26 votes

I don't know how to move

I'm doing really well in all my classes. On assignments that were given at the beginning of the quarter with due dates as part of finals, I have diligently worked on them every week. I even let go of being a perfectionist by time constraining tasks and being okay with whatever I had produced. And yet I am now stuck. Immobile.

I didn't go to school today. I think it's because I have a presentation tomorrow. I've had the presentation completed more or less for a couple of weeks. I've timed it, and can say all the words, and get all the things out to an empty living room. But as soon as someone else is in the room, I stumble and forget everything, even with my flashcards in front of me. I can't even read the text as in my eyes can not focus.

So today I was just going to practice more. But I didn't. I skipped classes, got shitfaced, passed out at some point, and woke up with no interest in anything.

I'm pretty sure I will go to school tomorrow, but there's a part of me that thinks it's just to much to ask of me to be in front of people and I don't want to look dumb, I don't want to ummm and forget and be boring. And then I missed classes and I will be a liar about why, and I hate liars. And I don't want to go, and I didn't practice today when I should have and I got drunk instead, and I don't have much patience for drunks. I AM NOT LIKING MYSELF AT THE MOMENT, and what happens if I don't go tomorrow? I could fade away from everywhere and no one would ever know, but me. And that bites because I would never let me live it down.

If you have any words of wisdom, I would love to hear from you, even if I don't respond because I'll be embarrassed that I hit send on this.

Edit: Wisdom isn't necessarily what I am looking for (though if you have it, I want it). I also want to know if you ever felt similar and what did you do.

21 comments

  1. vivaria
    (edited )
    Link
    for some reason or another "communicating ideas to many people at once using your voice and body language in real-time in a one-sided manner" has obtained a reputation for being an important...

    for some reason or another "communicating ideas to many people at once using your voice and body language in real-time in a one-sided manner" has obtained a reputation for being an important skill. i don't really understand why... i'd argue there are other ways of communicating ideas that would be possibly more effective depending on the person, especially if there were systems in place that made accommodations for these other ways of being. but, nonetheless, speaking with your voice has got that reputation. and, as such, there's a lingering pressure to become good at that skill.

    well, what if you don't like doing that? what if you're better at communicating in other ways? what if public speaking just isn't a good fit for your temperament? what if you'd just plain rather be doing something else? welllllll, it seems the thing you are supposed to do is attempt to change yourself. the burden for resolving this conflict between yourself and the systems you live in falls onto you. facing and overcoming challenges yourself is itself a virtuous goal. and if you shy away from such a challenge, you are met with shame and derision for being unambitious.

    well, what if changing yourself causes you distress and discomfort? and what if that distress and discomfort causes you lasting harm? what if your mind and body don't have the capacity to change in this way? well, that's just something you need to learn to fight or suppress. your wellbeing comes second to your ability to function in ways that meet the norms and expectations of the systems you live in. meeting these norms and expectations has economic value, and it is your job to be a valuable person, and if you cannot be a valuable person you can go and die because someone else is ready to be a valuable person in your place. (i don't think any of what i've written so far is good or just, but, it seems to be the messaging we are given in capitalist societies. or something.)

    so, how do you live if you don't want to live in the ways you are pressured to live? i'm not quite sure. finding a niche that allows you to survive seems difficult. i think one solution might have something to do with finding other people who vibe with the idea of functioning in ways that are different than the ways we are pressured into functioning. and who can help to minimize the consequences of being in a different way. building a web or a safety net.

    but it also seems like you are balancing this resistance to function with other things. there are feelings of low self worth here, and also feelings towards substance use. those too have their own knotty connotations. it can take some time to unpack. and all of these different feelings can fill up the head and trigger responses in you and gum up gears inside you and cause you to shut down. and that can be hard to experience.

    i have a lot of experience with shutting down and careening into all of the hurdles placed all around the running track. i do not really have foolproof advice for not doing that. again, i think a good thing is mostly just talking to people who you think might understand and who can help to minimize the consequences that come as a result of not doing the things you are expected to do. and who can help you to make sure your needs are met and who can help maintain safety and stability.

    i would maybe recommend trying not to turn to drinking to self-soothe. because that can do you harm regardless of whether or not you're even trying to be an economically valuable person. it can mess with executive functioning and take away your agency, and i think agency is a powerful thing. my stepdad died from an alcohol-fueled stroke so i am biased. but i also recognize that stopping something that feels good is hard because the act of stopping is complex, and complex is just another burden to carry and another thing to fill the mind with worry and pain and shame. so that habit can be a thing that feeds into itself, and things that feed into themselves are doubly hard to address.

    i don't know. keep stumbling through life. try to make decisions that you think will make your life better. and if it turned out to make things worse then maybe make a different decision next time if you remember. and be kind to yourself because so much of what you experience is due to the systems you reside in and not because of anything you did, and you can only do so much as one person. but also be kind to yourself for not recognizing the systems because it's like asking a fish if it knows what water is. maybe try to ask questions if that's something you feel like doing. and keep making posts like this one.

    i like this video (link for canadians), too. i don't know if i like the entire thing as-is, but it contains some ideas that have informed how i cope with my own anxiety and depression. hopefully you get something from it, too.

    12 votes
  2. [2]
    monarda
    Link
    I lived. I forgot most of it, I started crying, but I did it. I found out I have good classmates, who by asking questions, ensured that I touched all the required points. The things you all wrote...

    I lived. I forgot most of it, I started crying, but I did it. I found out I have good classmates, who by asking questions, ensured that I touched all the required points.

    The things you all wrote somehow moved my feet out the door this morning. It made me feel like I could do it, and that I might suck at it, but that I would be okay anyway. I did do it, and I did suck, and I am okay. Thank you very much for responding to me. I needed to be responded to.

    For those worrying about my mental health. Thank you. I am often working on myself by going to therapy. Currently I am not because sometimes, I just have to be okay with who I am. I hope I never stop growing as a person, but sometimes ignoring the list of personal improvements I should make is an improvement. And in this instance, I saw I was spiraling, reached out, and got support. I think that means I did okay. In general though, if I had read the words I wrote, I would think the person who wrote them could benefit from counseling!

    13 votes
    1. slambast
      Link Parent
      I'm late to the party, but I wanted to congratulate you. You did great. I went through something similar when I was younger (my first year of college) where I fell into a spiral. I skipped class,...

      And in this instance, I saw I was spiraling, reached out, and got support. I think that means I did okay.

      I'm late to the party, but I wanted to congratulate you. You did great.

      I went through something similar when I was younger (my first year of college) where I fell into a spiral. I skipped class, started missing assignments and tests, that made it even harder to go to class and face things, etc. First I took a medical leave of absence and basically cancelled my semester. The next year, I went back again and did somewhat better, but I still fell into the same trap and ended up getting expelled. I really wish I had reached out and got support like you did. All is well now, I just wanted to affirm that you did indeed do great :)

      5 votes
  3. [2]
    suspended
    Link
    When I was in fourth grade sitting in a class of my peers I broke down crying because the pain of my abusive parents was unbearable. My teacher took me outside into the hallway to ask me what was...

    When I was in fourth grade sitting in a class of my peers I broke down crying because the pain of my abusive parents was unbearable. My teacher took me outside into the hallway to ask me what was the matter. I told him, thinking that this authority figure could somehow save me from having to go back into this horrible nightmare.

    They called my father into the elementary school with the teacher, myself, and the principal. Little did they know that my father made a living swindling others out of money. He was a very successful salesman. He talked his way out of that meeting and convinced those authority figures that I was making it all up in my child-like imagination.

    You can imagine how that must have affected me. I no longer trusted people in positions of authority. Humanity would never be able to rescue me from the horror that I lived with every day. People were pathetically weak pushovers. And ultimately anything that I had to say was of no value.

    Many years later as a university student, in order to progress through the program, I was required to make oral presentations. I faced similar things that you have and it was very difficult. The university assigned me to a fundamental communications course that was designed to help people such as myself.

    Even after I felt relatively comfortable in the class with the others that were struggling with the same types of issues, I still skipped out on the first two or three times that I was to make an oral presentation. And I wasn't the only one who did so. With the encouragement of the class and the teacher I kept going back until I finally delivered my first presentation. My palms were sweaty, my voice cracked, but I made it through.

    With patience and practice, these oral presentations became easier and easier until it wasn't a problem anymore.

    You have a tremendous reservoir of strength deep inside your self. Tap into it.

    16 votes
    1. vivaria
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      alternate perspective: here is my accommodation letter. it is automatically generated by the computer systems at my university and sent to instructors at the beginning of each term. note the...

      Many years later as a university student, in order to progress through the program, I was required to make oral presentations. I faced similar things that you have and it was very difficult. The university assigned me to a fundamental communications course that was designed to help people such as myself.

      alternate perspective: here is my accommodation letter. it is automatically generated by the computer systems at my university and sent to instructors at the beginning of each term. note the clause on oral presentations.

      i have disability designations. from what i understand, disability is a label for functioning that goes against norms and expectations (in such a way that is resistant to change). disability has a negative connotation. in an ideal world, my way of functioning would not be seen as something that must be changed like it was with you (and so many others). i don't like the negative connotation. but if embracing that connotation by accepting the label of disability provides me accommodations i will take it.

      i think we should question the fundamental "truth" that failing to live up to rigid sociocultural expectations should result in providing students with mandatory capacity-altering "help" to meet these expectations. but challenging this truth is hard because systemic change is hard and many people do not have the luxury i do. i live in a progressive canadian city and i am lucky to have been embraced by the tides of systemic change. if you can't avoid being forced to modify yourself i am sorry and hope that these ideas reach your area one day soon.

      still, crossing my fingers that my response conveys the possibility to approach things another way.

      8 votes
  4. kfwyre
    (edited )
    Link
    Thanks for your honesty, monarda. This is a tough topic to open up about. It's also incredibly common, so please don't feel like you're alone in this. I'm a teacher who talks to rooms full of...

    Thanks for your honesty, monarda. This is a tough topic to open up about. It's also incredibly common, so please don't feel like you're alone in this. I'm a teacher who talks to rooms full of people all day every day, so you think I'd be fine with public speaking, yet at a staff meeting today, when I had to present something in front of my peers, I was nervous and uncomfortable!

    The important thing to remember is that anxiety is a distortion. It is not the truth, but it feels very, VERY real. One way that helps me combat those feelings is by actively narrating thoughts of counter-anxiety.

    For example: anxiety says "what if I look stupid in front of everyone?" and stops there. It wants you to believe that this is not only the only possible outcome, but that it's more than just possible -- it's definite.

    What anxiety doesn't say is:

    • What if I do a good job?
    • What if the information I'm sharing is really valuable to someone else ?
    • What if overcoming my anxiety inspires someone else in the room who's also nervous?

    There are lots of possibilities that aren't negative ones, and it's important to remember that success isn't showing no anxiety but simply overcoming it. As a teacher I see presentations from kids a lot, and the most inspiring ones aren't when a kid confidently knocks the presentation out of the park without a sweat, they're the ones where a nervous kid gets up in front of everyone and finds their confidence even amidst shaky hands, a soft voice, and verbal slip-ups.

    Anxiety says you can't present, but you absolutely can. The fact that you've been practicing so much proves it! Will it be hard to do? Yes, but it's not impossible, and you are equipped to make it happen.

    But what if you mess up?! Again, it happens! No one is expecting perfection, and a presentation can still be great even with errors and mistakes in it.

    But what if people are bored?! Let them be bored! There's nothing that says that you must entertain everyone, and as someone who speaks to people for a living, let me assure you that even the most robust and exciting presentation will not grab everyone. Consider not who won't be interested but who will. They're your audience. Think about what insights you have to offer for them. You've heard the "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink" line? Well, there's a similar one for this kind of thing: "offer a drink to the horse who is facing you, not the one showing you his ass." Basically, care about the people who are onboard with you, not the ones who aren't.

    Another part of combatting anxiety is reflection. If you go tomorrow, and you present, no matter how it goes, reflect on the fact that the world didn't end. No one was hurt or injured. No catastrophe took place. Life will continue on in much the same manner as it did before you spoke. In a week or two your presentation, whether good or bad, will be a faint memory that will continue to decrease with time. I say this not to diminish or demean your presentation in the slightest, but to note that anxiety will overblow the importance of events. It wants you to believe this is THE. BIGGEST. THING. in the world, when really it's just a noteworthy event. Not an everyday occurrence, but not a complete showstopper either. You will face more of these noteworthy events in time, and reflecting on this one will help prepare you for the next one.

    I hope some of what I said helps. I'm someone who not only experiences anxiety but also works with highly anxious populations. While the feeling is real, its conclusions are not. Try to counter its conclusions as best as you can, and know that you've got at least one random internet stranger who believes in you. You can do this!

    9 votes
  5. Rocket_Man
    Link
    I've felt exactly the same and basically did the same thing. I was dealing with depression and social anxiety. I'm better now, but that may be the case with you. It's relatively normal, most...

    I've felt exactly the same and basically did the same thing. I was dealing with depression and social anxiety. I'm better now, but that may be the case with you. It's relatively normal, most people go through a period where they experience something like this.

    I would recommend telling someone close to you what's going on and then trying to meet with a psychiatrist. Also talk to your instructor, they are people and are often understanding of the situation. This kind of thing is just like personal maintenance. Feel free to PM me if you have questions you don't want to comment here.

    6 votes
  6. skybrian
    Link
    Lots of people are uncomfortable giving presentations, and it's tough, but it's useful to be able to do it, which is why they try to get you to practice it in school. This doesn't make it easy....

    Lots of people are uncomfortable giving presentations, and it's tough, but it's useful to be able to do it, which is why they try to get you to practice it in school. This doesn't make it easy. I'm the sort of person who has to psyche myself up to call people on the phone. But I got through presentations, even the ones I bombed, and it wasn't the end of the world.

    It sounds like you've practiced plenty on your own so you need to practice in front of other people. Maybe just one person at first?

    And remember: even your final presentation in class is essentially just more practice. If you can figure out how to get comfortable at it then that's great, you've learned something. If not, there will be other chances. I'd still recommend dragging yourself in and giving it a shot, though.

    6 votes
  7. Akir
    (edited )
    Link
    I really want to tell everyone that public speaking was always easy for me, but the truth is that I simply nipped it in the bud at an early age. I was always into music and theatre, so I was...

    I really want to tell everyone that public speaking was always easy for me, but the truth is that I simply nipped it in the bud at an early age. I was always into music and theatre, so I was performing before I got a chance to grow self-conscious enough for it to develop into an anxiety.

    I am a little surprised at the advice people are giving here because they both seem kind of extreme to me. Yes, public speaking is a valuable skill that will help you in life, but you are having more problems with it than anyone I have ever known. I've had people skip a presentation, but not spiral into self-loathing because of it. What I would recommend is talking to a mental health councilor (or whatever equivalent you have) about your current problem. They would be better equipped to help you decide if this is normal anxiety you can overcome, and if it's going to be more of a problem they may be able to waive the requirement for doing presentations like this. No matter what, shutting down and self-medicating with alcohol or other drugs is not a healthy way to live your life.

    EDIT: I realize now that the first paragraph sounds like I'm trying to rub in how good my public speaking skills. I really didn't mean it to come out that way. What I was trying to say was that although I personally hold this fear, I sympathize with the people who do. I was also trying to imply that it's something that goes away with practice.

    And as an addendum, I applaud @monarda for going through with it. I think we tend to forget in our largely-text world that the human voice is a powerful thing.

    4 votes
  8. envy
    Link
    What you are feeling is completely normal. Seinfeld quipped on his show "According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that...

    What you are feeling is completely normal.

    Seinfeld quipped on his show "According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy."

    I've been where you are. I've frozen up in front of my class. I've bombed a graded presentation. I've broke into a cold sweat because I had to introduce myself in a group meeting.

    Now I present well. I present often.

    I wish I could tell you something magical that would make your brain unfreeze and your words flow.

    The only thing that helped me was lots of public speaking. Oh, it was hard. But facing up to your fears, and realizing they are unwarranted, is hands down the most rewarding thing you can ever do.

    First, decide you are going to do this. Like Yoda says, there is no try. Do or Do not. Be a Doer. It doesn't matter how badly you bomb. It doesn't matter if you succeed. What matters is that you do this.

    Second, before you present, stretch your arms out wide, and widen your stance. Preferably in the privacy of a restroom. Stay like that for 3-5 minutes. It will naturally boost your confidence. Don't forget to pee.

    Thirdly, take your bottle of water and your detailed notes. Turn around and face everyone. Breathe. If you can, smile, look the audience in the eyes. Tell them "Hi, my name is Monarda." Breathe. Breathe some more. "Today, I am going to talk to you about XYZ." Breathe. Look at your notes. Breathe. Wait for your eyes to be able to focus on your notes. It's OK to be silent. It builds tension. It's a useful and valid presentation technique. It feels like an eternity to you, but it is a few seconds to the audience. What I found helped, was I printed out the exact words I wanted to say, then I underlined key points. Usually, I could only focus on the key points. But I had the words right there on a big piece of paper for when I blanked and choked, then I could slowly read the words. I even included the "Hi, my name is envy" in my notes. It wasn't ideal, but it got me through. If I am nervous about unfamiliar material, I still put all my words in the speaker notes of a presentation.

    Eventually, if you do this often enough, you will realize that everyone listening to your presentation truly wants you to succeed. They are genuinely interested in what you have to say. You don't need to be a great presenter. You simply need to have something interesting to say. And you do have something interesting to say.

    I wish I could be there, to send you good vibes and smile warmly at you.

    4 votes
  9. Thunder-ten-tronckh
    Link
    Well I don't think any motivational video or piece of advice is going to cure you of your anxieties by tomorrow. You're gonna feel super uncomfortable no matter what. Getting over that is a long...

    Well I don't think any motivational video or piece of advice is going to cure you of your anxieties by tomorrow. You're gonna feel super uncomfortable no matter what. Getting over that is a long process. But I think one small thing you can do for tomorrow is to prepare an honest disclaimer about your anxiety, and acknowledge your awkwardness. Nobody worth your time would judge you for stumbling through your presentation if they knew how difficult it was for you.

    I would personally crack a joke about it. You could say it super casually and unrehearsed before you start, or read something off your note card like:

    The following presentation is unsuitable for people with second hand embarrassment. It contains: Stuttering. Forgetting lines. Shaking knees. Extreme anxiety. And a face that's exactly the same hue as a tomato.

    Don't be afraid to pause and crack a joke about your nervousness if you find you're stumbling mid-presentation either. It could take some weight off your shoulders. In any case, I'm willing to bet if you open up about your issues before presenting, it will go a lot smoother. And you'll be so much more relatable to your audience. They'll be on your side.

    Feel free to PM me if you need!

    4 votes
  10. Eric_the_Cerise
    Link
    I don't know if this is good advice or not ... consider it 'Plan C'. Go to class tomorrow. Give a two-sentence presentation, something like ... "I really tried; I prepared and practiced, but I...

    I don't know if this is good advice or not ... consider it 'Plan C'.

    Go to class tomorrow. Give a two-sentence presentation, something like ... "I really tried; I prepared and practiced, but I just can't do the 'public speaking' thing. But I didn't want to just skip class and bail on the assignment, either, so ... this is the best I could do. Thank you."

    Or at least plan for that. Once you get up in front of the class, maybe you'll discover you can do your actual presentation, after all. If not, this is at least a short, relatively honorable compromise.

    3 votes
  11. ajar
    Link
    Others have already given your some useful responses. I'd like to add that whatever you do, whether you stay home and never give that presentation or go and do a great job or if you get too...

    Others have already given your some useful responses.

    I'd like to add that whatever you do, whether you stay home and never give that presentation or go and do a great job or if you get too nervous to speak, whatever happens, that does not define who you are in any permanent way.

    It might be useful to reflect about what is it exactly that bothers you about these presentations. Is it people judging you? Is it yourself judging you? What would that judgement be? What would the ultimate consequences of said judgement be (if any)? They wouldn't probably amount to much if you look closely, I believe. What would you think of someone that gives a bad presentation in your class? Is whatever you think about it rational according to your experiences? Maybe you're projecting on yourself something you do to others? Perhaps a change of perspective would help. Of course, emotions tend to run over rationality, but having a sound argument in your head might help controlling emotional responses to some degree.

    I think practicing at home with a friend or a family member might help. As others have said, practice and routine can dull almost anything. Maybe talking to your instructors might be good as well, although, unfortunately, many teachers have no idea how to help students in developing social abilities, which is a failure of the education system. If you don't feel comfortable with your classmates, it's normal to feel anxiety. That's why group cohesion and cooperation is so important in contemporary learning methodologies. If your school or teachers don't help you overcome these fears, I think a good idea might be to create an informal group of students focused of working on these issues. Maybe meet once a week or whatever and practice explaining things to each other. I think the important thing is to feel you are contributing, and not that you are the best, which often seems to be the tacit unrealistic and unnecessary goal.

    Lastly, I think maybe some reading might help, maybe more in the long term. I think Hayes' book "Get out of your Mind and into your Life", might be a good starting point.

    Good luck!

    3 votes
  12. [6]
    Hidegger
    Link
    Who gives a shit if you sound dumb or stumble on a presentation? Trump sounds dumb and stumbles on everything he says and he managed to become president still. Just go and do the presentation, if...

    Who gives a shit if you sound dumb or stumble on a presentation? Trump sounds dumb and stumbles on everything he says and he managed to become president still. Just go and do the presentation, if you fail, you will have had the experience to build off of the next time. As the saying goes, "The first step at being good at anything is kinda sucking at it." or something like that.

    3 votes
    1. [3]
      vivaria
      Link Parent
      i think this is very dismissive of the real feelings that can build up from internalizing messaging that tells you to be one way or another. even if Hidegger believes that no one will give a shit,...

      i think this is very dismissive of the real feelings that can build up from internalizing messaging that tells you to be one way or another. even if Hidegger believes that no one will give a shit, or if Hidegger believes that it doesn't matter even if people do give a shit, this does not acknowledge the feelings of monarda, or the systemic reasons that could have contributed to the feelings of monarda.

      personally i would have a hard time reading your message if i were in a bad place.

      9 votes
      1. [2]
        Hidegger
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        I have no idea what "feelings of monarda" is supposed to mean. Google searching results as a aromatic mint plant and nothing else. EDIT: I just realized that was OP's handle where I was thinking...

        I have no idea what "feelings of monarda" is supposed to mean. Google searching results as a aromatic mint plant and nothing else. EDIT: I just realized that was OP's handle where I was thinking you were saying something like "feelings of anxiety" in a broad sense.
        OP is in college, not a career yet. His performance largely doesn't matter for his role in life at this point. It doesn't dictate what he can choose to do next, whether he avoids a path of giving presentations or sets himself up to encounter more of these obstacles in life. It seems the general consensus is to acknowledge that OP has anxiety and needs to reach out to someone close or consult a professional, which is the second step down a small rabbit hole that is going to have a few very similar outcomes that still boil down to; did you perform the presentation or did you avoid the presentation. A therapist, while talking to you through your problems is still eventually going to lead you toward overcoming your fear of public speaking or guide you toward a path where you avoid it, as it is actually not a necessity in life.

        People should be encouraged "foward" even if they fear it. And taking the approach of some light-hearted banter along the way should help alleviate the anxieties that build up. This obstacle doesn't need to be as big as OP is projecting it to be and certainly not something they need to hole up in a room and drink until it goes away. I encourage you, OP, go to class and do the presentation, you are better than you think you are.

        1 vote
        1. Keegan
          Link Parent
          This is good advice, but I don't think it takes into full consideration the situation. Sometimes another solution is needed than to just "rough it out" as some may say.

          I encourage you, OP, go to class and do the presentation, you are better than you think you are.

          This is good advice, but I don't think it takes into full consideration the situation. Sometimes another solution is needed than to just "rough it out" as some may say.

          2 votes
    2. monarda
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I think I understood what you were saying, and I don't think you meant it negatively. And you are right, the first step to being good at something is kinda sucking at it!

      I think I understood what you were saying, and I don't think you meant it negatively. And you are right, the first step to being good at something is kinda sucking at it!

      3 votes
    3. envy
      Link Parent
      Your comment is unhelpful.

      Your comment is unhelpful.

      2 votes