Return to Stage. A long relationship with performance anxiety and how to leave it behind.

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Last night, I had an incredible experience performing stage hypnosis and stand-up comedy at the RNA club. Sharing the stage with me were two other hilarious comedians, a mind-blowing magician, and a talented stage hypnotist.

If you had told me six months ago that I would be doing this, I wouldn’t have believed it. Just eleven months ago, I was still teaching part-time at a secondary school, and seven years before that, I was a full-time teacher. I never thought I would do stand-up comedy again, and I had never even seen a stage hypnosis show. It just wasn’t my thing.

Teaching is a wonderful profession, and many people find it to be their calling. However, it wasn’t my true passion. I scuttled into teaching as a way to escape my performance anxiety, difficult relationships, and financial struggles. I didn’t want to spend the next two decades living in unstable house shares, compromising my health and sanity. By the time I was 23, my lifestyle, chronic stress, and years of smoking; I’d been smoking nearly as long as I’d been walking, I developed a stomach ulcer, relied on omiprazole, and struggled with sleep.

At 27, I looked at the comedy circuit and concluded that I wouldn’t make it. The lifestyle can be brutal, and I wanted to prioritize my health, have a stable and loving relationship, and achieve financial stability. Although having children wasn’t part of my plan at that time, I still wanted a place to call home.

So, I made a three-year plan that led me to secondary school teaching. Initially, I intended to become a supply teacher to support myself financially as a writer. I couldn’t bare the thought of not writing. Writing is my air. However, circumstances changed, and I got caught up in teaching for various reasons. I believed at various points that my life skills and talents would be valuable in the classroom and at times I even felt excited and considered climbing up the teaching ladder, especially since teaching can be very creative. But this article isn’t about teaching; I’ll save that for another time.

This post is about how easily we can lose our way when our confidence wavers and our voices become consumed with doubts. That’s exactly what happened to me. I stopped believing that I would achieve financial success soon or sufficient enough to overcome all the other challenges. And let me tell you, as a woman doing stand-up comedy two decades ago, there were serious challenges. Just as my performances were getting stronger and I was finding my comedic voice, I experienced an emotional trauma that I still can’t fully discuss. But that’s not the focus here. Most of us go through traumas that leave scars but also have the potential to empower us if we work through the pain and find resolution.

There are still things I can’t talk about, and that’s okay. In hypnosis, nobody has to discuss anything they don’t want to, and healing can still occur without revisiting past traumas. Many hypnotherapists, including myself, avoid delving into traumatic events during sessions, there are ways of healing from them without reliving them. However, as someone who finds healing in sharing and humour, the fact that there are still things I can’t laugh about makes me realize that I haven’t fully reached where I want to be. One day I hope to laugh about the most painful and regrettable things in my life and invite others do laugh and heal with me.

For now, though, I understand that trauma transformed into performance anxiety, which then led to panic and a loss of confidence. This ultimately made me quit something I believed I was meant to do in my life. But it has also allowed me to tap into my past experiences as a performer and unlock an incredible ability to help others struggling with performance anxiety and a lack of confidence.

So, when I stepped onto the stage last Friday, after undergoing a profound hypnosis session with the legendary Freddy Jacquin, who is not only a mentor but also a friend, I knew I was in an extraordinary and privileged position. I have the potential to not only give myself a second chance to fulfill some of my artistic dreams and ambitions that i left behind a long time ago, but also to reach out and help others who face crippling doubts and a lack of confidence in their performances, despite their undeniable talent and knowing deep down what they are meant to do.

Just last week, I received a call from a West End singer who was on the verge of quitting due to performance anxiety. It seemed so timely, just when I am tentatively returning to the stage, they are seriously considering quitting. I have just started working with them, but I’m confident that with the skills they will learn in hypnosis and the healing they will experience, they won’t quit. Instead, they will grow in confidence, and I can’t wait to see them perform on stage and blow my mind with what can be achieved with confidence and hypnosis.