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Raise Your Hand

As a child and young adult, I was encrusted with anxiety during most outside and social activities. Sports, transport to university and even going to a café and talking – with anyone!

** Please note during this article, if you are feeling anxious because you are actually in unsafe conditions, such as a violent relationship, don’t bother with CBT. Reach out for help when it seems safe to do so. Avoiding unsafe situations can be a great thing to do when you need to remain physically safe!! CBT is for situations that feel unsafe that are in reality usually safe. The unsafe part is mainly in your mind for these CBT cases. Take care and enjoy the read. **

A Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) book I read as a teen changed my approach to my anxiety. I learnt not to avoid anxiety-inducing situations, and instead approach them until they felt normal. This is a type of exposure therapy, which pairs with CBT breathing techniques to help keep calm. CBT books are still widely available, and many therapists use it if you think it would be right for you to try.

I started small. Infinitely scared of making mistakes in front of classmates, I began just raising my hand occasionally to answer easy questions the teacher asked in class.

Bit by bit I upped my game and tackled tasks I found more difficult. Then eventually I improved enough to learn to go to uni. I was nervous taking the bus daily for too long, it felt! But I eventually became au fait with it.

I also used university as an opportunity to try and be more social and a better friend. Although less nerve-wracking, my social skills took A LOT longer to improve, especially in group social situations (I realise in hindsight I was losing some of my memory and social fluency due to my decline into schizophrenia, but those details are for another time. And spoiler alert: Those skills have mostly come back thanks to medications.)

I joined a Japanese speaking club as I’d learnt some in high school and early uni. This gave me even more insight into social skills, and even that of another culture. (An interesting tid bit is that Japanese people don’t use sarcasm, which makes for some tricky cross-cultural experiences! A warning to my Japanese friends reading this, these blogs are often laden with sarcasm.)

So now I’m in my 30s, and I can socialise (as much as anyone can!), I can take public transport with ease, practise some sports like archery (and even dodgeball one time… wow, who would have thunk it!), try new activities like travelling overseas, and even drive. Still working on my anxiety for driving and some of these, but the anxiety doesn’t prevent me from doing nearly as much as it would have, if I hadn’t approached it.

When you have anxiety, persuading it to go away can take some time, but if you keep trying to broaden your comfort zone like this, you will eventually make headway, so start small and don’t give up, whatever you do.

The clock ticks – ringing in my ears

I bite my lip. My heart is racing, my breathing quick.

An indescribable feeling makes my insides ache.

I feel nauseated. But I do it.

I raise my hand.

Yes, I did it.


April, 2022



Hi there,

Lauren Sims is an artist and author from Brisbane, Australia. She has recently become and author and will be releasing her first book in late 2022.

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