I am a bag of nerves most of the time. It is so frustrating. These nerves bubble away close to the surface, making me doubt myself and over-analyse and second guess situations and generally drive myself nuts. I am sure they are the reason I am so bad at small talk, because I am too busy worrying to be able to work out how I can start or maintain a conversation and then it is too late, the moment has passed and I am convinced people think I am a bore which only serves to make me more nervous.
I am at my nervous worst when it comes to people in authority. If a police car pulls up alongside me, I automatically assume this guilty shifty eye sneer and start following the trajectory of a pretend bird through the sky, when all I am really doing is driving my little yellow car to work. I once hitched a lift from one Christmas party to another with a heavily pregnant colleague and we were stopped at a festive road block where they were breathalising drivers. When the policeman asked my colleague if she had had anything to drink and she pointed to her heavily pregnant tummy I found myself screeching from the passenger seat ONLY A COUPLE AND I’M GETTING A TAXI HOME.
If a more senior colleague at work engages me in conversation my reaction is entirely predictable. Blush furiously. Make a rubbish joke. Grow a pair of Mr Tickle arms and gesticulate with abandon. Lose the ability to end a sentence and ramble on and on and on and on and on and on about the same point before trailing off into silence and giggling sadly, all the while screaming at myself internally.
Today I had to present at an important decision-making committee at work. It is the first time I’ve been to his forum, and despite the fact I locked myself in the bathroom several times over the weekend to practice in the mirror, despite knowing this presentation inside out and back to front, despite having second guessed every challenge that might come my way, the nerves still got to me. Or got to my voice to be precise. I sat on my hands to stop the gesturing and expressly forbade any attempts at humour and so my bloody voice betrayed me. I honestly have no idea what happened, it was like an out of body experience listening to myself and thinking ‘what for the love of statistics is going on with your voice.’
My words quickly started quivering and before I knew it I was quite literally BLEATING. Like a demented goat trying to give a presentation. I might as well have launched into a rendition of ‘The Lonely Goatherd’ from The Sound of Music. And I couldn’t get a handle on it, so a baaaaaaa-d my way through it and took some questions and then resorted to taking some frantic notes on some of the conversation. Only by that point I was so agitated I couldn’t write properly and so my notes look like a 5 year old tried to transcribe the discussion. Ultimately, a decision was made, but I walked away feeling like a fool.
It is completely infuriating. I did Theatre Studies AS Level! I played the Mad Hatter in a school production of Alice in Wonderland! I sang a relatively tuneful solo at our Year 6 leavers assembly! And now, at 30 years old, I cannot find a way around these nerves of mine. I think that is why this writing suits me and why I am so touched by your support and kind comments. Because I can articulate myself when I write in a way that is true to me. I have time and room to get the phrasing right, to convey the crux of what’s in my mind, and my fingers are so occupied with the typing that no gesticulation can occur. Through putting pen on paper (or letters on screen) I have space to breathe. I don’t have to fight the nerves, I don’t find myself raging in frustration at the foolishness of my situation. I just pootle on. So thank you for reading, it means a lot. X
dazedandmumfused is on Twitter @dazednmumfused and Instagram: dazedandmumfused