Monday, February 25, 2013

Tell him I stutter

I did not want to do my workout today. I just wanted to lay in bed. Did not have much energy, not that I usually do in the mornings anyway. I purposely put my workout clothes on as soon as I got out of bed, knowing that if I didn’t, I wouldn’t. I forced myself to do it. No bribery or incentives. Just forced myself to put the tennies on and get out the door. And when I got back from the run, forced myself again to do the new circuit routine.

It’s nice that I don’t have to use my old bribery tricks anymore, but that may only be because I can’t spend money. But this post isn’t about why I didn’t feel like working out today. I’ll write that one later... perhaps.

During the run, I was thinking about my anxiety. How nervous I can get. Why? Because I’m already thinking about a short 5 minute pitch/presentation I will be doing at the end of March as part of a Business Plan Competition.

I have talked about my anxiety and nervous tendencies before on the blog here and here but I have never revealed here how intense it can actually get.

In grade school, I remember that while my friends were being pulled out of class to go play on the computers in the GATE program, I was being pulled out of class for speech therapy (back when public schools had money for speech therapists, counselors, and computer labs). I have a stutter. My brother has a more intense stutter than I do. He also got speech therapy at school. Speech therapy didn’t cure my stutter, but I know when it will happen and how to stop it. Which often includes me stopping mid sentence and exchanging words that I know I will stutter on to different ones. Is it why I am such an introvert? No, I think I’d be an introvert even if I didn’t have the stutter.

When I have to get up and speak in front of people, my stutter is always in the back of my mind. But it isn’t the reason I get extremely nervous. I’m not embarrassed by my stutter, I never was. I see it as more of an annoyance, having to stop speaking in order to continue speaking. It interrupts the flow. I also now know why my writing voice is so different than my actual speaking voice. I cannot physically push out of my mouth what I write. I trip over words, easy words. I even have a hard time reading aloud.

So if my stutter isn’t the main reason for my anxiety and nervousness, then why mention it? I don’t think most of you understand how nervous and anxious I actually get. My parents know, my sister knows, even one of my nephews knows. Why? Because they suffer from it to varying degrees themselves. I have also learned over the course of my life to date to hide it. At one of my first archaeology jobs, I threw up on the job site... twice. I didn’t have the flu, it was all nerves, and no one there knew.

I get nervous meeting new people. Starting a new job. Going somewhere I haven’t been to before. Job interviews, phone conversations, confrontations, doing something I’ve never done before, I even get nervous when friends come by (completely silly, I know). There’s much more too. So it becomes pretty obvious that I have performance anxiety.

I’ve broken down and cried after a piano performance and a violin performance when I was younger. Luckily my violin teacher saw how traumatizing the experience was for me and said that she would never make me do anything like that ever again, and kept her word.

So it is easy for me to get to a state of physical breakdown when I have to “perform”. I will get the shakes, ears will burn, voice quivers, sweaty hands, butterflies, my stutter comes out, and like I mentioned tears, and the ultimate, so nauseous, I puke. I would sometimes take ginger pills not because of motion sickness, but because I didn’t want to puke due to nerves. Although, one time I puked up the ginger pill. Oh well.

I still don’t think I have explained this well. Just know that even though it will only be 5 minutes, it will feel like the longest 5 minutes of my life. In the grand scheme of things, it is little. But it is the biggest little thing.

No matter how many times I have done things like this, speeches, presentations, recitals, it doesn’t get easier. I don’t care if you tell me, the more you do it the easier it will get. That is a lie. Especially for someone like me who suffers with performance anxiety to this extreme.

So that I don’t leave you on a downer, because I have been dealing with this my entire life and I understand what my body will do to me, I have learned to not let it paralyze me. I have ways to calm myself. To hide the nervous ticks and the quake of my voice. When I need to, I step out of my comfort zone, and do what needs to be done. They may be the longest 5 minutes of my life, but the shop is totally worth it.

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