I did not realise what I was going through three years ago and nobody, not even my trusted holistic therapist would spell it out for me, being more concerned to keep me safe from myself. It was a year or so later when someone (I can’t even remember who), probably my brave sister, referred to what had happened as a mental breakdown. This was followed by a physical immune system breakdown which is a textbook physical response, as I was to discover in a research essay within my Performance Science Masters I was doing at the time. Whether I felt embarrassed or simply could not identify with the term ‘mental breakdown’, I preferred and felt ‘mental crash’ described more appropriately what had happened to me.
In the course of my writing Organise-Prioritise-Commit; The Definitive Method for Performance, to which I am currently deep in yet another re-write and re-edit, I wanted to explore the generic difference between Attention and Focus. For those interested, hugely subtle which has supported how I had wanted to differentiate the two within the practical engagement of OPC. With attention and focus being connected to concentration as topics on the internet and the problems which can impair their functioning capability, I found myself reading about ‘High Functioning Anxiety’. I am currently promoting the importance of identification and labels to increase understanding and efficiency in the context of practice and performance. But reading the descriptive of ‘High Functioning Anxiety’, quite honestly I’m not sure I wanted to give what I clearly have, a name. While there were some descriptions, like alcohol dependency or eager to please (which I’m happy to say was certainly one of mine, but not anymore) which at least I could dismiss, but there were some additional traits which were not mentioned, importance of realising my potential in the service of others) and eating or perhaps I should say, lack of eating being just two!
Actually it is fair to say that I felt quite shaken by what I read. The accuracy of the descriptive being a recognised form of anxiety and identifying with its effects on me and the way I function; that there was a name for what I had just embraced as me! It even exposes the positives, my industrious working habits, my ‘over analytical thinking’, my compulsive desire for order, a certain tidiness agendas and lists. Annoyingly it even goes on to describe how many HFA bods like me can be very unwilling to deal responsibly and take some deliberate action, for fear of losing the advantages which it so clearly gives us. Yup – that’s me! It’s perhaps like having a deformity, but one which has afforded me the capability an analytical awareness which I believe within performance and with a performer’s perspective, goes to a depth rarely exposed in an open, honest and constructive way. High Functioning Anxiety does not afford me rights or privileges, but it does give me an understanding of what I’m actually dealing with. Labels give an identity and clarity to know what we are dealing with and how best to manage and work with our vulnerabilities which can be illusive and remain hidden within the very fabric of our character traits. Exposure takes courage, commitment and indeed motivation to be a healthier version of ourselves from which our life goals, ambitions and indeed relationships both with ourselves and others, can only benefit. Identification is not the cure when working with the multi-forms of anxiety associated to performance, but it is a solid starting point. Whether on stage, audition, interview, sales pitch or even written exam, knowledge and understanding will propagate a healthy, honest and balanced attitude creating an environment in which to accomplish excellence in performance as well as life itself.