The anxious amateur

7 06 2012

So last night was my audition for my chorus.  I’ve been singing for nearly 20 years now, and for ten of them I’ve been taking voice lessons.  My voice isn’t professional, but I do sing well.  I love singing with my chorus.  I am absolutely secure with them, have no problem singing in their midst, feel no anxiety at all in standing with them in front of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people.

The audition, though.  That’s something different.  That’s me, my director, and the assistant director.  Both of them tremendously talented musicians who have never treated me with anything less than love and respect, and who expect the very best from their chorus.  I have always had some anxiety about singing alone in front of people, and the audition has the additional pressure of being something of a test.  It’s always been a tough thing for me.  Last night it blew up to a new level and it has finally become apparent to me that I need to address this issue.  This is no longer a charming little “Oh look, she’s nervous” quirk.  This was just this side of a panic attack and it was terrifying.  I couldn’t take a decent breath, I couldn’t control my voice, my heart rate was off the charts, and I shook uncontrollably.

It is simply unacceptable.  Something that I can’t go through again, and something that I sure can’t make my directors go through again.  I can’t imagine how profoundly uncomfortable it has to be to watch someone struggle that way, to watch them come that close to falling apart.  I am embarrassed that they saw me that way.  And I am horrified that I put them in that situation.

So it’s on to looking for options.  The quick fix is medication, although that does involve a trip to the doctor and convincing them that medications are necessary and appropriate for this purpose.  Which seems a little sketchy to me, even though I know people use beta blockers for this purpose all the time.  It looks like the better option will be hypnotherapy, which in theory should get at the root cause of the problem.  I doubt that even the best therapist will get me to the rock-solid-no-fear point where solo vocal performance is concerned, but if I can just take the edge off, to where it’s manageable, that would be huge.  I did hear back from a therapist today, who tells me that this is very doable, that it’s like pressing a reset switch in the brain – which I could totally get behind! – and that it can be accomplished in three or four sessions.

If this really is that easy to fix – if I can get this problem taken care of in a few weeks? – I’m going to feel like the world’s biggest fool for waiting so long to take care of it.  But even if it does take longer, I think it’s worth it to not feel that overwhelming fear, that complete lack of control, the utter vulnerability and exposure that I felt last night.

I have never, to my knowledge, had an actual panic attack.  I’m not convinced that what I had last night was what could be defined as one.  I can’t imagine what it must be like to have the real thing, like a panic disorder that shows up at times that seem to me to be completely safe.  Like shopping, or setting foot out of the house.  I do know people for whom these situations seem completely impossible.  And it was, until recently, one of those things that I could get behind intellectually, but at some gut level there was some small amount of “Oh, get a grip.”  Well.  That’s behind me.  Even with what I’m choosing to call Panic Lite, that’s way more than plenty for me.

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