I remember when I was very young,
probably as a toddler actually,
I was always anxious
if I was asked to go to a birthday party
or any gathering with other children.
I didn't know why.
I didn't understand why.
I just knew that it made me feel
anxious and I didn't want to go
and I would get very upset.
I found it very overwhelming.
All the other children
would be having a good time,
enjoying themselves, chattering,
and I would sit there
and be very, very quiet.
I recognised that I had a problem.
I felt I wasn't the same
as all the other children
from a very early age.
It began to be a problem
in my teenage years
because other teenagers then
start to break away from parents
and start going out
to clubs, pubs, etc, boyfriends,
something that frightened me to death.
I just could not relax.
Again I didn't want to go
and didn't feel comfortable.
Even when I did go out,
as the evening progressed, I didn't
start to feel more and more relaxed.
I would just stay
at the same level of tension.
So it didn't get any easier.
So I think it got worse really
throughout my teenage years
and into my early 20s.
That's when it really peaked.
If I was invited somewhere, I would
worry and worry about it beforehand,
so there would be nothing else
on my mind.
I would catastrophise it. Everything
that could go wrong I would think about
and imagine that
that is what would happen.
So that by the time
I actually did get to the event,
I would be in such a state of panic
feel excessively self-conscious,
feel so shaky, hot, sweaty,
I would struggle to find the right
words. My mind would go blank.
My memory would go
and my concentration would go.
I was so embarrassed and ashamed at
fact that people could see I was nervous
in a situation that really
everybody else was just enjoying.
It could be a disco, a club, a pub.
Everybody was supposed to be....
You're supposed to have a good time
But I wouldn't be. I would be
my nerves, my anxiety.
Avoidance has been a pattern of life,
It's a classic symptom of social anxiety
but unfortunately I now realise
that that has not helped.
That has probably fed the fear
and allowed it to go on
for as long as it has done.
I first sought help in my late teens
because I left school due to anxiety.
It was at that point then
that I went to see my GP
who immediately gave me tranquillisers.
But I was also referred in the
to a psychologist.
It was really a case, to be honest,
over the next ten, 20 years,
of going back and forth from the GP,
of trying different types of medication,
trying different jobs, trying college.
All of these things didn't last long
because my anxiety took over.
I didn't think I was ever
going to get any better.
I thought I'd reached
a point of no return really.
I felt very, very ashamed
that I wasn't going out working.
I knew I couldn't stay at home forever.
There was always a point when I was
going to have to go out into the world
and work to earn a living.
I couldn't stay on benefits
for the rest of my life.
But I always felt very, very guilty
very, very ashamed, very embarrassed.
And also sad, very, very sad, very
that I was missing out on life.
There's a whole world, a big world
out there, all sorts going on,
people to meet, things to do,
and I was missing out on all that.
So it was very, very depressing as well,
but a vicious circle
because to do all those things
would have meant having to go out
and tackle my anxiety,
but at that point
I didn't know how to tackle it.
I was going to the job centre in
and just keeping an eye open
just to see if there was
something that I could do.
It was on one of those visits to
the job centre that I spoke to the DEA,
disability employment advisor,
who mentioned computerised CBT
at my local hospital.
So I went along and I did a course,
an eight-week course,
and I found that
really, really helpful.
It gave me an insight
into the mistakes that I'd been making
in my thought processes,
the anticipatory anxiety
and also the behaviours
that I'd adopted.
And it was also very empowering
because it showed me
that I can be in charge
of my own thought processes
and that I can change them.
You'll never get rid of it
but you learn to manage it so that
it doesn't debilitate you as much.
It doesn't impinge so much on your life.
And also you learn to accept
part of it as well.
You can accept so much anxiety.
Keep pushing yourself.
Keep putting yourself
in the feared situation,
but at the same time seek therapy
because there is help out there.
And even if you do access therapy
and it doesn't work for you,
don't give up.
Go out and find another type of therapy
because one therapy
doesn't suit everyone.
And there is lots of different help
so you will find something
that helps you.