Another day, another reward of recovery.
It’s no big deal. Really, it isn’t. Most people do this many times over – through school, university, work, etc. Not this one, though. I’ve run away from stuff like this my whole life and if there’s been one thing I’ve worried about with this counselling course, it was this. And by worry I don’t mean “oh shit, that’ll be hard to do” but “oh shit, this might be what has me packing it in altogether because I can’t face it“.
My worst fear: being in front of people. Being the centre of attention. I’ve never done it. I managed to do my degrees by convincing – no, BEGGING – tutors to let me do additional written work instead. Had they said no, I would have walked away even for the sake of standing up in front of a class for a few minutes. I can’t exaggerate how hard this is for me, I can’t accurately put into words how impossibly difficult I find it. And when I first heard of these exercises called “goldfish bowls” I genuinely felt it might just be the thing that has me give in to that impulse to stand up, apologise to the others on the course and to the tutor and then leave to never come back. Honestly. I’m not being dramatic, I’ve always found it that difficult. Actually, I’ve found it impossible – I’ve always refused to do it.
And so today, the tutor told us we’re going to do these exercises and because there’s no escaping it, I jumped in. I spent the hours between saying I’d do it (in the morning) until when the time came (in the afternoon) feeling lightheaded. I couldn’t speak. During lunch I sat with the girls and listened to them talk about their kids and couldn’t say a word, hoping they wouldn’t notice if I just smiled and nodded.
Perhaps it’s because I’m learning to be me. Or even who I am. Maybe I even had me all wrong. Like with the recorded session just before the Christmas break, it wasn’t so bad. The recorded session didn’t fill me with the same dread, but this was similar in that I think I actually experienced what normal people experience. Yes, I was nervous, but not the crippling, debilitating fear that sees me shaking so hard I can’t function. It was OK. I feel I steal so much time in the group endlessly bemoaning my anxiety and feeling so terrified in these instances – and the girls are so lovely and kind about it – and I feel quite stupid now. At the same time, words can’t describe what a monumental victory this was for me. It was huge. This thing I did today, I never thought I’d be able to do. I’ve passed up on so many things because of this precise thing. I’ve made a little pact with myself that I won’t badger the others with that though, except Wifey. Perhaps now I can relax a little.
But again – and here I can go on as much as I like – this was so massive for me. I’m sitting here having faced something that scares me perhaps more than most other things. Being in recovery means I can start to become the person I was perhaps meant to be and whilst I doubt I’ll ever pursue public speaking, I no longer have to be held back because I’m guzzling a poison that stops me from really living. It’s so stupid in a way, having wasted so many years and only well into my 40s working out who I am and what I can achieve.
This was no big thing, I get that. But it was big for me. I never thought I could. But I did. And no one died.
And now I can let go of the idea that if there’s a big presentation to do it’ll mean I have to jack it all in. Perhaps now I can allow myself to believe I can do that too?
Oh, and those girls said some things that were so nice I thought I’d cry. They said I’m calm. CALM! Of all fucking things. I told you they’re lovely and kind. I will however do them a favour now and stop being a drama queen. Anxiety – been there, done that. Enough now. Next. Goldfish bowl experience numero uno done. I can do that again. Maybe I’m not the shittest person in the world after all.
Today I’m not going to drink.