My throat closed completely.
The words wouldn’t come but the tears certainly did.
My vision started closing down to a pinhole, like the view you get through a super slow camera shutter.
I looked around the room.
So many pairs of eyes were looking back at me. Wide eyed, confused looks, then, eventually whispers.
I was on the stage introducing a sporting legend at a professional development day in front of an audience and my brain just stopped.
I couldn’t read the words written right in front of me and the sound of my own heart beating was all I could hear – it felt like being underwater.
But I wasn’t.
Somehow, I pulled it together and finished my intro, with a shaky tearful voice and the corners of my mouth downturned, poised, for me to break into a full sob.
I quietly made my way off the stage and towards the back of the room, desperately seeking the solace of the ladies’ toilet.
This Had. Never. Happened
No to me and I felt like I was spinning out of control.
I had presented hundreds of times to bigger audiences and with much more pressure than I’d had that day.
The morning had gone normally, and I had been no more nervous stepping onto that stage then I had been any other time.
There was no logical reason for what had happened.
As I sat in the bathroom, sweating, crying and trying to get my shit together, it hit me. I had to present again to this group this afternoon. I couldn’t run away, and I had no idea how I was going to do it.
Life had given me the biggest red flag, stop sign, wake up call.
What if I could no longer physically do what I had prided myself on and what made up a whole help of my professional life?
I can remember being the spokesperson at speech night in Year 3, because I had the biggest voice and I was the best reader.
I was the bride that made a speech at her own wedding.
Public speaking was my super power !
I hid in the bathroom as long as possible and when I finally came out the session had braked for lunch.
As smoothly as I could I joined the line for food and pasted a smile on my face.
Inside my brain was screaming “they’re all looking at you, they all know how you just totally lost it, there all wondering what the hell happened”.
After lunch I was due to get back on that stage and thank the guest speaker and promote the company I worked for.
It wasn’t much better when I got back up, it fact, it was worse.
I left straight away when I finished, nearly running to my car – to where I could hide.
That was 2013 and I presented once more that week (lying that I had the flu with a tissue to my nose) and never ever again since.