How I "conquered" my public speaking phobia (long story)
I'm only going to speak in relevance to college experiences here but I feel the pain of ANYONE who has this phobia in ANY situation, and sincerely just want to tell them my story.
My first experience was a NIGHTMARE. I was shaking, sweating, twitching, stuttering, could NOT control my heart race. Paranoid, insecure. The whole speech was basically a panic attack. I'm still not sure why I didn't run out of the room that day.
I lingered on for weeks hating myself, feeling inadequate in other areas of my life that had nothing to do with this phobia.
My second experience wasn't as bad, because 2 mins prior me to presenting, I grabbed my bad and left the room. I couldn't stand the thought of going through that hell again.
My third experience was worst than the first. I thought I was crazy, I KNEW and BELIEVED I was. That I had no control over my thoughts or anticipation anxiety.
A year passed by and luckily no presentations that year.
My junior semester, first couple weeks of fall semester, I hear that I'll be doing 2 presentations that semester. 2 weeks before, I tried killing myself.
Over a SPEECH, well 2 actually.
I was so convinced I was defective, my brain didn't work, it was broke.. I never felt so hopeless in my life.
For 10 days in the psychward I underwent intensive psychoanalysis.
I kept telling shrinks I had no reason to live. Sure I had social anxiety, but I could live with that.
I couldn't live the fact that these 15-30mins of time would eventuall affect my ENTIRE life, as long as it may be.
That I might drop out of school, kill myself, all over this phobia.
The deconditioning process.
What I think it important here is not what I learned, but what overtime I taught myself to UNLEARN. And it DID take some more experiences to really impant this new belief, as it clashed with my old "I'm defective" belief system.
My improvements I attribute largely first to medication, but than to my shifting paradigm as I realized these medications were changing my BIOLOGY.
And if my biology was the root of the issue, I rationally had no reason to feel crazy anymore.
I did my first presentation on MANY meds/drugs.
My thought was f this. I'd rather od during a presentation and not feel anything, than to feel what I normally was use to.
I took a LARGE glass of opium tea, klonopin, xanax, inderal, toprol and a few shots.
A little bit of each (more of the opium because it has some alkaloids that counteract the sedative affects of the other drugs, but still keeps your CNS depressed)
Class loved it, I didn't care about a thing in the world. Nobody looked at me weird, suspected, anything, just assumed I was confident and a good speaker.
A new belief begins to arise.
Maybe there is a solution?
But logically speaking, taking that many meds/drugs is a deathwish, not a "solution".
Second time I take klonopin, xanax, inderal and a few shots.
Not the best presentation in the world. But it was at least average or better. I didn't feel inadequate anymore, I thought I was learning how to fix it.
New semester starts.
I have a presentation. I have no more klonopin or xanax as a clutch. Now I'm on Lexapro and all I have with it is inderal.
The weak before i was literally shaking in fear, nautious, angry, agitated. What was suppose to be a 10min presentation once again had me feel like I wasn't really moving forward with my progression.
I was STILL getting equally as apprehensive weeks before, anxious. Couldn't focus on anything, was affecting my school work and the little social life I did have.
I LOAD up with inderal. Again take 2 shots of vodka.
Mentally I'm nervous as ****, I think the meds aren't going to work.
I think I didn't take enough, I'm too scared to take more.
I get up there, I OWN the presentation. I AM getting better now. But these periods of anticipatory anxiety before the speeches aren't getting better they're ruining my life.
What the f**k is my solution?
Desensitization? Meds? I'm still freaking out beforewards, but when I get up there, and realize I have control over my body, I care less about the words that come out of my mouth.
I'm not an idiot, I have common sense. So I figure I'll be boring and factual rather than emotional and persuasive (like some of the best public speakers I admire).
Today would be the longest and most elaborate presentation I'd ever have to do. 3 weeks ago I appetite goes through the floor. I've actually lost 10lbs since.
Again I feel helpless and inadequate.
This last week at some point. It wasn't like an epiphany. It was ME accepting ME for once in my life.
When I think of speeches, I think of Martin Luther King, Joel Olstein, Tony Robbins, some of the best orators in the world.
I have this intense need inside, and this feeling like I really have something important to say, more important than most people.. but I just don't know how to communicate to audiences the way I want.
Well I thought this last week "ok, just as an experiment, this time I'm simply just NOT going to care about the presentation". I now have good past experiences that should reinforce the fact that those first few times, that were nightmares, have now been outnumbered by good experiences.
And if I need to take meds before, so be it. But I'm going to do it responsibly.
Today all I take is 60mg inderal and 1mg xanax.
I take 3, 20mg inderal every half hour prior to an hour before the actual presentation. So it doesn't just hit me at once.
I take the xanax an hour before.
I show up, and OMG. My partner, had choked. We had worked on this presentation for weeks together. She doesn't even show up.
Teacher says "Rob I'm so glad you came today but sorry to say your partner couldn't make it".
Instead of getting crazy about it, I say "cool, no big deal, I'll just make mine a little longer".
Presentation wound up going 45mins. Longest EVER.
What I noticed is this (for me).
Xanax does help, but too much can really cloud your judgement.
Inderal is MY godsend.
It takes TIME even after a med works for you to really believe its going to keep working, and thats what allowed me to have faith in the med, stop the pre-anxiety bs, and go through with this.
I spoke slowly, used my tonality to accentuate important points.
Paused after making points. (so people could think about them rather than just machine gunning facts at them).
It allows people to slowly be drawn in.
If some contributes something, commend them enthusiastically. "THank you so much, excellent point".
It makes other people really want to particpate, unless what they contributed was really dumb, which I find more rare if you're an openminded individual.
But now I feel weird.
I'm not proud anymore. Its like a monkey of my back.
I'm not thinking about future presentations anymore, I simply found a formula that worked for me. It was really difficult, so I guess I can only sum this up by demanding anyone on this board, suffering from w/e it is they have.
Please have hope, try to be optimistic.
Don't feel bad about needing to take certain meds. (like I use to)
Feel bad about thinking you need to feel bad for taking something that will help you.
But thats it. I feel like now I need to find a new phobia, or something to obsess about. But I can't quite yet. I don't feel like "me" anymore.
I feel like I'm just discovering who I really am.. and he really isn't a bad guy, and I don't know why I want to assume this, but I'm sure a lot of you are some really good people as well. And wish you the power to overcome what ever it is in life that may be holding you back.