First of all, I’m still alive! And yes, I did the presentation. Propranolol is quite an amazing thing. I took 20mg at the start of the day and a further 40mg about 3 hours before the presentation. I had been massively freaking out the night before and the whole day leading up to it. The weird thing was that leading up to the presentation, though I of course felt anxious, I didn’t have the massive response – i.e shaking A LOT, heart pounding, etc – that I otherwise would have. I kept telling myself that I should have been feeling overwhelmingly anxious by that point, but I never did. When the time came to do the presentation, I still wasn’t shaking, my heart still wasn’t pounding, and I could walk to the front of the room without my legs feeling like they were about to collapse underneath me. And then the weirdest thing ever happened. I was stood there in front of 70 people. Still no shaking, etc. I couldn’t actually feel my heart pounding at all. And I looked at everyone. Still nothing. There was a slight jerk/twitch in my back where the anxiety was trying to fight the propranolol, but still nothing apart from that. And then it came to my turn to speak. Amazingly, I was mostly able to just get on with it. I didn’t look at the lecturers while I was actually talking, but managed to make a decent amount of eye contact with people on the other half of the room. It felt as if I was in a dream the whole time. I suppose derealisation actually helped a lot, as well as the fact that the room was quite dark (this always makes me feel more relaxed for some reason). It was the most bizarre thing. Even now, I still can’t register that I actually did that.
One thing I did learn from the whole thing is that everyone gets nervous – the majority to the point of shaking and having their heart pound a little bit. It’s still not – for most people – close to the level of anxiety that I or anyone else with SA would experience propranolol-free in that situation, but it’s somewhat comforting to know that it’s one situation in which everyone feels anxious. As someone (who I’ve been talking to online for a while) said to me the day before the presentation, “This is the most normal part of your anxiety”. I’ve realised that even if things had gone really badly and I’d had a panic attack, probably no one would be nasty to me about it. Some people would probably be quite sympathetic, actually. There was someone else in my year who seemed extremely anxious while he was speaking – though he managed to make a joke about his public speaking anxiety – and kept stuttering and forgetting what he wanted to say, but no one seemed too bothered about it. No one was mean to him about it at all, and though he seemed very anxious at the time, he didn’t seem too phased by it afterwards. Before the presentations seminar began, a couple of people in my group talked to the person who would be speaking first in the first presentation. She said that she felt like she was going to throw up and she was shaking a little bit. I felt so sorry for her. I almost wish that I could have passed the propranolol around to help everyone else who was really anxious to calm their nerves.
I still can’t believe that I actually managed the presentation without a panic attack. It does not compute. Some people have said that I should congratulate myself on being able to do it. I don’t know…I suppose I should give myself some credit for actually having the courage to face my worst fear, but I obviously ‘cheated’ on this by taking propranolol. I did have a sense of achievement at the time, but not so much now. It’s like it never even happened.
Sorry that it’s taken me so long to get around to writing this post. I’ve been a bad blogger. A lot of things have happened lately and I’ve now got loads of updates to write, if I can manage that along with university coursework. My S.A.D has really kicked in again over the last few weeks, which has made things in general more difficult. I think I’m getting better at fighting it and knowing how to minimise it though.