Living With High Functioning Anxiety: Jordan Raskopoulos at TEDxSydney (Transcript)


Jordan Raskopoulos – Australian comedian

Wooh! Come on yes! Yes! Rock and roll! Come on Sidney, let’s make some noise!

(Audience cheering)

Awesome, yeah! All right, yes! Now, make some noise if you love TEDx!

(Audience cheering)

Make some noise if you hate public speaking.

(Audience cheering)

Make some noise if you suffer from stage fright!

(Audience cheering)

Make some noise if the idea of giving a talk in front of thousands of people is your nightmare!

(Audience cheering)

Yes, it’s not for me. No, I love this. I love this. This is my home. I know how this works, I know all the rules here. I know how this works, I can drop my voice a little bit, get more conversational, talk to someone in the front row, “Hey, how you doing? TEDx, am I right?” Yeah! Rock and roll!

And then when I look up, we all feel like we know each other a little bit better, yeah. I know that I can walk over here and say something silly, like “fart.” Fart! And you probably laugh… Maybe not, it’s a pretty conservative audience. It was a risk. I know that I can raise my voice to a crescendo and let silence hang for three seconds. And then speak quietly, purposefully and softly, and I have your full attention.

I do not get stage fright. So people find it really odd when I tell them that I have an anxiety disorder. How on earth could you have a problem with anxiety, Jordan, when you are so confident on stage? See, problem is I am only confident on stage. If you meet me afterwards or in the street, you will see me as a timid mumbling wreck who’s probably lost for words.

See the nuances of mental health are often lost on people. When people hear mentally ill, they think “crazy”. When people think depressed, they think “sad”. When people hear anxiety, they think “very, very scared all the time”. and for some people it is true, but not for me.

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No, I am very very scared in particular situations, scenarios, with particular processes with particular people. And I’m surprisingly confident in other situations which would be terrible for people, like this. When people describe the sensation of stage fright. they often say things like “I’m nervous”, “I might be lost for words”, “I might forget what to say”, “people are looking at me”, “people are judging me”, “I think I talk too much, everything is racing in my head and I feel like I’m going to freeze.” I know those feelings, I just don’t get them on stage. I get them when I’m talking to someone and I don’t know what their name is. I get them if I go to a party and I turn up too early or too late, or overdressed or underdressed, or if I don’t see anybody I know.

I get them in most conversations, particularly with people I don’t know very well. I get terrified when I have a chatty taxi driver, or hairdresser.. or plumber. I get terrified, like I said, in most conversations. I’m terrified of checking my e-mail, and I’m absolutely petrified about talking on the telephone. Yeah, yeah… I don’t get stage fright. I get life fright. Sometimes I try to challenge myself, think like I go out for the weekend, and make people have a good time, you know. So I get all dressed up, put on a nice frack, do my make up, get an Uber, cross my fingers he doesn’t want to chat.

And I get to an event, probably a bit early and notice that nobody is there, yet. Rather than being the first one to go in, I think I’ll stand outside a little bit and pace back and forth. Then I think “Maybe people are watching me pacing back and forth and that’s really not a really good thing to be doing, I’ll walk around the block a couple of times. After I’ve done that for a little while I think “maybe people are noticing me walk around the block, I better go in.” I go in, I notice that I don’t know anyone, so I go to the toilet, for a good 20-25 minutes.

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Then I think there’s probably people waiting for the toilet, and they are standing out going like: What is up with this woman in the toilet? Why is she taking so long, what is wrong with her bowel? I really need to go!” And so I leave the toilet, I notice that there is a bit of a cue, and I notice that they are watching me, and they are judging me, and my thoughts are racing. I don’t know what to do, and I freeze. Like I say: life fright. It has only been in the last couple of years that I have spoken to people who have a similar relationship with anxiety as I do. It’s quite common amongst performers actually, and I have one friend who describes herself as “shy-loud”. and I quite like the phrase: “shy-loud”, it’s perfect.

And it was only in the last year that I actually became acquainted with the ideas of situational anxiety, social anxiety and high functioning anxiety. Now, the thing is when somebody’s anxiety is high functioning, that means that they work in society. In fact, we work really well as shy-louds we have such a heightened sense of worry and such a fear of failure, that we are often very high achieving and perfectionists.

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