I'm still finding parts of myself that went missing after the stroke.
For instance, a few weeks ago, I was watching Nova. Some of the program
was about test anxiety, and it showed nervous students taking a test. As I
watched the show and tried to put myself into the
students' shoes, I realized I could barely remember that
feeling of performance anxiety. Before the stroke, any of these situations--taking a test, or speaking in
public, or even thinking about some students taking a test on a TV show--would have gotten my heart rate up.
It's not that I don't feel anxiety sometimes now. But more often, it feel like I have a switch with two settings: crushing fear, or a strange calmness. In the few times I have had to speak in front of a group since the stroke, I haven't felt much of performance anxiety.
I'm sure there are many reasons why I feel calmer these days. First of all, a disabling stroke can put things into perspective. Or it might be medications. Or that after failing so many tests of language and physical ability, I'm used to failure now. Or it might be because I started out not being able to recite the alphabet or spell my name, so any achievement can make me feel like a wunderkind. But mostly, it feels like parts of my brain are still not hooked up the way they used to be.
Given how much I have struggled with performance anxiety all my life, you would think that I would be happy to leave behind that part of myself now. But I remember some of my discussions with my former piano teacher. I studied with her for many years before the stroke, and she helped me work through my anxiety a lot. She talked how important it is to be meticulously prepared. But she also talked about how anxiety can make a performance more focused: without some anxiety, a performance can loose its edge.
So I keep thinking: do I want this part of myself back? Do I need to regain that anxiety? Do I have a choice?
42 minutes ago