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.

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.

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.

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.

An Explanation

My last blog post was written about the television series You. At that point I was “on a roll” of sorts where I was posting rather frequently, had posts lined up and scheduled, and life was going smoothly.

I am still positive, and life is still going smoothly, don’t worry.

Life just has the tendency of getting in the way of things. I am uncertain on if I talked about my work life before or not, but I work three jobs. I am taking a total of 18 credits this semester and aligned my classes so that I go through my days without any breaks until my last class ends and I go home. Whenever classes schedule exams, some days I can have as many as two exams back to back, then another two on Wednesday, followed by another one on Friday. If I wasn’t dealing with exams I was dealing with homework and if I wasn’t dealing with homework, then I was working or dancing. Just in the past week we had a death in the family. Due to my mental health, it brought up a lot of bad feelings to be back in the funeral home again.

Life can be very exhausting at points but in the words of one of my favorite characters in literacy, “Life doesn’t slow down for anybody.”

Over the past few days I have been feeling the desire to write again – and to keep at it. I know it has been said by me before.

Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a writer. If I could have one wish that would be granted – that would be it. As an adult now, I still would love to be a writer I just need to make time to do so.

This isn’t a blog post to fill up my page with excuses, it is just an answer as to where I have been the past few weeks.

Expect more content from me soon.

Healthy Boundaries and Why They Are Important

bound·a·ry
noun
a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line.

Not every person in this world is out to take advantage of you. Very few people wake up in the morning with the intentions being to hurt us and to pass over our boundaries.

Boundaries.

When is enough, enough?

How do we know and understand the threshold of the line we set for ourselves and for others?

Deciding your boundaries is always a long process with a lot of blurred lines.

It is looking at a toxic relationship (friendship, romantic, or family), knowing that your boundaries were violated, and trying to decide where and when the line was crossed and how you will prevent it from happening to you again. Sometimes, you need to have your boundaries overstepped many times before you are fully capable of understanding just what your boundaries are and locating the exact feelings you experienced whenever someone crossed the line you had set for them.

Then whenever that line is crossed over, you know the familiar feeling of  being irritated, violated, and you know what you need to do from then on to either terminate the relationship or at the very least state how and why your boundaries were crossed – and what that person needs to do in order to avoid it from happening again.

It is hard for a person to know your boundaries if you do not verbally state them. Unfortunately, even if you set your boundaries early on and you continue to let small maneuvers over the boundary line pass, eventually you will only be left feeling violated but also feeling as though you have no control over what is okay and what isn’t.

Boundary setting is one of the most important lines to set in a relationship – no matter how major or minor that relationship may be.

It is not only important in a relationship – but an important movement to be made to ensure that we as humans remain happy and remain stable in what we stand for and what we don’t.

In many relationships I allowed people that were close to me to violate my boundaries. Most commonly, though, I was never clear about how much it upset me until way down the line. In their defense, it is impossible for them to know that they hurt me in that way if I never told them it upset me to begin with.

It is hard for those of us to set boundaries with other people. As long as they aren’t hurting us, it’s alright to let it slide, right?

That is when the vicious cycle begins.

We have mental boundaries set, someone crosses them, we keep silent about it, we have a build up of emotion, a fight breaks out and emotions are tense and feelings are hurt, and then the cycle continues whenever we let it pass again.

Maybe it is fear that keeps us quiet.

Maybe we think that the original line that was crossed was not that big of a deal.

Maybe those of us with anxiety just cannot speak up about their emotions.

No matter what the problem is – learning how to set boundaries, and doing it vocally (and meaning it), is an important building block to being happy.

So set your boundaries. And mean it.

Don’t let anyone cross them – no matter what the reasoning is.

If a person leaves you feeling violated, like no matter what you say – things will never change, leave you feeling upset, like you have no control – it is time to terminate the friendship, relationship, etc.

You are the most important person and keeping yourself healthy and happy is forever supposed to be your number one thing of importance.