An unfortunate side effect of having social anxiety is being terrified of public speaking. An even more unfortunate problem is people not caring nor understanding why I absolutely cannot give a speech. This happens all the time but just last year was a moment that will probably always stick with me for a long time.
I knew going into the class that I was going to hate it and possibly fail, but I had no choice. The Peer Leadership class was the only one that would fit in my schedule because it was the only other half credit I was eligible to take. I had hoped however that the teacher would understand as to why I would have problems in his class. This hope was crushed shortly after the first ten minutes of class. We had to introduce ourselves and play several games getting to know each other. Normally I would have only a little trouble with this because I had been doing it for years, but my anxiety was running high with the anticipation of the class so I barely spoke the entire time. By the end of the class everyone knew that I was that weird quiet kid that stuttered every so often. I dreaded each class, but I had been grateful that so far no speaking in front of the class had occurred. Yet.
After the first week of the class he announced that our first speech would be due in two classes so we had better prepare. My mouth went dry and I felt my heart drop to my stomach. The bell rang and everyone including me rushed out the door to get to their next class. I was too nervous to even do what I had planned and ask if I could be pardoned from the speech. I basically stressed out every waking moment about the speech the entire time leading up to the class period of doom. I was sweating and trying to reassure myself on the walk over to A hall that I 100% could ask to not do the presentation and that it would all be fine. Eventually I arrived at the door where my teacher was waiting to shake my hand.
I took a deep breath and quietly asked, “Do I have to do the speech?”
He smiled and said, “Well unless you want a zero you absolutely have to, yes.”
I nodded because I had been expecting this. Pretty much every teacher ever in existence had this response.
“I’ll take a zero then.” I stated as firmly as I could. He looked at me odd and waved the kid behind me into the class. The bell rang and he shut the class room door with both of us still in the hallway. Great. Like Rankine stated in Citizen, “Each time it begins in the same way, it doesn’t begin the same way, each time it begins it’s the same.”(pg. 107). I mentally prepared myself for what was about to happen.
“Why don’t you want to do the speech?”
I sighed. I really hate telling people things about me. It’s really none of their business. “I just can’t. I have social anxiety. I really would rather take the zero then stand up in front of everyone.” I muttered looking down at my shoes.
“And why does that prohibit you from giving a speech? You’re going to have to present at some point in your life. You can get over the fear you have in this class,” he said like he had just solved all of my problems. I was frustrated to say the least. I shook my head and didn’t say anything, which resulted in him sighing and opening the classroom door. We both walked in and everyone stared. Needless to say I didn’t present that day. It usually always occurred like this.
Most people never understand why I just don’t ‘get over it’. People always assume it’s something that I can just get over. That if you force me, I’ll conquer my fear and magically be fixed. That’s not how it works. I have to overcome things on my own time. I’m learning to get better, but I can’t just do it on command. Some people even believe that I’m just faking to get out of something. I wouldn’t want to put myself in these awkward situations if I was comfortable with public speaking, trust me.