Public speaking has consistently ranked as a top fear, for the majority of individuals. I am not personally intimidated by public speaking, as long as I feel fully prepared to discuss any given topic. However, this was not always the case.
I used to be painfully shy and withdrawn. In sixth grade, I begged my mother to stay home from school, the day that I was required to deliver a 3-minute book report. Thankfully, she made me go to school that same day.
Fast forward to my initial experience with teaching Abnormal Psychology, when I was living in Illinois. I anxiously faced 76 less-than-enthusiastic students, all congregated for a Thursday evening, 3-hour class. Initially, I felt very nervous. I wondered why, after all, I had thought that this could possibly be a good idea. A short amount of time later, I felt like I was hitting my stride. I was born to do this very thing, I thought!
Enter the periodic disruption of chronic illness, and nothing remains the same. Occasionally, MS affects my speech patterns. I find myself slurring my words. When this happens, I start to feel self-conscious. Exhibiting slurred speech during public speaking takes this to an entirely new level.
Will my students notice what just happened? How will they interpret what they have just heard? Of course, I choose not to offer an explanation for my slurred words.
I just try my best to simply move on, and to keep speaking naturally. Notice that I said that I try to do this. It’s not always easy to do so. This very thing happened tonight, when I was delivering my first lecture of the semester.
I tried to reassure myself that I was probably much more aware of my temporary speech difficulties, compared to my students. I also try not to start worrying about whether this will happen again.