Well, it happened again. Another very public anxiety attack. We can laugh about it now.
The attack actually happened back in August. It has taken me this long to recover enough to write about it.
In August I rallied the courage to emcee for the first time at the major comedy club in the area. I had been putting this off… I had never done this before and I’m only just now, a couple of years into stand up, beginning to get over my severe stage fright. Hosting the show is an entirely different animal. As a comic, you must perform first, warming up the crowd, and then introduce each subsequent comic, making sure they stay to the set given minutes, give any announcements, and keep the flow of the show going.
I was already extremely nervous. My anxiety was beginning to climb days ahead of this show. I practiced my set, and my friend met me before the show to rehearse what to say to the audience–he had hosted several times. I was as ready as I was going to be.
I walked into the club and my friend that works there showed me the list of comics performing that night. At the end of the list were several names–add ons. My friend said that some headliner’s had shown up and asked to be on the show that night…and now the show was going to run long…and now we had to figure out how much time to allow everyone…and this is about the time my anxiety began to really escalate.
I went behind the stage and said hello to the comics back there and began to deep breathe. It didn’t help. Another friend came backstage to say hello before the show–he is a fairly well-known headliner–and pointed out a name on the list was a former winner of Star Search.
SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT
The show began and I went out first. I did my set but because I was so nervous I lost my shit. My voice was all squeaky. I began to shake. I could barely hold the microphone. I was dying on stage. And I had a whole, now really long show, to get through.
SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT
My friend, who was there to support me, the one that had practiced with me, kept running back to help me between comics. He was offering advice, like “Smile more!” and “More energy!” I heard “You are totally sucking it!!!” and became even more nervous–which I didn’t know was possible. I began to have tunnel vision. I was shaking so hard I had to hold the podium back stage to stand up. I almost vomited. On stage I very nearly backed into the wall, away from the audience. I don’t even know what the audience thought. I forgot a comic’s name on stage–and he had to yell it to me through the door. Jesus. I said to my supportive friend backstage, well, the worst just happened. Nothing else can go wrong now. He said oh, no–something else can always go wrong. NOT THE THING TO SAY TO ME ASSHOLE!!!!!! And just like that I went from extreme anxiety, to Thelma and Louise, over the cliff, not coming back, down the rabbit hole panic attack PTSD mode. It was over for me.
I had put so much pressure on myself as I knew that the owner of the club watched the show and determined if he would hire an emcee or feature act for the following year. I didn’t want to let him down, my friends down, or myself down. In the end–I did all of the above.
After the show, my friend that runs the club came back stage and asked me how I thought I had done. I knew instantly what that meant. I just started bawling. Like, ugly girl crying. It was horrible.
I ended up in the green room, on the couch with my supportive friend trying to calm me. It went like this:
Him: You know, I also suffer from depression and anxiety. You can’t let this get to you.
Me:(in my head) Not like this. And if you don’t shut up, I will punch you.
Him: Hey, the good news–you got to perform on one of the top four most important comedy stages in the United States! Not many people get to say that!
Me: (in my head) SHIT!! I JUST SCREWED UP ON ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT STAGES IN THE U.S.!!!!
My friend that runs the club came back to check on me and also tried to comfort me. He said well, maybe you just weren’t meant to emcee… I heard YOU SUCK AND CAN’T EVEN BE AN EMCEE and started hyperventilating again. I had two men staring at the girl bawling on the couch, staring at each other, and you could just see they were trying to figure out what the F*** to do. Like, do we just kill her? Do we call someone? Ummmm….
The good news out of all of this is that I have really good friends. Friends that I can bawl in front of and they will still love me. I love them for this.
And, I have licked my wounded ego and gotten back up on stage. I haven’t hosted again, yet, but I will. Eventually. Someday.