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Oral expression and anxiety

Discussion in 'General Autism Discussion' started by Alteah, Jan 5, 2020.

  1. Alteah

    Alteah New Member

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    Hello everyone. I hope I'm not in the wrong section.
    This is kind of a rant because I can't really talk about this with anyone in my life currently. I tend to overshare, I'm sorry.

    I have an oral exam next Wednesday and I'm feeling terrible about it. I've always had huge difficulties with expressing myself orally in situations I don't feel confortable in. Since I have never had a job, those situations mostly happen in school (now university). I don't know if it's the same everywhere, but in the French system, especially in literature or in language classes, there is quite a lot of emphasis on oral expression and there are often oral exams. I've always hated them, always felt sick several days before them and exhausted for several days after, but I've always endured it, never sought to be exempted from them, since I honestly thought it was more or less the same for everyone. (For context, I think I'm very likely autistic but I have never been diagnosed with autism or anything else for that matter)
    Now I honestly barely feel like I can talk about it with anyone. Sometimes I get compassion and compassion is nice but at this point, I want the pain to stop. In December, I had another oral exam and I was so sick, I could barely think straight. Now there are external circonstances that made this particular oral exam (and the few days before) especially difficult. The last months of 2019 (Happy new year to everyone, by the way) were some of the worst of my life and I wasn't as prepared for my exams this time as I usually was and I could only sleep extremely late. Overall I was exhausted and on the verge of a mental breakdown. I was also on my periods, which made the physical pain worse. My "symptoms"on the day of the exam and the one before were: intense pain, especially in the stomach, difficulty breathing, diarrhea (I had to go to the bathroom approximately thirteen times in just a few hours), dizziness, inability to eat or drink, insomnia, uncontrolled crying, suicidal thoughts and something that had never happened to me before: the urge to repeat the same sentences in my head and things I had read mixing up in some kind of echo. I was not really able to communicate (through texting) with anyone at all during that period. I would move on from random thought to random thought incoherently.
    You can probably understand why I'm so distressed at the idea of having to relive that in a few days. I have an appointment with a psychiatrist by the end of month to talk about this issue. At this point, I do in fact want to be exempted from taking oral exams in the conventional setting. I just can't do it anymore. If I can't get exempted, I don't know what I will do. When I talked about this with my mom, she told me it looked like I was getting weaker, which I know is not true but still hurt, and do reflect the point of view of most people pretty well I believe. It also makes me worry about the future and how to get and hold a job.

    For the time being, I think I will send my teacher a message to explain my situation and we will see.
    I wish we lived in a society that was willing to listen to people's pain and would be willing to accommodate to make things easier for everyone instead of holding everyone to the same arbitrary standards. The sad thing is I can't shake the feeling than I am "giving up" and "exaggerating". But, reasonably, I can't ignore how detrimental this all is to my health. I just hope I won't get punished too much for not being able to hold myself to these standards anymore.
     
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  2. GadAbout

    GadAbout Well-Known Member

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    There are at least two ways that autistic people, and everyone, can suffer from distress over oral presentations.

    First, a phobia of public speaking. This is a subtype of social phobia, and it can be utterly disabling.

    But second, autistic people may have difficulty in the oral expression domain, not related to anxiety per se. Speech and language difficulties are one of the core "red flags" that lead to a diagnosis of autism. Many autistics can express themselves quite well in writing while unable to put complex thoughts together in speech.

    Treatment can help with either of the above causes, but it's not going to be overnight.

    I feel for the OP's difficulty with these oral exams. With professional support (e.g., psychiatrists and/or psychologists) it may be possible to get an accommodation for this problem. This is especially true if public speaking is not going to be a necessary activity in the career or profession being trained for.

    But even with accommodations, getting treatment for the above two contributors to the problem is worth doing. Who wouldn't want to have additional strengths that they don't currently have?
     
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  3. GadAbout

    GadAbout Well-Known Member

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    Oh and by the way, welcome!
     
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  4. Aspychata

    Aspychata My Art Work

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    My friend had endometriosis and how you described what you felt reminded of that. She was in a lot of pain, and it affected her on many different levels.

    Think one way to tackle this is to over-prepare. If needed, can you hire a tutor a week before going in for exam? This might help with your confidence. I find working on confidence will help ease the anxiety of Exams. Yes, l suffered exam anxiety myself, l think we are incredibly insecure and this manifests and presents in testing situtations. But l can say it becomes less stressful with age because you become more accepting of your not so great traits.
     
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  5. Pats

    Pats Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    You know, I don't think I've ever had an oral exam - at least that counted toward a grade. I would be having the same symptom as you've described. As it is, I hated discussion in the classroom. My brain just would not work correctly in these situations, which always made me feel like the dumbest person in the class. I couldn't figure out why my classmates could rattle off the information so easily. But they posted grades on the bulletin board (which I hated because everyone else had a tendency to compare scores and look up how this person or that person did). But I got mostly A's with an occasional B, while others were not, but verbally they seemed to know more. Kind of the same thing while working in the hospital, other nurses would verbally rattle stuff off and I still couldn't, but I was quicker to pick up one things going on with patients - and, no bragging, but my patients were really in better hands than those of some of my co-workers who was able to rattle off information more easily.
     
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  6. Kalinychta

    Kalinychta Well-Known Member

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    “I've always had huge difficulties with expressing myself orally in situations I don't feel comfortable in.” - what sort of difficulties, specifically? You wrote about the tremendous anxiety and distress oral exams cause you, but you didn’t describe what, exactly, the problem is that leads to the anxiety/distress.
     
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  7. Alteah

    Alteah New Member

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    Thanks everyone for your responses. I really appreciate it.

    @GadAbout for me I feel it's a mixture of both. Speaking in itself is difficult because there are so much things to take into account and from that (and some external factors) I have developed a phobia of public speaking. I do want professional support. I regret not getting it sooner very deeply.
    I'm currently seeing a psychologist but I don't think he can really help me. When I went the first time, I mentioned I thought I was autistic and he basically laughed at me. Then didn't understand why I started crying... it's not going very far. I will probably stop seeing him soon, I keep going because it allows me to talk about my problems a bit, even though I have to mask to do so (Well, I also don't know how to say that I don't want to continue). I have an appointment with a psychiatrist by the end of the month though and I hope it will go better.
    As to overcoming the phobia, I would certainly love to, as it obviously limits my options quite a lot. I know it will be very difficult but I don't want to give up. However, for now, I think it is too much and some kind of accommodation is necessary for my mental health.

    @Aspychata Endometriosis sounds awful. I hope your friend was able to get treatment quickly, as I know many people have to suffer a long time before receiving help.
    You are totally right that it can help to over-prepare. I have found that is it indeed the only thing that helps somewhat. It's not always easy for me to do so sadly. Well last month was a special case because most of my issues were outside my control and I had things more urgent to worry about that my studies. I am very insecure that's true but I have improved on that quite a lot with time and introspection, but the phobia remains sadly.

    @Pats I understand what you're saying about not being able to show the full extent of your knowledge orally. Generally unless I'm completely sure about something I want to say in class (and it is short enough. I don't want to speak for too long because, as you said my brain doesn't work correctly in these situations), I will not say it. If it's a subject I feel confortable with, generally I can talk quite a lot (I'm not sure I can do it well though), easily too much actually!
    Public grade-sharing is pretty awful. Thankfully, it has not happened too often in my life as a student, I can think of two teachers who did that. Both in subjects I was pretty mediocre at (I didn't try at all, I have to admit). They would basically give back the papers from the lowest to the highest grade (from 0 to 20 in the French system), tell each grade aloud and give some kind of commentary, often mockery for the lowest grades. I don't know what that was supposed to accomplish, it certainly didn't motivate me to put in more efforts, quite the contrary.

    @Kalinychta To be honest I'm not sure I know. I think I don't control my intonations or body language well enough to be an effective speaker. For example, it has happened a lot that I would try to say a joke, but because my intonation was wrong, it didn't land well. I also struggle with eye contact. For these current oral exams, since my degree is in English, there is the added difficulty of speaking a foreign language. I have to think about my grammar, my pronunciation, my vocabulary, on top of doing the task, and thinking about my body language. I think it's the mixture of everything that makes it overwhelming.
    I don't know if I was clear enough. I think it's a phobia at this point. The technical difficulties are a part of a more complex problem. I have been humiliated by teachers when speaking in front of the class as a child, I think it has contributed to my irrational fear of public speaking. Also, when I was 7, I gained a lot of weight because of some medication and I could feel how the way people perceived me changed for the worse. The way I interpreted this as a child was "you are worthless now because you are fat and ugly. Everything you say and do can be used to humiliate you because you are fat, so be careful, be discreet, don't give people any reason to hurt you". I used to blame all of my social problems on my appearance. I thought people despised me because of it. Now, I realize it was not because of my weight (though it did play a part, people became nicer to me again when I lost weight) but because I was socially awkward, anxious and autistic and so they found me weird and disagreeable. Now I feel uncomfortable writing "I'm autistic" because I feel like a fraud saying it. But that's what I think.
    What is important is that back then I would feel permanently on edge and in danger among other people, especially in school. For most of my life, I have been in classes of almost forty students so it was overwhelming on the sensory level as well. Lots of noises, smells, the feeling of many people around you, not that much place to move about and get confortable...Rooms full of people have a particular feel, don't you agree? Towards the end of high-school I was in a class of sixteen people and it was so much more bearable. Now I don't feel so on edge anymore. I don't feel like people want to hurt me but I still panic at the thought of oral exams and public speaking in general.
     
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  8. Misery

    Misery Photo-Negative V.I.P Member

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    Things like this are so freaking stupid... yet another failure of the education system in a general sense. All this crap does is make students paranoid and nervous. It doesnt assist in learning, it doesnt assist in self-improvement.... it only creates stress and problems. But the useless morons that run things are too filled with derpage to spot this. Braindead dimwits...

    I think I've summed up my opinion on this crap pretty well there. We dont have the same emphasis on this crap in the US, but we still have our fair share of "stand in front of the class and look like an idiot" crap. Usually just referred to as "speeches". Often they're about presenting some damn project, as if the other students care even remotely (hint: they never do).

    Back when I was in school, I always DREADED the days when this would happen. We'd always know a good week in advance, since whatever damn stupid thing we needed to present would take awhile to put together. Whenever my turn to finally do it came, I always did it as fast as possible, and if people couldnt get what I was saying because of it, well... bloody tough. Didnt care. Did it, got it out of the way, done. Later on in my school years I would start refusing to do certain things (like gym class entirely), but for most of my school years I had to put up with it. The absolute worst though... the ABSOLUTE WORST... was having to do it on an allergy day.

    But you know what? Other than the allergy day ones, the whole process never actually HURT me. Rather, it was my own mental state that was doing the damage. I'd always come out of the actual presentation unscathed. And that's the important part: realizing that the exam wont hurt you, but your own out of control mental state can. Sit down, and examine the situation from a point of view of pure, unemotional logic. Does the exam present a physical danger? Are they going to sic a pack of jackals on you? Probably not, that's not part of the process. So where is the physical damage? There isnt any. Does the process involve you having to stand in some sort of toxic virus cloud while speaking? No, that's not part of the process, so you dont need to fear disease either. Does it even take all that long? It's not like you have to be up there, straining and using energy for 7 straight hours, so that is not a threat either. Logically then, the threat doesnt come from the exam at all.

    Sit down, and tell yourself this, every time the anxiety comes. EVERY TIME. Tell yourself over and over. Talk also to someone who is wise about this stuff, when you start to feel overwhelmed. Listen to their advice, and their explanations on how not-actually-bad it is. These things are what I do in order to calm my own berserk anxiety when it appears. It allows me to approach said situation with logic and knowledge instead of emotional chaos. I tell ya.... it makes a BIG difference. But you have to KEEP DOING IT. It wont instantly work. It's worth it though, to learn anxiety-control methods like this, and it sounds like that's exactly what you need.


    Seriously. The exam isnt a danger, it isnt a threat, it cannot hurt you. Only your own mind can do damage in this situation. Take that understanding and really internalize it, and you'd be surprised at the difference it might make for you.
     
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  9. Kalinychta

    Kalinychta Well-Known Member

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    I think the real purpose of K-12 school is to teach kids to obey authority and to conform and fit in with their peers. And university is about proving how productive (profitable) you will be to whichever multi-billion-dollar corporation hires you after graduation. How well do you jump through hoops, and how enthusiastic are you when you do it?
     
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  10. Judge

    Judge Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    Stands to reason, and on many levels of many societies.

    I once has a college professor who postulated that a perceived need for society to impress conformity on everyone was so great that it involved "sculpting" the public's sense of reality. In essence he thought that the voices schizophrenics may actually be heard, but that the masses are conditioned to channel them out.

    Oddly enough much later I learned from some involved in paranormal research lamenting that society also tries to condition and program children growing up to lose their innate ability to see and communicate with the dead. Put them into the same category as Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, and voila!

    All kinds of "programming" happening at the societal level. And not exclusively with rigid authoritarian systems.
     
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  11. Misery

    Misery Photo-Negative V.I.P Member

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    Aye, I'd absolutely agree with this. Particularly that second part.

    I ran into an example of this recently, that has stuck in my mind since, due to how bloody stupid it was. I dont know how many of you have heard of AVGN, or the Angry Video Game Nerd. James Rolfe created the character, and makes all sorts of videos and such. They are very high quality things, and his talent improves with each one. It aint the only type of production he does, either. Really great guy, too.

    Well, recently, I found a video that was complaining (whining) about the most recent episode. Why? Because there was a sponsored ad in it. Truly HORRIBLE, right? *sigh* It was quite the whine fest.

    Well, in the comments of the video, one guy accused the video maker of jealousy, with that being the reason he was so angry. AKA, James gets to make these videos and have a popular channel, and that's why he's even offered the opportunity to have sponsored videos and all.... and this whiny guy isnt.

    Well, Captain Whinesalot replied to this. Of course, he ranted about how WRONG the first commenter was. His reasoning? That James... the AVGN... didnt have a REAL job. All he did was play around. All that production, all that effort, everything... it's not REAL work. No Youtuber does REAL work. They're all terrible for it, and the ads just prove it! They could never hold REAL jobs.

    Now think about that: The sorts of videos that make up the AVGN series take a rather silly amount of time to create. That's many entire days of work just to prepare even one video... and that's BEFORE things like editing. That's also NOT counting aspects like administration and such... big Youtubers do not work alone, and there is more to running a channel than just farting out videos. That is ALOT of work.... but not to the whiney guy. To him, that's just playtime, not work at all, yet standing in front of a Walmart saying "welcome to walmart" over and over again like a scarecrow with a broken record player shoved up it's butt really IS a real job.

    He quickly proved that he was thinking that way. Here came the kicker, and the reason why this stuck with me. His final comment was something like: "No Youtuber would ever be able to put that on a resume. No corporation would EVER hire them based on that! They'd have no history, no references!"

    That right there. "No corporation". Like way, WAY too many others, this guy had effectively been indoctrinated to believe that the only job is one that benefits a corporation. That if you arent working for a small amount of money doing something soul-crushing so that some wealthy fatcat can get ALOT of money while sitting on his yacht, you arent worth anything. Through his self-righteous rant, he'd only managed to prove his inability to think for himself.

    And I suspect that this situation is one that many of us are VERY familiar with. I know I've run into it. The game-dev work I did wasnt REAL work, they shouldnt have even paid me, because I didnt work for a COMPANY. And the fact that I dont have a job to begin with (the dev work was a contract) is another matter. That I do things like spend lots of time online trying to help people, or visiting relatives to improve their day, or caring for my wonderful dog and making him happy... those dont matter, regardless of effort involved (usually ALOT of driving). A corporation doesnt profit from that stuff! Therefore, I am worthless. Clearly this is true logic. I'm not sure how I can make that sound even more sarcastic in writing.

    And the education system absolutely is part of what creates this. Everything is angled towards it, and it's one of the reasons why I rail against it so much. It's also probably one of the big reasons why I was such a terrible student... because that psychological manipulation simply doesnt work on me. Like trying to install Windows-only malware on a Mac, it just does... nothing. So I didnt align, and never went anywhere as a student. I tell ya... I'm fine with that. Always have been. That stupid diploma doesnt mean squat to me.

    Oh yes... this stuff. I could do a whole seperate 5-page rant about this stuff.

    If I have a bizarre experience... do I just chalk it up to my own mental weirdness? Ye gods, no! I have no evidence that points in that direction. Yet I have no evidence in the OTHER direction, that it might be something "paranormal". It would be incredibly illogical for me to point in one direction or the other without REALLY researching, in a totally non-biased way, the situation that had happened, like an investigator examining a crime scene. Yet even so, I would keep the POTENTIAL ramifications of the situation in mind.... just in case. And indeed, I've had more than a few.... odd occurrences. I'll not go into detail here.

    Most people though, they immediately leap in one direction or the other. Even the... ahem... "scientific" sorts. That they have no evidence in either direction matters not. That they outright dismiss it INSTEAD of truly investigating the situation doesnt even factor to them. Often, I wonder if any of them ever realize how *illogical* they are being.

    But hey, that's just me. What do I know? I dont belong to a corporation after all, I must be a damn fool.

    Ridiculous. Just ridiculous. If I facepalmed hard enough to do this all justice... I could knock down a whole city with the shockwave alone.

    There, I'm done ranting, you may all return to your homes now, the crisis is averted, there's nothing more to see.
     
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  12. LucyPurrs

    LucyPurrs NT, INFJ V.I.P Member

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    Damn Misery, your powers of description are soooo good!
     
  13. tducey

    tducey Well-Known Member

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    Giving presentations has never been much of an issue for me. I've always been called well spoken.
     
  14. GadAbout

    GadAbout Well-Known Member

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    Here's how to stop seeing a particular therapist:

    1. Call the office and cancel your next appointment. (With enough time to spare so you don't get charged.)

    2. If they ask "do you want to reschedule?" just say "not at this time."

    3. Never go back!

    When you see your psychiatrist you might ask for help finding a more compatible therapist than this psychologist. It's perfectly fine to tell the psychiatrist that the therapist laughed at you, or if you want to sidestep that issue, you just say "I don't feel like we're a good match." (i.e., I didn't like them or didn't get much out of seeing them)

    Good luck. I admire you for identifying issues you want help with and seeking it out.
     
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  15. Alteah

    Alteah New Member

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    Hello everyone! Just a quick update now that the exam has passed.
    So I went and I think I did OK. Because I had been able to get some sleep (5h instead of 1h in December) and was generally less tired, thanks to the holidays, I wasn't as sick as last time. It was still bad mind you, but more bearable.
    Also I was lucky. We would either get a sonnet or an excerpt from King Lear to analyze. And I got King Lear, which is what I wanted. I was struggling to speak at the beginning but the professor was really understanding, he told me to take my time and that I could pause if I needed to, which also helped. Having explicit confirmation that the person in front of you isn't hostile is always a nice feeling.
    Now I will rest before the second semester begins.

    Thank you again for sharing your experiences and some advice :)