Anxiety: Jo’s story 

Jo has had social anxiety since her childhood. In this video, she describes how she went through childhood and adolescence accompanied by constant worries and fears and how this affected her ability to take part in social activities or form relationships. Find out what helped her to manage her anxiety as an adult.

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Transcript of Anxiety: Jo’s story

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 and anxiety,

feel excessively self-conscious,

feel so shaky, hot, sweaty, uncomfortable.

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 the 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 and relax.

But I wouldn't be. I would be fighting my nerves, my anxiety.

Avoidance has been a pattern of life, unfortunately.

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 meantime 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 about that,

very, very ashamed, very embarrassed.

And also sad, very, very sad, very upset 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 between 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 catastrophising, 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 completely, anxiety,

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 out there,

so you will find something that helps you.


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