The start of 2019 has seen the biggest mental growth spurt of my life and could well be, the most influential weeks of the rest of my life.
I set out to do a comedy course, not because I think I’m funny or fancy doing stand-up (because believe me right now I really don’t,) but to benefit my public speaking. I hoped it would help me to read the audience better, improve my stage presence and perhaps where appropriate inject some humour into my subject matter of mental health, which can be quite a dark and emotional subject.
The first session (5 1/2 hours long) was the most traumatic experience I have voluntarily put myself through, ever. That’s saying something because I’m not one to shy away from a challenge if it will help me grow in some beneficial way.
Fighting the abject fear that manifested in every possible way from wanting to run shrieking from the room to having the ground swallow me up, from hysterical giggling and stuttering to sweating profusely and suppressing the urge to vomit. By the end of the session, I couldn’t get out of that room and away fast enough.
But there were 2 thoughts that kept me in that room: 1st the fact that the majority of people were almost certainly in the same boat as me, (albeit a boat that I felt was sinking faster and deeper than the Titanic) which meant I wasn’t alone. The 2nd was the reason I had signed up for the course in the first place: to find better ways of connecting with an audience and getting my message across.
We are a few weeks in now and I’m getting used to the adrenaline and cortisol that seems to be free-flowing through my body like Niagara Falls in summer whenever the though of home-work or the next class pops into my head.
In freediving (or any activity to be honest) once we have the technique sorted it is then about getting out of your own head to let your body get on with what it is supposed to do: Flow State or Getting in the Zone if you like.
There have been a few fleeting moments when I’ve managed to peak out from behind my fear-plated armour and get into this state during the course, which has yielded some lovely surprises and is yet another opportunity for me to practise a skill that will help in all walks of life.
But more than this, it has helped me in the most unforeseen and startling way. For doing this course has re-shaped my comfort zone beyond all recognition, bringing into its expanded amplitude the ability for me to acknowledge and work therapeutically on issues that until now had remained buried and festering my entire life.
The traumas which had lead to life long damaging belief patterns and thought processes, all slid into place and completed the jigsaw puzzle of my mental health with calm, yet jaw dropping clarity revealing why I am the way I am.
I’ve let tears flow freely in anger, sorrow, acceptance and in relief. I’ve discovered more strength and compassion than I dared hope for. I’ve discovered my choices.
A quote from Portia Nelson – There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery describes it perfectly:
“I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost… I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I am in the same place. But, it isn’t my fault. It still takes me a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in. It’s a habit. My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.
I walk down another street.”
I’m still walking down that same street and will no doubt fall arse over tit into the same hole many times more, but I can see it now and I also know there is a street nearby that doesn’t have a hole in the sidewalk.
Here’s to challenging yourself for positive growth and the unexpected and incredible gifts it can give you. However I should add that I’d be happy to wait a couple more years before feeling the urge to reshape my comfort zone in quite such a dramatic fashion again!
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