I finally mustered up the courage, and now my advisor knows
I have returned from vacation. VACATION! I appreciated every moment of it, and I feel re-energized for the weeks ahead at school/lab. Part of my vacation was spent volunteering at a week-long summer camp that includes kids with the disease we study in our lab. I have been going to this camp for 6 years, and it is so special every time. And as a plus, camp is a very social anxiety-free type of place!
Right before I left for vacation, I forced myself to talk to my advisor about my out-of-control public speaking anxiety. I was supposed to give a talk at a seminar in two weeks, but I had made up my mind a while back that there was no way I was going to give that talk. Either I would convince my advisor to excuse me from the talk or, if that failed, I would mysteriously come down with a horrific stomach bug on that day.
When I first asked my advisor if I could be excused from giving the talk, I offered no reason, and she said absolutely not. She can be pretty stubborn. She said I needed to face my fears and maybe see a counselor about the anxiety. Then, I started crying, which is something I have never done in front of anyone at school before. I told her that I had seen a counselor and a psychiatrist, and from there, the whole story kind of came out.
She was immediately more sympathetic once she saw the tears and appreciated the degree of anxiety I have been having, and she excused me from doing the talk. I am pretty sure this is what a cognitive behavioral therapist would call an avoidance behavior, but I don’t even care. The relief is too great.
I have not really encountered anyone else in the science world with social anxiety, although I am certain they exist somewhere. I did, however, stumble across an article from 2010 about a post doc with severe speaking anxiety.
It resonates in every way with my experiences so far, and it is somewhat comforting to know there are others in science who have been able to address their social and presentation anxiety.
The author of this story is a postdoctoral associate in the biomedical sciences where she engages in clinical research using magnetic resonance imaging. She enjoys biking, reading, and warm weather. This story was published on July 6, 2017, on the author’s blog, Science and Social Anxiety (available here), and has been republished here with her permission.