I have suffered from social anxiety for as long as I can remember. It affected all aspects of my life. It made me very unhappy at work and isolated among friends. I felt inadequate and unable to lead a normal life. As a consequence I was avoiding more and more social situations. By the time I joined the Anxiety Programme, I was 32 years old, I felt completely disillusioned with my life and had very little hope for the future.
When I joined the Anxiety Programme I was encouraged to set realistic goals that would help me make small steps towards rebuilding my life. I learnt about the dangers of avoidance. I was given tasks, which looking back seem simple, but at the time were major steps. I learnt how to recognise the physical symptoms of anxiety, which made them seem less frightening when they occurred. I began to realise that anxiety is very common, and that countless other people encountered the same challenges as me every day. I met some very interesting people who were going through similar experiences as me and I have remained friends with some of them.
The first steps were the hardest but by the time I finished the Programme, I had built up enough confidence to return to work with a positive attitude. I had made some new friends and my horizons were beginning to expand a little. By avoiding less situations and challenging my anxiety everyday, my life was becoming more interesting and I had regained a lot of self-esteem.
The three years since I left the programme have been a revelation to me. I have rebuilt my life to a level that I could not have imagined. I now enjoy my work and feel confident that I am doing a good job. I have become more assertive and confident in my work life and social life. I have met more new friends in this time than I had in the previous ten years. I have developed new hobbies and my life has become more varied. I have taken on new responsibilities, including becoming the manager of my football team, which would have seemed impossible to me in the past. I still feel the affects of anxiety on a regular basis, but the physical signs don't frighten me as much as before. I have learnt to accept that I can't be perfect at everything I do, but that I'm a reasonably competent person, and that that is perfectly acceptable.
I would recommend the Anxiety Programme to anyone who feels that anxiety has become large and negative feature of their life. I would encourage anybody to take on the Programme with a positive attitude. The first steps are the hardest, but once you make a little progress, and gain some momentum, you will be amazed at what you can achieve.