Today I’d like to share something with you that I’m a little bit shy to share. However, it’s a topic that I feel should be more okay to discuss, so here I go.
January marks the beginning of rehearsals for the opera UBC will be putting on at the beginning of February (Dialogues des Carmelites, Poulenc, 1953-55). Since I got my part before winter break, I’ve been stressing out like crazy about it. Ensembles stress me out in general; although my part is not particularly challenging, I don’t have a lot of confidence in my ability to move with a conductor, and I’m worried I’ll count the rests wrong and come in at the wrong place. Heaven forbid I should play a wrong note! Although it’s doubtful that anyone would say anything to me, and most of the orchestra would probably not even notice, when I make a mistake, I feel as though I’ve committed some horrible crime. The root of it is I feel ashamed of myself when I judge that I’ve played badly.
However, I didn’t really grasp just how terrified I was to play, just in a rehearsal.
I had been dreading coming back to school, and I felt quite down since I got back last night. I sat outside the room where gamelan ensemble rehearses before class started, and a masters student who would also be playing in the opera started talking to me about the opera. Basically, she confirmed my fears that following the conductor is a lot harder than in regular orchestra, you rarely get cues, and it’s very easy to get lost.
I tried to keep talking and stay calm, but I could feel tears coming up behind my eyes. I excused myself to the washroom to try to compose myself. I thought I succeeded after a few jerky breaths and wiped up tears. I headed back to the rehearsal room and thought I was fine, but after a few minutes I had to rush off to the bathroom again because I just couldn’t shake that anxious feeling. Cue more crying and hyperventilating. At this point I didn’t know if I could get through the class, but I thought once we started playing I’d get distracted. Nope. Nope nope nope. Crying in public is so embarrassing! When it became very clear that I wasn’t going to be able to stop any time soon, I told my instructor I was feeling unwell and he let me leave. (Thank you thank you thank you!!)
I gathered my things, trying not to feel the stares of my classmates as I left the room. I headed back to the washroom and cried even harder. My breath came too fast, in shallow gasps, and attempts to slow it down failed. I said to myself, “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.” All I felt was fear and panic and anxiety. Well hello there, first ever panic attack. Once I calmed down enough to breathe properly, I decided I’d go to Counselling Services. If this stress is enough to cause me to leave class, it’s time to do something about it.
Counselling Services are available Monday to Friday 9:30 am to 3:30 pm. You can just drop in for your first appointment, although you’ll probably be waiting at least an hour for your 20-minute appointment, maybe more. They get you to fill out a bunch of paperwork and then when it’s your turn they invite you in with what I’m sure is a very practiced soothing voice and talk to you about your situation. I’m sorry that I sound cynical, but I think that because it’s so easy to feel defensive about needing counselling, so you deceive yourself into thinking that others are patronizing you. But in actuality, the soothing voice actually did calm me down a lot without me realizing it.
Generally speaking, I’m mentally very healthy, I like myself and my life, and usually I’m pretty healthy, but I don’t deal with stress very well and I’ve got it, it messes me up and gets me down. So I was referred to a group stress class that meets on Wednesday evenings. I’m told that it isn’t a “everyone share your feelings” AA-style support group, it’s a sort of meeting where counsellors will talk with you and give you some tools to help deal with your stress or anxiety. I’ll be sure to report back and let you know how that goes.
Honestly, I felt a bit self-conscious walking through the frosted glass doors in Brock Hall. I even felt nervous before my appointment came up. I felt a bit embarrassed when once again I couldn’t hold my tears in when I started talking to my counsellor. But the thing is, no one there is going to judge you. They didn’t judge me. You can be sure they’ve seen all kinds of problems, and they’re there to help you deal with yours.
Needing help with your mental health often comes with a stigma; people don’t want to talk about it or let anyone know they need it. But maybe if we talked about it more, more people would feel comfortable enough to get the help they need and live a happier life. That’s why I’ve shared my story with you.
Read the post on the stress management class HERE.