I was in a radio studio where nothing worked. There were no CDs, no tapes, not even any records. The computer had crashed. Everything I touched fell to pieces. I was on air trying to pretend that everything was ok. I tried to talk but the terror in my throat clenched my vocal chords shut. The station would be off air if I didn’t do something, didn’t say something. I felt as though I was in an aeroplane and the engines had failed. I was going down in a screaming heap except I couldn’t scream.
It was the same or similar nightmare every night. I needed to sleep but I dreaded it. Falling asleep meant plunging into that deep crevasse where terror rushed to meet me. I could feel the adrenalin grabbing at my stomach as soon as I started to doze off. There was no respite. I’d made a horrible mistake and had to live with the consequences.
When I finally got out of bed and crawled off to work I wanted to drive straight past the station and go somewhere else. Anywhere else. I couldn’t bear it.
One day the manager burst into the studio while I was on air and with a look of disgust mimed shooting me in the head. Without a word he turned on his heel and slammed the door behind him. I was left alone, shaking and almost in tears, wondering what dreadful thing I’d done to deserve such treatment. Of course it had to be my fault. I had to continue with my shift. I pretended to be happy and in control when all I wanted to do was crawl into a hole and cry.
Each day was worse than the one before. Listeners rang up and abused me. I didn’t read the weather properly. I mispronounced local place names. One woman swore at me and threatened me because her boyfriend listened to me.
I worked twelve hours a day, seven days a week because I was so slow at everything and terrified of doing it all wrong. I forgot to press record on an important interview and had to do it all again with an understandably grumpy interviewee. Everyday was a battle and I was exhausted.
I rang up the Head of Radio at the Australian Film Television and Radio School where I’d studied. I’d been so happy there. I’d felt so safe, so secure. It was nothing like the real world of radio where every day was torture. I told her that I’d made a dreadful mistake. I couldn’t do it. I was hopeless. I had no business being in the radio business. She just laughed and told me to get over it and get on with the job.
So that’s what I did. Within days the nightmares disappeared. Within weeks I was feeling confident and relaxed. Within months the head hunters started calling. Within a couple of years I landed my dream job.
I turned to our new announcer and said, “So I hope that helps you feel better.” It was her first shift on air. She’d been a little nervous and I was trying to cheer her up. From the look on her face I don’t think I should become a motivational speaker. I wouldn’t be the only one suffering from nightmares.