I thought I was going to die.
The panic attack had well and truly set in. I was backstage at my first audition, getting ready to perform in front of a theatre full of casting directors. I hadn’t had any formal acting training at that time, I had picked a monologue that was outside my cast-type, and I was certain I would forget all of my lines. I was sure I would end up becoming an acting horror story: my audition would be filmed and go viral online for being absolutely ridiculous. The whole world would somehow find out how stupid I was at my audition that day - I could see the headlines "Alison, the BIGG idiot!"
I heard my name called out through the curtains, and my body somehow managed to move itself towards the stage. My heart was beating hard and fast into my tonsils. I couldn't breathe. In a fraction of a second my mind went through all the motions: "Get out of here dude. Run. You're going to forget all your lines. You're going to fall on your face. People will take one look at you and laugh because you look nothing like Megan Fox. You are not as talented as Cate Blanchett and you are NOWHERE near as interesting as Tilda Swinton. Run. Dude, seriously, there is still time! Stop!"
What I did next changed my whole attitude towards preparing for a performance...
I just stopped.
I took a brief moment of time, and made it my own.
But instead of running away, I quickly tried a confidence and perspective practice that I had been working on. I knew that I was having a panic attack, I have had them before and recognised that even though I felt like I was going to die: I wouldn't. I just had to control my breathing, and centre myself into my body within that moment.
"Do the audition first," I thought to myself "then have the panic attack afterwards. You can drive yourself straight to the hospital when you're finished if you have to, but just get this audition done first or else you will always regret it."
So I breathed in. I breathed out. I placed my hands on my hips.
I practiced perspective and reminded myself that in the grand scheme of the universe, no one but me really cared about how I performed that day:
- the casting directors wanted me to be the right fit for the role so they could finish their jobs and go home,
- the woman at the front desk wasn't judging my appearance earlier, she was too busy texting a romantic interest and not thinking about anyone else,
- I hadn't told any of my friends or family I was auditioning (just in case I failed miserably) so no one would ask me how it went - there was no pressure for me to magically return home as the impressive leading lady of a new Spielberg film
- this audition would be great practice for me to improve if acting was really what I wanted to do
All of this perspective rushed into my mind in that moment I had stolen for myself. My breathing technique had calmed my heart rate down. I had to trust myself: I had practiced enough to know that my lines would come to me when I needed them, and I knew that I was going to do the best I could when I got on stage. I could be confident that my mind and body would work for me on stage, not against me.
Oh shit, better hurry.
I took one more deep breathe, and confidently stepped forward through the curtains.
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