When I did miraculously manage to make it through an interview and get a job, the daily threat of knowing these attacks would strike at any moment – with possibly a seizure thrown in – made life an absolute misery. Once I was in the audience at a conference and simply stood up to ask a question of the panel and my voice literally disappeared in front of hundreds of people. I just had to sit down again. As I tried to stave off the tears of embarrassment I assured myself people had found me intriguing and mysterious, or better yet, that my silence had been making a point about the redundancy of the topic…or something highbrow like that. I spent the rest of the event hiding in my hotel room.

I began to develop little tips and tricks that went some way to helping. I found that by pinching and twisting the skin between my fingers as hard as possible I could briefly draw my attention away from the physical symptoms. Enough so that I could stay upright and stammer out a few words if a question was directed toward me. Somehow eating two or three Trebor® extra strong mints at a time during meetings also helped with the panic but conversely made me look like a mad chipmunk, albeit with incredibly fresh breath. Perhaps the good people at Trebor would like to sponsor me. I would make an excellent ambassador as long as the role didn’t require any form of public speaking and there was a relaxed brand attitude to me possibly soiling myself on the job.

Through what I’m sure was an administrative mistake I was invited to apply for a marketing role with a rather well known electronics company in the Netherlands. I managed to make it through multiple interviews by intermittently shouting various marketing buzz words like a Tourette’s sufferer on coke. I couldn’t believe it. The spell had been broken. And better yet, we were moving to Amsterdam baby!

But of course. No panicdote ends with the girl getting the job and being impossibly happy spending her weekends cycling to and from the The Rijksmuseum and getting a little stoned once in a while. I had been offered the job, yet there was still the small matter of a competency test run by some random third party back in London. Purely a box ticking exercise.

The test was designed to monitor my performance under pressure. You were given one hour to find the best solution to a complicated resourcing issue that brought to mind those hideous school test questions. You know, where a train is leaving the station and takes 30 minutes to go eighty miles and if new lovers Mike and Tina are leaving 300 miles away driving without their seatbelts in the other direction at 45 miles an hour how long before the fireball erupts.

Yes. It was maths. I had no calculator. No internet. And worse, part of ‘the insight process’ was my torturers were going to take all the paper with them from the room so they could study how I came to ‘my final findings’. I think it’s fair to say I came unglued. Alone in a tiny room this time, the attack began.

I can only imagine the report that made it’s way back to the company’s HR department.

Applicant moaned loudly while banging her head repeatedly on the table for the best part of an hour, while the final ten minutes were spent scrawling multiple comments that included, ‘PISS OFF WITH ALL THIS. JUST GIVE ME THE FUCKING JOB. I’D BE GREAT AT IT, YOU PRICKS!’ on the briefing paper. NB: Applicant may, or may not have soiled herself prior to departing the premises.

Now that a significant amount of time passed – my mortification somewhat dimmed – I’m almost tempted to request a copy of what I handed in, for posterity.

The attacks had really taken hold and were escalating. My fear of their appearance fed the beast and before long they were appearing in non work situations. I had one on my wedding day as we were preparing to enter the registry office. Nothing tells your loving fiancé that you’re committed to a lifetime of love with him than shaking and putting your head in your hands. My face was as white as my frock,  which already had the two civil celebrants raising their eyebrows at each other asking ‘who is she kidding?’

How could this be happening to confident me? The girl who’s travelled the world, who’d found herself in all kinds of questionable and even dangerous situations, survived and revelled in it? Why was she being such a bloody cry baby? And why had she started referring to herself in the third person?

Snake oil and cocaine

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