Anxiety & Fear

Unfortunately for me, anxiety is something that I have dealt with my whole life. In grade school, I hardly ever talked, because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. I was always self-conscious of my appearance, and I constantly worried about how other people perceived me. These things are still true today, but to a lesser extent. I will gladly admit that I have benefited from taking anxiety medication, but the medication only works to a certain point. I don’t know if I will ever be free of the medication, and that’s fine, but I feel that it is time for me to take a stand and face my fears. I was always aware that my anxiety hindered me, but I never thought that it would eventually try to take away something that grounds me and makes me happy, which is playing the horn.

Some of you may be curious about the picture that I use as the logo for the blog. I basically stumbled upon it, but I thought that it adequately summed up my dilemma. One of my biggest fears since childhood, aside form people, has been snakes. I hate them, even the non-poisonous ones. Now, I don’t mind looking at them if they are in a contained area, but I’m gone if you take that thing out. The irony of this situation is that my horn has now become the snake. For a couple of years, I didn’t want to touch it, was afraid to touch it, and became depressed just by the thought of practicing. The stigma is not so bad right now, because I’ve been practicing a lot and have worked very hard to regain my abilities as a player. Yet, I still get nervous even thinking about playing something in front of someone. For a while, I didn’t even want to let my wife hear me practice, because I was just so embarrassed. I thought that my playing was bad and truly believed it, so I let that thought become a reality.

I love playing the horn. Practicing actually helps me to relieve stress and just makes me feel better, because I am doing something that I enjoy. It’s not just a career, but my passion. I never thought I would be afraid to play the horn, but everything happens for a reason. As I stated above, I’ve always experienced issues with anxiety. Along the way, I learned how to deal with it during performance, but I could never really make it disappear. Because of the lingering anxiety issues, I never felt like I truly performed at my best on a consistent basis. My recitals were definitely good, but there were always a couple of pieces that could have gone a little better, or there were notes that I just shouldn’t have cracked.

I want to find techniques that will not just help me deal with the anxiety, but help me to control it. Using the “cobra horn” picture is a way to put things into perspective. A few articles that I have read about performance anxiety state that using a picture as a trigger can help one to refocus if anxious thoughts begin to stir. For me, that picture reminds me that this is just a mind game that I am playing with myself. My mind is turning my horn and the audience into my enemies, when in reality, the audience wants me to succeed just as much as I do.

My horn has always served as my solace, and I am definitely getting back to that point/state. I currently feel comfortable practicing again, but I’m still struggling with playing in front of people. For a time, I wouldn’t even play in front of my students, but now, I’m beginning to feel a lot more comfortable with that as well. The plan is to take baby steps. I will attempt to perform in front of people a lot and do so in various settings. This means performing in big and small ensembles, and I plan on trying to perform some short solo pieces along the way as well. The goal is to work my way towards performing a 30-40 minute solo recital in May or June. I just have to remember to be positive and to not fret over mistakes or failures. Nothing truly worth doing has ever been easy, and I’ve already experienced some humiliating failures over the last few years, so it can’t get much worse…..right?