Whenever I had to perform (I’m a guitarist) it would take me a while before I settled into playing “normal” that is without the wooden feel of my right hand and the shaky, unsteady fingers on my left. I remember asking my sister, who performs regularly to huge crowds now in London’s West End, how could performing ever be fun?
One night I was accompanying her at a gig that I had produced: I chose the venue, created the theme, chose the songs, did the arrangements, sold the tickets. All of that was fine until we hit the stage and the spotlight was on me. Forget any semblance of picking for the first few songs. I was sweating and my stomach was not behaving. I had not eaten anything that day and was making several trips to the loo. This was not fun to me. The concert was well received. Everyone loved Melanie and guest Ken Professor Philmore. My friends supported me. I felt like a nervous wreck.
Oh and there was the time when I was taking my Grade one London School of Music Piano Exams. Lord knows how I passed those exams, because my fingers danced as I tried to get them to just hover and press the right notes. Although I passed with Honors, the nervousness during exam time was too much for me to bear. I made it to Grade three in piano before I quit.
And then there’s this incident that happened today: I went to renew my passport.
Anxiety always accompanies me when traveling: Do I have everything, my passport, my ticket information, my visa etc. Anxiety has been with me at the Visa Office – always double, triple and quadruple checking. Do I have everything.
Anxiety accompanied me this morning to the passport office. First – tension that I would be late. And then once I was there and sitting across from the Immigration Officer my right hand decided that today I would channel ALL nervousness through her. I tried. Squiggly. I tried again. It’s the electronic pen and pad. “Everyone get’s trouble with this”, Ana assured me. I put my left hand on my right hand to steady it. Ana is encouraging me to breathe. The Immigration Officer is completely understanding and sweet “take your time”…she says. After, I don’t know, ten tries, although it seemed like a hundred to me, and enlisting God’s help – who I must say seemed terribly absent today – the officer said “There’s one I could use…it’s a little squiggly but I can use it.”
I was embarrassed. I mean – what’s the big deal? It’s JUST YOUR SIGNATURE THEY NEED!!!!!
I called my mother on the way home. She completely understood. She talked about instances when this happened to her. You’re OK up until you get there and then ….nervousness.
I talked to my best friend Roxanne, who told me she had to try four times before she got her signature right. She suggested I try breathing exercises to deal with my anxiety.
Did I mention I was crying? Yeah…I was. At least I’ll be able to travel in the next two weeks I thought, through my tears. But what a horrible signature!
I always assumed that my nervousness was who I was. But after Rox’s suggestion about the breathing, I decided to Google nervousness and anxiety. I did this anxiety test and discovered that my anxiety level is a 5 or 51% – severe anxiety. Rachel Ramos – recovered agoraphobic, anxiety and panic sufferer of 9 years,
Editor-in-Chief of Calm Clinic explains:
“Your Anxiety Level is a reliable anxiety-measuring device that detects the presence of anxiety and accurately rates its severity. The highest score of 100 would indicate the most severe anxiety possible. The lowest score of zero would indicate no symptoms of anxiety at all.”
I realized that there was something BEHIND my anxiety. My nervousness was just a symptom. I always looked at trying to “fix” my nervousness. Think positive thoughts. Visualize a great outcome. Today at the Immigration office my head talk was less than supportive “This is embarrassing. God please show up and let me save face. I’m desperate. Why do I have to be saddled with this nervous attribute? I wish I could just be calm already.”
What’s the point of me sharing this?
Well I wanted to give my nervousness some light to bask in, instead of keeping it in the dark, brooding over it, feeling bad about it and praying or wishing it away. Nothing good ever comes out of anything when all we do is harbor shame and hope that no one ever finds out.
Clarity is always the first step. Acknowledging that there is something behind my nervous symptoms is the next.
Now I need to do a little digging – on the inside.
In the meantime consider your own life: are there symptoms that show up in your physiology that you might be ignoring? Today might be the day to take a closer look.
I realize in hindsight that God did show up today when I called and She gave me something far more valuable than a perfect signature – the courage to look at what I saw as an imperfection as something that might lead me to better care for and understand myself!