I’ve barely slept a wink all night because I am ridiculously over-stimulated but I wanted to share my experience with you because I think many of you will relate to how much doing something out of our comfort zone takes out of us.
Camera clubs meet weekly and do a variety of different events – competitions, workshops and they hire speakers to talk about aspects of photography and showcase their images. About 3 months ago I was asked by a Club in Scotland to be their guest speaker for the evening, a prospect I found terrifying but also exciting, so I agreed but with huge trepidation. It meant a 2 hour round car journey (a friend from my Club said he’d drive me, God love him), in the evening when I am physically and mentally at my worst (I usually go to bed around 4pm and stay there until the next morning) and I had to speak for about 1½ hours in front of a room full of 50 strangers many of whom were better photographers than me!
I’ve spent the last 3 months preparing, in the end putting together a slideshow of 86 photographs. I then spent 3 weeks practising my speech over and over and over, as it needed to go to time and I wasn’t using any notes (a huge deal considering I have a brain injury and my memory is shot!).
The thing I worry about most when I’ve agreed to do something which I can’t back out of is how my health will be on the day. I never know until I wake up in a morning how I’m going to feel and I frequently wake with a dislocation or a migraine so severe I literally can’t move. Due to the menopause, my health is particularly up and down at the moment and I have stressed for weeks about how I was going to feel on the day of The Talk. For days beforehand I didn’t dare to do anything, trying to conserve my energy and ward off serious injury.
I’ve actually had 4 or 5 relatively ‘good’ days recently, though I’ve barely slept, but I woke on Tuesday feeling poisoned, achy, my limbs were like concrete and I had zero energy. My period was due 12 days ago but, despite period pain, backache, exhaustion and migraines, it had not put in an appearance and I had a sneaking suspicion that Aunt Flo would arrive the day I was due in Scotland
Thank the Lord I woke Wednesday morning not only period-free but with slightly more energy than the day before, though I yet again hadn’t slept and by lunchtime was ready for a nap……which I didn’t dare have, because if I sleep at all in the day-time I wake poleaxed and feeling absolutely terrible. So I battled through the afternoon with my eyes burning and my head swimming with fatigue, dropped the dog off at my parents’ at 5.30pm and set off with two friends to Scotland.
I’d decided not to be nervous. I’d agreed to do this thing and having done so I was determined to simply relax and enjoy it and I managed that until the Chairman started to introduce me which is when the nerves kicked in, my hands started to shake and my heart flipped flopped around in my chest – not good for someone with dysautonomia who is prone to feeling faint! But I quickly settled in to my talk, which was supposed to last for 45 minutes before we broke for coffee. Only I must have missed some bits out because I finished after only 35 minutes, but because it had all gone by in a blur I couldn’t remember which bits I’d missed out!
I had to try and extend the second half of the talk to make up the time and thankfully little snippets that I’d missed in the first half came back to me and I was able to include them. I’m delighted to say that I must have done OK in the end, because people were literally queueing to speak to me afterwards to tell me how much they’d enjoyed the night and I was immediately booked to go back – not that I’ve agreed as yet!
Although exhausted on the journey home I was also high as a kite with adrenalin and having been so massively over-stimulated. I didn’t get home until gone 11pm and have literally had 2 hours sleep as my brain simply couldn’t switch off. I’ll be tired but fine today though my head is already starting to thump, but tomorrow I know I’ll feel like absolute shit and it might be Monday before I feel even half-way human again. But on this occasion it’s been worth the payback. I feel a ginormous sense of achievement and I know I subtly educated the audience on EDS, M.E. and invisible disabilities, not to mention the sexual abuse and harassment of women through my image which depicted the #metoo campaign – you could literally hear a pin drop in the room when I talked about my experience of being a 17 year old model and the things which happened to me.
I’ve worried about this talk for three months. Worried I would wake on the day too ill to go. Worried I would have a hot flush or faint during the presentation, or get totally muddled and not remember what I was saying. Worried I’d use the wrong words without realizing (which happens often!) and make a total fool of myself. I can’t tell you how relieved I am that it all went off OK and, more importantly, that the audience seemed to like it 🙂 I enjoyed it too, despite all the worry and work and inevitable payback, and it’s at times like these that I get hugely frustrated by my health and the limitations it places on my life because I’d love to do more of these kinds of events but know, if I’m totally honest with myself, that it’s simply all too much. But at least I have spent one night having my voice heard, for which I am hugely thankful.