Last night in class my presentation went fine. I had to stop in the middle of my slides. The sweating, rapid heartbeat, and increased noticeable body odor was something I needed to halt before it became a choking stutter. I stepped away from the podium to catch my breath. I told the class I did not have a phobia of talking in front of people (our teacher had told an earlier story about phobias), but if there was a rung or two beneath the phobia level, that’d be me. The strange thing was, I hadn’t even been nervous.
“You’re doing great”, they started to say, though I heard it like a muffled rain. I probably should’ve looked around, but instead I kept my eyes on the neon screen right in front of me. I finished the slides then moved on to the demonstration. My client (the teacher who was playing herself) was a 60-something year old woman who was currently having trouble getting student papers graded. She was supposed to have them back by the end of last week, but was finding every excuse in the book to avoid grading. I clumsily tried to apply my WDEP reality therapy questions: 1) What do you want? 2) What are you doing? 3) Is what you are doing working? (evaluation) 4) What is your plan?
I was expecting to feel a huge sigh of relief when it was over. That didn’t happen. I actually felt worse. After I’d gotten my questions out, the whole thing, at least for me, slowly unraveled. By the time our demonstration was over, I’d completely fallen out of character, a third or more of the class was laughing, and somebody had tossed a piece of chocolate at the teacher to motivate her. I stood up from my chair and felt void. I had no idea what to think or why I didn’t feel relieved. The sweat from my legs had left a mark on my chair that would slowly have to evaporate underneath the white fluorescent lights. I thought of the man I had just met that evening, wondering if he’d seen my sweat and thought less of me. It doesn’t matter. This is what I’ve noticed about going to school this time. People are nicer and you’re not as afraid of them.