Testimonials from our members

Some of our members have kindly shared some of their experiences with us to inspire new members to join the group. If you would like to leave your own testimonial after attending a group session then please use the form below.

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Emma, 26

My Experience of the group – The Turning Point of my Life

My name is Emma and I first attended an SA West support group in January 2005. Up until that point in my life, I had ALWAYS felt useless, alone (I had no friends and only my mum, dad and boyfriend), petrified of people, tortured by negative thought patterns, crippled by intense anxiety which made my body shut down, and just generally not very happy with myself and my life. I had always felt different to other people, like the odd one out, like there was no one out there in the whole universe who felt like I did. I would say to my mum: ‘just show me ONE other person who feels like I do’, she would say ‘I can’t Em, because they fade into the background like you do’. So I just thought I was right and there definitely wasn’t ANYONE who was suffering like I did, I was all on my own. So through my life I pushed myself through certain things I was scared of; i.e. getting a job, going to college, going to university, going to the gym, to try to improve my confidence. All those things did work to an extent, but I always had this barrier of social anxiety in front of me, and it felt like a big, cold, unmovable stone wall, which would take a miracle to break through.

One day at around Christmas time when I was at uni, I took a break from studying and my mum asked me if I had searched for ‘social phobia’ in Bristol. I couldn’t remember if I had, so I went and did it, and to my surprise I found the SA West website. As I read through the symptoms of SA, I was so so happy, as each and every one described exactly what I was suffering with. I waited a few weeks before I went to the group, and emailed nick before to let him know I was going. One day I plucked up the courage to go, I was nervously excited but also petrified. It was in Redland Library at the time, a big old building with big red doors. As I walked in my heart was beating fast, but in that moment I knew that it was now or never, either I wanted to be stuck as I was, or I wanted to be free and move on. I knew which I would choose. As I went further in, I could see people sat round a table. I didn’t know who anyone was, or who nick was, but nick spoke to me as I went in, and showed me where to sit. I spent the session not really saying anything much, just listening to what everyone else was saying. After the group, I knew I was on a journey and this was only the starting point. As the group went on, I spoke to people who understood me TOTALLY and it was so liberating, we did really good exercises in the group and it was great to get to speak to people about exactly how I was feeling and not be judged. I met my bestest friend Steve there and we travelled to Manchester for some SAUK meetings, where we met 30 people at a time who we could feel totally comfortable with – we didn’t even have to say anything but were still accepted. These people will remain very good friends to me.

Also, I have done my own events for people with social anxiety, as coming to the group made me able to take part in street dance lessons which really increased my self expression, and wanted to show other people how it could help them (see www.freedomtoshine.co.uk). I have more recently been on GMTV, local radio stations, in newspapers (even the Guardian), and am now writing a book with Steve. I have also been filmed for a series called ‘Mad for Dance’ which is also linked into this page. I owe all this success, most importantly to my mum for always sticking by me, and Nicks group – if I didn’t find the group I might still be stuck where I was – there is such a need for more support of people with social anxiety, and I am committed to devoting my career to creating awareness of SA and showing people how to have fulfilled, self expressed, happy lives, free from the suffering. Thanks Nick for being there when I needed you.

Miriam

Without this group I would not have been able to create the life I have now. Social Anxiety is incredibly isolating, so meeting people who were experiencing similar difficulties was a powerful experience. I realised that I was not alone and also that there were many ways to get my life back on track. By sharing our experiences and working on techniques to deal with similar problems I am no longer trapped and isolated by SA. Instead, I feel free to make choices about my life without the fear of being overwhelmed by anxiety.

I once found it difficult to even leave the house. I once barely spoke, even to those who had known me my whole life. Now I have a wide social network, many wonderful close friends and have started a new career as a Secondary School Teacher. A profession I would never have imagined I would be able to cope with a few years ago. I still feel anxious at times, but now recognise that this is part of life, not all of my life and not all that I am. I control my life, anxiety no longer controls me.

I have seen SA West grow from strength to strength over the years. Friendships have been formed, inspiring projects have been started and many lives have been positively affected. It is a wonderful group, I am very thankful to Nick for running it and to all the amazing people that I've met through it. I hope that SA West will be able to go on helping people transform their lives for many years to come.

Alex

I was nervous before the first session but it went really well. There were so many people there with similar problems to me.

My life has changed since starting the group, I have been more proactive at over coming hurdles. I attended a creative workshop run by Social Anxiety sufferers, it gave me the confidence to take up singing classes and the motivation to run my own DJ Workshops.

Steve Light

Going to the group in Bristol was my first big step into beating my Social Anxiety. Two years ago I first turned up at Redland library wondering what to expect. It was a very positive experience going to the group for the 6 or so sessions that I attended, It was undoubtably the stepping stone to a less anxious life. The thought of going to the group was more nerve-racking than actually being there, Nick is very welcoming and made me feel at total ease, we weren't pressured to talk but I felt better if I did contribute as it's progress, no matter how small the contribution.

And an extra bonus of going to the group, I met someone there and she turned out to be one of my best friends! Everyone there is in the same boat so they know exactly how you feel, I can't explain enough, how great a feeling it is to meet other people with SA, you don't feel so alone anymore, people are there to support you.

Two years on, i've come a long way. I have stood up on stage in front of 300 people, TWICE!! Been filmed on camera TWICE! I got my dream job of working in New Media for a big design company (and lost it) and I'm now working in a call centre, where 2 years ago, the very thought would provoke intense feelings of anxiety. I'm so much happier nowadays, there is hope for people with SA, my advice is to give the SA-West group a try, you have nothing to lose :)

Julian, 26

I have felt socially anxious for a lot of my life- particularly difficult were school (when I was very isolated through 'bullying') and university (when I was isolated through not feeling able to be with other people). I still grow very anxious in many everyday situations, and felt unable to communicate how I feel and who I am to people in my life.

The group allowed me for the first time to share company with other people who really understood what my life with SA was/is. I have attended the group a good number of times and have found the group very supportive, and non-threatening- just a place where you know people understand you and your SA, and you can contribute or just enjoy the solidarity of fellow SA-ers.

Dave, 26

I am finding the group extremely helpful in my recovery from SA. I believe I have suffered from SA for all of my life. After spending years hoping my SA would go away, or working alone from books, with little backup and support I now find that the group gives me more incentive to get better. Plus, I've got to meet a really great bunch of people!

I live in Bath, after studying at university there. I am a keen cyclist and swimmer, and have a weakness for world travelling! I also have a strong interest in environmental issues (one thing I have no trouble talking about!).

Sharon, 32

As I attended the SA group of the New Members Session, I felt quite proud of myself for going, with a lot of encouragement from friend, Susie who came with me, at first I knew what to expect from the 1st time, I can now feel the confidence growing slowly to go along again as when I know which session to go to, I can be able to go along alone if it's necessary.

I have suffered from Social Anxiety since I was very young, I knew I had a tough problem of socialising as I noticed my parents and my sister could chat to people with no problems, my sister Bev is a lot more out-going and sociable than I am. I have to admit, the past of my family background of going to church was for me, hell, to socialise with church friends, to make friends was VERY difficult, I used to always sit with parents, pretend to read copy newsletter to not acknowledging people coming in, sitting down. I just wanted to run away for freedom.

Anyhow, now that I have achieved my 2nd attendance at SA group, I was proud to of seen Nick again, as for the 1st time I really didn't make eye contact with anyone at all, this time however, I could, was able to fully listen to what Nick had to say for the group. I didn't expect the part of others to split into 2's to introduce to one another and chat about their Anxiety and lives, that part I discretely was in fear of but I managed to chat to member, it was really encouraging.

Although looking around at other members, I could sense a lot of their tension, fear and nerves, Susie couldn't believe just how tense the room was. Unfortunately, my judgmental side of me was playing my mind of different members there, one new member I felt for her in a huge way.

I am currently unemployed, for too long now, I am applying for various Volunteer roles in and around Bristol to see what would suit me but I will see how that goes...watch this space! When I am in public, I keep myself to myself, I don't make eye contact with anyone as everyone is strangers, I feel public buses are a nightmare, even though I use buses to get around when I can do.

I do hope to come along again to another session, to be able to chat to new people and to make new friends, that is my goal, no matter how or what I am feeling, I will see how many sessions I can conquer!

Peter, 46

It was only eight months ago that I came across the term ‘social anxiety’ whilst surfing on the internet which is strange as I have been affected by the condition for much of my life. In the eighties, when I sought medical help, I was told that I suffered from high levels of anxiety and the main approach to overcoming the problem then was just to do the things that I feared and avoided. This didn’t seem to work and I was subsequently prescribed beta blockers which I have been taking on and off ever since. I now know that there’s much more to social anxiety and much better ways of overcoming it.

How have I found out more about ‘social anxiety’? Well I’ve joined a social anxiety support group in Bristol which has made a huge difference to my life. I’ve found new ways of moving forward and have now been able to do many of the things that I find difficult without the need to take beta blockers as well as discovering new things that I’m able to do now that I never dreamed of doing before.

As well as learning a lot more about the condition and what can be done about it, I have met up with people who have similar problems. It’s surprising how the detailed way social anxiety affects each person in the group varies a lot. What one person finds almost impossible to do is not difficult for another member of the group. Some people find one to one situations the most difficult to handle whilst for others its medium sized groups of people. Underneath the differences however there are a lot of common experiences and also common ways of tackling the problem.

The group consists of a mixed sex group of around twelve to fifteen people all ages. Some people come fairly regularly and some every now and then. There are also social get-together's that are organised by the group. It feels a very safe space to meet up with other people and be able to talk openly and honestly about a subject which usually remains hidden away due to a general lack of understanding.

Videos

Some of our members have made videos of themselves or events they have organised or taken part in, including TV and Radio shows. Please note that these members are only able to do this because they have worked hard to make significant progress. We promise we will not force you to perform on video!

Member Emma Connor in TV programme 'Mad For Dance' (Channel 5)

Member Alex talking about his experience of social anxiety

Member Emma Connor on GMTV talking about blushing and social anxiety

Member Steve Light talks about Social Anxiety with Ruby Wax's on the BBC's Headroom video

Member Alex talking about how he met his wife and dating experiences

Member Steve tells us about his experience of coming to the group (partial video)

Member Emma Connor talking about Social Phobia and her event Freedom to Shine on Radio Bristol

A video of Leading Light - An even put on by member Steve Light for people experiencing Social Anxiety

Links to Member's Websites

Socialanxiety.co.uk
Member and session facilitator Nick Hanlon authors this blog and website that offers help to people experiencing social anxiety.

Social Anxiety Groups
This is another website setup by Nick to help self-help groups become established and support each other.

Freedom to Shine
Member Emma Connor setup this website to tell people about her Freedom to Shine events that help people overcome social anxiety through movement, voice and self-expression.

Leading Light
This is another event to help people with social anxiety. It is organised by member Steve Light.

Social Phobia London
Steve has also setup this support group for people in London.

The Socially Anxious DJ
Member Alex has been using his DJ skills to promote awareness of Social Anxiety.