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Displaying items by tag: talking

Wednesday, 28 January 2015 18:28

Facing the crowd

Can you speak in public? Get up in front of strangers and just speak loudly? I’ll share with you a history of success.


I study Russian. I won’t get in WHY i study Russian, but i study it in a federal university here in Rio. Federal universities in Brazil are the biggest and more important than the private ones, so they offer rarer courses like this. There is only one class for each level of russian (there are 20 for english only).


In october there was a cultural fair in which each student and classes, together for a day, invite lots of foreigners for cultural exchange, and present music, dancing, and other cultural traits for each course: greek, japanese, arabic, russian, french etc… Each student creates alone something to share.


3 weeks before the event my teacher asked us what we were showing so we could prepare (oh shit). Everybody started presenting something like cooking, a presentation about Russian cinema, hand works, a guy offered to make Kvas (Vodka is not the only Russian beverage)... i was the last one since i did not have any idea what to present. A friend of mine suggested for me Poetry. Yes. Get up there and recite poems in Russian.


When in front of people i get so anxious i can’t think right. Before i trained myself for public exposition, i just started to stutter, or say something awkward. Now a days i know by memory things to say, jokes, proper reaction etc… in my manual i just could not remember what to say when i don’t have a suggestion to present for a fair (The class and the teacher were staring at me waiting a response). I know i could simply say “I won’t go”... but i really like my russian course. I meet interesting people and culture, and i am good at it; rarely i have something to study that don’t make me anxious. So i said OK.


My friend offered me some audio and writings of poems, so since i had 2 weeks to prepare, i just picked one poem fast and started studying it everyday. In 4 days i had it all in my memory and repeated it perfectly… but i had no idea what it meant. LOL With the help of my teacher i translated it, and i discovered it was beautiful. The next week (My russian classes are on saturdays) i waited for most of my colleagues to get out to have the room empty and asked my teacher to help me. I practice it a lot so i took courage enough to recite it to someone. I recite it, and she said it was perfect. Hurray!


The next days i started reciting it to other family members: my mom, my sister; so i could get more courage. I had no idea how many people would be there for me to recite to. I worried more about knowing what i am doing than worrying what people would think. I really applied myself so if i have fear, and get anxious in front of people, at least i would know it was irrational. I knew that as soon i know my fear of failure and shame was irrational, i could ignore it not thinking it was something real.


The day came. The fair was huge and the building was full of people. I got there late and went straight to the class of Russian to meet the students… it was very boring (for me and by the face of the foreigners and the visitors) and there was less people than i thought it would be. Most of my colleagues did not come (that gave me a hint that i was not the only one nervous about it…) what was kind of sad because i was really curious to taste Kvas :-( (There was Vodka though hehe). Most of the colleagues were from more advanced classes, and i was not hurry to recite the poem… not at all.


As time went by, instead of fear i was gaining trust; i practice it so much, and my colleagues were presenting their work so bad, i was not getting anxious to present in front of people, but to present it already! My confident part turned on, and i asked the teachers that in my turn, they called people outside to join in to listen… the Russian fair was pretty boring compared with the Greek for example. I was feeling competitive i guess.


My turn came. The room was full of people, including with Russians and Ukrainians. I got up, and OMFG my body was shaking. The time stopped in my head and i felt how my body was unprepared. I did not expect my reaction, but i was aware i had no motive at all to feel that way. It was one more evidence i could not trust the signals of warning my body sends to me… or more technically, the signals the more primitive parts of my brain (mainly amygdala) send to my body, that makes it feel like a predator was in front of me ready to kill. I practice breathing and muscle relaxation, so i used what i’ve learned and paid attention to every inch of my body trying to relax it. Stop shaking dammit. I looked at nothing, while looking at the crowd, and started… Нет, обманула вас молва, Попрежнему дышу я вами.... etc, etc, etc… end. Everybody claps. But the body did not stop shaking. Went to another poem… yes, even though my body was making me uncomfortable, i chose to, this time, read another poem… so i recite it… everybody claps. I don’t remember anymore if my body was shaking or not. I was so happy i was not paying attention anymore. Now the translation (of course)... No, the rumours lied to you; As before, for you i still breathe… etc, etc, etc...More claps. More confidence.


I am convinced it was the highest point of the Russian fair, and i was very proud. But for a person that suffers of Social Phobia, the days after are as important as the day i had to face the crowd. My main concern was if they saw me shaking, or if the poem was too good, or if i was ridiculous in some way… my mind had to make absurd reasons to justify its fears. As gradually i revealed they were absurd, i noticed my fear completely apart from my reason. I felt divided. I learned i have a lot to learn and train so my body stops responding as it is right now. My brain is, in the primitive parts of it, working seriously against me. Now i have more fear of these primitive parts of my mind than i fear the crowd.


PS.: One thing bothered me though. My mom was there and she was so excited she did not registered it in any way, and in the pictures someone else took, i noticed there was a huge Soviet Union flag right behind my back. LOL I’m not a communist… so i could not share the picture with anybody in social media because people can mix what i was proud about that day.

Published in Diary
Wednesday, 18 September 2013 04:49

A Scary Thought

Today in therapy, I ended up re-sharing somthing because one of the therapists was away the day that I shared it. She pointed out how every time I talk I sit extremely still and it does not look natural. I explained that  that is the result of many years of training myself not to move. I did this because my hands and feet were always moving as a kid. My mom always told me it was a bad habbit that I needed to fix because starting bad habits at a young age would lead to bad habbits as an adult. When I was around 9 I was still moving too mcuh, so I was taken to many doctors to see what kind of disease or disability I had. Years later, I was told that I had a very minor neurological movement disorder, but nothing was serious and about it and it really didn't make any difference in mine or anyone else's life. After that, my mom was pretty satisfied that there was a somewhat diagnosis and I just moved on with life.

It really doesn't seem like a huge life event to me so I don't really think about it much. I was telling the psychiatrist in my group about it and right away he says "the reason you weren't getting anywhere with medical docotrs is beause that isn't a disease or disability. That's a very common way that children show anxiety". That totally makes a lot of sense. It's a scary thought that I could have possibly had surgery, taken drugs, or who knows what else for something I didn't have. I am very thankful that the doctor's back in the day basically gave a "we couldn't think of anythng else" diagnosis and left it at that. Imagine how much worse things could have been if they had tried to go on treating me for something serious when there's nothing there.

It also feels pretty good to know that I did not have a bad habbit, or anything else that I was told I had. Its also comforting to know that this is yet another aspect of my life that is going to get better as I get more control over my anxiety.


Published in Diary

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