We have all heard musicians talk of nerves before a big show and I remember a big name saying that they are always off to the side of the stage throwing up just before going on stage. There has also been increased interest of late regarding mental health of the musician community, but these are issues that are often swept under the carpet, so have you had experience of these issues? I thought I would use this blog to talk about my experiences of performance anxiety and ask for comments.
I have only been performing in a band for a few years but the impact of anxiety on my daily life goes back many years. I have always suffered from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) which means certain foods and conditions can cause me excruciating gut pain and it often results in the need for urgent trips to the bathroom. Not normally too much of an issue except when you are put in a position where getting to a bathroom can be problematic.
I used to be in the military and have performed a number of route lining duties for state occasions in London and this would always be a great cause for anxiety due to my condition. Luckily I never had an embarrassing incident but the anxiety around what could happen would make me physically sick before an event. Once we were actually on the route this would subside and everything would go to plan. My military experience (conditioning) also means that I am a stickler for planning and need to know in advance how things are going to be and this translates, in a band context, around the setting up, sound checking and generally not forgetting any gear.
Most of the time this can be considered mild butterflies prior to a gig but if the show is a big one then it can be a bit worse. Once we are in the building and getting set-up then I am fine and the act of being busy calms the nerves and I just get on with things but the build up to some gigs can be problematic. I have never sought any treatment or counseling for my condition as that was not the done thing back in the day. I do wonder if I should look into this though, especially as I notice similar traits in my children occasionally and perhaps they could be spared the experiences I have had.
So, I just accept and live with it. I think that we should be able to talk about mental health and as I man I know we are the worst at discussing these sort of things. Do you have any experiences of this, and have you managed to find a way of overcoming it?