fear was my default state
So imagine my response to genuinely nerve-inducing situations. Catalyzed by the addition of normal nerves, these situations felt unbearable. My anxiety was often triggered by anticipation alone. Panic attacks became so frequent I lost count — but one moment has stayed with me. Public speaking is challenging at the best of times, but during this period of my life, it was the cause of despair. Even the vague possibility of public speaking caused vivid mental images of nightmare scenarios. Choking, losing track, stumbling over words: "I can't cope..."
It's a normal day. I'm at university. The workshop is relaxed; I'm not. There's a group of around 12. These are my peers; many are friends. With a couple of sentences, we're asked to share our ideas for an upcoming project. Just a few words. Just speaking. In public...As soon as I hear the sentence "let's go around the circle," I begin to lose control. The usual symptoms are there — the lump in the throat, hyperventilation, racing heart, a sense of utter terror. But I remember this panic attack because it was different. It was the first time I left the situation. It was the first time I walked away. I didn't attend further lectures that day. Instead, I walked home, closed the curtains, got into bed, and shut myself away from the world, as "I can't cope, I can't cope, I can't cope..." played on loop in my mind.