8 June 2015

What doesn't kill you

Last Wednesday, an opportunity came my way that was both amazing and incredibly stress-inducing: well-known consultant psychiatrist Dr Raj Persaud emailed to request an interview about my experiences of OCD and my debut novel, The A to Z of Normal.

Dr Persaud, who is also a broadcaster and author, explained that the interview would be made available on various sites, including the 'Discover Psychiatry' page of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

So, a fabulous opportunity to raise both my profile and awareness of OCD? Indeed. Also, however, a fabulous way to ramp up my anxiety and exacerbate my compulsions!

Although I don't suffer from social anxiety, I hate speaking in public; in fact, a gathering of three strangers is sufficient to make me nervous. While this was to be a one-to-one interview, and not broadcast live, there was a potential worldwide audience, which is about as public as it gets.

I was fearful of drying up, of saying the wrong thing, in short, of coming across as an absolute lemon. As I re-read the email, though, a tiny rational voice kept whispering 'But you'll be talking about you and your book, and you know about those better than anyone. There won't be any right or wrong answers.' 

In spite of my fears, clearly I couldn't say no, and, after a short email exchange, I called Dr Persaud to agree details. 'When would you like to do it?' I asked. 'Could you make 8pm on Friday?' he said.

Now, spontaneity is not my strong suit - I don't readily agree to short notice events or last-minute changes of plan. It's all part and parcel of my OCD: I need sufficient time to weigh everything up and be certain that I'm taking the right course of action.

However, I didn't have the luxury of time, so hastily agreed, while mentally rearranging all my other plans for Friday, so that I could prepare for the questions he planned to ask.

Image courtesy of sippakorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Our initial interaction triggered a combination of excitement and stress that made me feel as if I had completely lost control. As soon as I got off the phone, I knowingly caved in to my ordering compulsions, in a bid to reduce my anxiety - and then couldn't stop, in spite of the fact that my dinner was burning to a crisp in the oven.

The stress escalated over the next two days. The interview was to be conducted via Google Hangouts, but my ancient PC has no volume - nor did I have a headset or microphone - so I had to go to my boyfriend's...who lives a 45-minute drive away. What if there were traffic problems? And what if, even then, the IT didn't work?

The following day, the interview was pushed back to 9pm. On the day itself, however, Dr Persaud had an emergency, which meant delaying it to 10pm. I'm not good at waiting, either - again, it's all about loss of control - and by the time it got to 9.55pm, I was in a state of semi-collapse.

Somehow, though, everything came together and not only did I get through the interview, I even enjoyed it. Afterwards, Dr Persaud said 'I knew my email would stress you, but it's good that you've done it.'

And he's right: it was a great experience. It has given me such confidence, in fact, that I'm now actively seeking other speaking opportunities, and that's something I never thought I'd say!

* * * 

This interview will be available on the Royal College of Psychiatrists' website in the next few weeks. In the meantime, you can listen to it on YouTube or download it here via the free iTunes and GooglePlay app 'Raj Persaud in Conversation' - links to both apps are at the bottom of that page.


Lindsay said...

Well done, Helen! At least you knew from GW that Raj is lovely! I'm listening to the interview right now and you sound perfectly calm and collected!

What a great bit of publicity for A-Z.

Helen Barbour said...

Thanks, Lindsay, I was delighted to be asked to do the interview. It's just a shame I hadn't had time to give much practice to my 'voice skills' as per your excellent training! I'll make sure I have by the time I need to do any actual readings.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Helen! I'm listening to your interview as I write this.......so exciting and you sound great!!

Helen Barbour said...

Thanks, ocdtalk! I'm glad I managed to keep the nerves at bay long enough to give me chance to relax into the experience.

Unknown said...

Well done! Congratulations!!!

Helen Barbour said...

Thanks, Karin!