress with the tables that just keep coming in, working while knowing there is an exam to study for on top of three other homework assignments. It may be having three exams in one day and you were so busy studying that you forgot about the three homework assignments due as well.

Whenever we get caught up in chaos sometimes we are so focused on other people’s needs. Your boss receiving what they want on time, your professor receiving the paper on time, your tables getting waited on in a certain amount of time, etc. These are the times where you forget about the most important person to take care of – yourself.

You do not even have to be a personality that is high strung and constantly stressed out to forget about things such as self-love and care for yourself.

It has been 10 days since Valentine’s day, and I planned on writing a whole blog post on why you should be primarily concerned with being your own ‘valentine’. While I ran out of time endlessly, this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to even open my laptop in weeks – probably since my last blog post.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the craziness of life.

As mentioned previously – it is easy to forget about yourself. It is easy to just go through the motions and to do what you can to meet deadlines, to be friendly with everyone, to be there for your loved ones, to study, to do work, to go to appointments, etc.

Sometimes it is hard to come to terms that sometimes you just need to step away from everything. To put down the book for an hour or so.

Self-love must always come first – among the chaos.

Sometimes you need to step away – even if that means just sitting in the tub for 30 minutes in the middle of the day.

Find time to love yourself and to care for yourself.

It is whenever we forget about ourselves that we become our most stressed, our most unhappy, and the problems of the world seem to push on us until our final breaking point.

So put your bills and deadlines down for a moment. Do whatever it is you need to do to make yourself calm again – even if it’s just for fifteen minutes.