“I would stare at the grains of light suspended in that silent space, struggling to see into my own heart.”

On Wednesday, I went for a walk. There is a nature reserve about 45 minutes away from where I live which I had been meaning to visit for oh, months. I have travelled abroad by myself, eaten at restaurants by myself, but the simple act of walking without a purpose in my local area by myself filled me with anxiety. But on Wednesday, I was determined. I set out with google maps as my guide. I walked, and I walked, and 45 minutes later I suddenly found myself out of the urban sprawl, at the nature reserve. The air was fresh, the smell reminding me of my village where I usually live. It was quite amazing that the nature reserve was right there, tucked so close to the city. I don’t mind cities but not English cities – I find them claustrophobic. England is a small country, and I’m always aware of that, but no more so than in the city. At least in my village, or when I go walking, in those empty spaces you can pretend for a moment to be in a place much larger.

I breathed in deeply the fresh air of the reserve, soaked up the bright sunlight, swatted away a million little bugs, and listened to the sounds of birds chattering. I followed the path past a lake, and then walking along a river, the countryside on the other side with lush green fields, a herd of cows resting in one, on the river barges occasionally passed through. I curved round back to the lake, and sat at the lakeside, cracked open my book and read. It was very peaceful, very still. At some point I looked up and caught sight of them – three herons, fishing in the shallow waters at the edge of the lake. I sprang to my feet, still clutching my open book, and fumbled for my camera. I spent a moment filming there before I remembered to put away my book. Then I stood, and filmed, and watched in amazement as they fished, and ruffled their feathers, and groomed each other. I had never seen so many herons, and so close. I was utterly enthralled, and it was many minutes later that I tore myself away, settling back on the bench and reading some more until I realized I should probably get going back home. I continued on the path, following the lake round, and ended up back at the entrance. I got back to the city and walked back to my house, feeling happy and relaxed and more than ever, I was grateful to end up living where I currently am. I’m a long way from the city center, and even my university is an hour away, but I am so happy with my location. I like being tucked away in the suburbs like this. Its quiet here, it feels safe, and I’m close enough to everything I need, with direct bus routes to uni and the city center, and on Wednesday I realised that the countryside was just 45 minutes away from me, and I like that. It feels like I have an escape route.

I needed that break, too. Since then its been back to university work, with my group presentation and individual interviews tomorrow. My anxiety levels have, consequently, been very high. There were meetings on Thursday, Friday and even today. I got through Thursday and Friday meetings OK, but today…not so much.

Today I went to my meeting all prepared for running through the presentation, to find my group members were not. So I sat and read, assured that I had done my bit, letting my group members work amongst themselves. The time came to run through the presentation – I stood up and started – and was immediately halted by my group. “Slow down!” I had practised it, gone through it so it was exactly the right time, and it was all paced exactly right when I went through it by myself. But standing in front of my group members my heart began to race, I felt my chest tightening, I felt myself beginning to shake. I began to rush through it, scared that if I stopped I would begin to stammer, would not be able to get through it. I couldn’t breathe. My group members were laughing. It was humiliating. I wanted to cry. I sat back down, as they offered me advice, still amused. I had been so confident! What had I been expecting? I felt totally knocked off my perch. Did I deserve it? For sitting there so calmly, quietly reading as if I was above them all? That’s what they must be thinking, I thought. Anxiety held me firmly in its grasp. They were pushing me to continue. I took a long drink of water. I tried to continue but I couldn’t get the pacing right and eventually I had to sit down and give up. I’ve been through it some more tonight but it hardly matters – its fine when I go through it myself. Its just when facing an audience that anxiety wrecks everything. Like it always does. I want to appear so much more intelligent and put together than I actually do in public – in private I’m such a different person. I feel like such a different person. I wish I could show this side to people – this quieter, more intelligent, more thoughtful side of me. I resolved to take my beta blockers tomorrow. I don’t really know why I did not take them today, I think I wanted to test it without them. There is also the individual interviews to worry about. Basically, the supervisors meet each group member and grill them to asses their contribution. I’m resigned to not doing well for it. How could I? I’ll either babble like an idiot, or end up unable to say anything. I can never express myself properly. Can never present the image of myself that I want to. I cannot resign myself in the same way for the presentation of course- my group members are depending on me for that. The interview will just affect my mark, but the presentation is all of ours. I really hope the pills work and I can get through it. That I can talk slowly, calmly and get my ideas across.