Well, I did it again. I signed up to give a talk about my memoir, THE BIPOLAR DEMENTIA ART CHRONICLES. I did this knowing that whenever I am scheduled to perform in public, I am going to have a bad few days or more before the event, filled with anxiety and foreboding.
When I scheduled the event, I was fine. It seemed like a terrific thing to do. I was great at promoting myself THEN. “After all,” I thought, “if I want to sell my book, I have to tell people about it.“
I’ve done radio interviews, but they are much less stressful. First, you don’t actually have to SEE anyone or have them see you. Second, there is a voice at the other end asking questions, which prompts you to talk about specific issues. Radio interviews do make me nervous and anxious before-hand, but nothing like a live performance.
I am doing everything I can to lessen the anxiety, like preparing thoroughly for the event. I’ve selected sections of my book to read, outlined an introduction, brainstormed questions to get a discussion going among the audience, and practiced, practiced, practiced. I also tell myself things like, “What’s the worst that can happen?” I imagine the worst, and realize I could live through it if that happens:
A) No one shows up. That’s an easy one. I go home!
B) I forget everything I was going to say. Just read from the book until it jogs your memory.
C) I finish in 20 minutes, and no one has any questions or anything to say to fill in the rest of the hour and a half of scheduled time. Thank them for coming, and go home!
OK, that’s about all I can do to help myself, plus knowing that I’ve done this before and always performed well. What I hate most about performance anxiety is that I find myself wishing for the event to be over. “Just think, by next Wednesday this will all be over and I can relax.” That means I am wishing my life away.
I think it’s time to give myself a break and stop scheduling these events. I always think that if I do a lot of them, it will get easier. Like spider phobia treatment, if I’m locked in a room with a zillion spiders, I’ll either die of fright or get over it.
I think I’d rather face the world with a can of Raid in my hand.
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Learn more about bipolar disorder and treatment.
Published On: September 22, 2006
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