In 2018, I had a peer worker.
In 2023, I became a peer worker.
I have always had a knack for thinking my way out of any problem that I face.
There is nothing logical nor rational about anxiety. I know how to manage thoughts and doubts,
they can be reasoned with and challenged, but anxiety was not a thought for me, it was a feeling. An incredibly constricting and gut-wrenching feeling. It would envelop me in stress and fear and it feels as though nothing will catch me if I fall. Failure always felt imminent.
Anxiety can be crippling and this proved true for me.
I can recall vividly trying to return to study a few years ago and I didn’t even make it through day one. I had spent weeks preparing my colour-coded timetable, scouting out the locations of my classes, reading the required texts ahead of time and even completing an assignment before classes had even started. But when I did start I was so nauseous and panicked that I decided that this was not for me. I had wanted to study writing so desperately for it was one of the only passions in my life at the time.
A great opportunity taken away from me because I could not override that anxious feeling.
Many talk about anxiety being common to the human experience, and it is, and it isn’t.
Nervousness is understood by all of us, but severe anxiety is a different strain of stress.
In my experience, anxiety can become so powerful that it feels like your speedometer has been limited, like the brakes are pulling you back, all forward momentum stopped by an unyielding and impenetrable wall. During panic attacks it feels as if my body is systematically shutting down: my heartbeat staggers, my mind becomes television static and my stomach becomes a washing machine. And all of this for me was driven by my fear of failure.
I hate disappointing people. I hate disappointing myself.
I am both a perfectionist and an “all-or-nothing” person. A challenging combination.
I tend to disappoint myself often when my best efforts fail to meet my high standards.
This has created a great conflict within me and an even greater sensation of anxiety.
In my last job I was so anxious that I would run to the bathroom to vomit in between tasks.
It went so terribly that I had to quit, despite desperately wanting to be a part of the workforce.
Because of this I assumed that I would never work again. Superlative, but it’s what I felt.
I tried to apply logic to the situation. Work makes me stressed because: I worry that I may not have capacity to work during the set and demanded hours, I worry that I’ll forget how to do something, I worry that I’ll make a mistake and let the team down and I worry that I am someone who was now incompatible with work.
I needed a job that did not demand that I work set hours if I am not at capacity. I needed a job that has a supportive team and environment. And I needed a job that I am passionate about.
So, I began volunteering.
At the start of this year I was successful in joining the Youth Peer Volunteer program at headspace Bentleigh and to my great surprise all of my anxiety fizzled out as I began supporting the community and the young people accessing the services (just like I had five years ago).
And volunteering led to my current job as a Youth Peer Support Worker for headspace.
History has failed to repeat itself. My genuine love for my role and my desire to support those going through challenging experiences are able to override any anxiety I could be feeling.
It turns out that passion conquers fear.
Written by Cameron Maynard
Interested in learning about other experiences of anxiety?