18 → Melbourne, Australia → Nurse & Blogger → Anxiety (GAD) → Psychologist, NET, Communication.
R: Tell us a little bit about yourself… So, who are you?
L: I’m Larisa, Larisa with one ‘S’.
R: Where do you live?
L: I live in Melbourne, Australia.
R: How old are you?
L: I am 18 years old.
R: What do you do?
L: I have recently finished my Diploma of Nursing and pending registration I will be an Endorsed Enrolled Nurse (EEN).
R: Do you enjoy it?
L: Yes! It is all still new to me, but my experiences from my clinical rotations have been very rewarding. I have learnt so much, from nursing practices to life skills.
R: What did you do before?
L: Before I went on to do my nursing studies, I had just finished Year 12.
R: Did you study?
L: Besides my nursing studies, my study just consisted of primary and secondary schooling. This is when I attended over 8 different schools because of my anxiety.
R: What does home life look like – pets / kids?
L: I live with my parents and younger brother. We have 2 cats and 2 dogs. 1 of the dogs, my border collie Macy, I adopted to help with my anxiety. I have a boyfriend and we have been together for over 2 years now.
— Larisa T (@larisajayne97) August 10, 2016
R: What makes you happy?
L: There are many things that make me happy, but definitely my dog Macy, camping trips, airplanes, making someone else smile or laugh and day trips.
— Larisa T (@larisajayne97) August 9, 2016
R: What was your first move when you decided to do something about your anxiety?
L: My parents had always been trying to get me help since I was young. They would take me to numerous counsellors and psychologists, but I would not cooperate. I remember hiding in my cupboard when I was scheduled for an appointment. When I was around 15 years old, that is when I first decided and accepted that I needed help. With the support of my parents I visited my local youth mental health centre for counselling.
R: Did you see a doctor?
L: Yes, my local GP
“I have struggled with Generalised anxiety since I was very young. I was always a worrier but my anxiety really affected my quality of life in my teen years. I would have anxiety attacks before going to school when I was 10 and 11 years old and experienced panic attacks as I got older.”
R: Has the anxiety gotten worse over time? or better?
L: I am definitely at a better place with my anxiety at this point in time. I dealt with it in primary school, but I was at my lowest during secondary school.
R: How would you describe having GAD in your own words?
L: To me, having GAD is feeling endangered in situations that in reality may not be threatening to a ‘normal’ person. Constantly worried and self-conscious about how others perceive you. Always focused on the negative and feeling hopeless.
R: How does Anxiety affect your normal day?
L: Before I got to where I am now, it affected my everyday attendance at school. I had really poor attendance in secondary school which resulted in me struggling to keep friendships, socialise and I lacked confidence. I tried moving to different schools (running away from my problems) hoping to start over, but I kept falling back in the same pattern with my attendance. There were some days where I wouldn’t leave the house and I felt worthless and ugly. My self-esteem is so much better, but I still struggle with it today. Some days I can go out by myself, but other days I need company to go out.
R: Have you found any positive aspects of Anxiety?
L: Anxiety hasn’t brought a lot of positive aspects to my life. However, because I have suffered with it, I understand what anxiety is. There would be a possibility that if I never experienced it I would not understand anxiety. I could have been prejudiced towards mental health. I wouldn’t be where I am today without what I have been through.
“I am not sure if colleagues or friends notice that I am anxious because it may come across as being shy, rude or a sook.”
R: If you had the option to lose your anxiety would you?
L: I wouldn’t say lose my anxiety completely, but to not of had it affect my quality of life like it did.
R: Does Anxiety keep you awake at night?
L: Not often now, but I would constantly think and worry about the future, past and present. I would worry about what would happen after I die.
R: Do friends or colleagues notice you’re anxious?
L: My friends do know I suffer with anxiety. When I was younger they didn’t know, but now I am happy to share. I am not sure if colleagues or friends notice that I am anxious because it may come across as being shy, rude or a sook.
“It does affect my relationship with friends and colleagues, but close friends don’t treat me any different”
R: Does it affect your relationship with them?
L: It does affect my relationship with friends and colleagues, but close friends don’t treat me any different because of my anxiety. Since I am always worrying about what I have to say not being valid, I tend to hold back even though I’d love to socialise. I am nervous to make the first move when it comes to socialising, so I miss out on possible opportunities.
R: Do you think your life would be different without anxiety?
L: I think it would be. I don’t know how or whether it would be a good thing. I probably wouldn’t be as self-conscious and anxious (of course), but there is a possibility I wouldn’t be surrounded by the people I am today or given the opportunities I have received.
— Larisa T (@larisajayne97) August 2, 2016
R: What was your inspiration for launching it?
L: I wrote my piece My Anxiety and wanted to share it. I wasn’t sure how, but I decided on putting a website together. So from that I have added more posts from camping trips, to travel and fundamentally anxiety. I wanted to post my anxiety story when I finished my last day of nursing placement. So I gave my facebook friends the option to click a link if they were interested, instead of a long facebook post. It seemed liked a less ‘annoying’ way, as I don’t want to come across as wanting to be an attention seeker.
“I received more feedback on facebook than I expected. Friends left heart-warming comments on the facebook post which was very humbling.”
R: What is your primary aim?
L: My aim is to hopefully inspire or motivate others to better themselves. It would also be great to be able to connect with other people to give them support.
R: Have you received any great feedback / response?
L: I received more feedback on facebook than I expected. Friends left heart-warming comments on the facebook post which was very humbling. I got a few comments on that particular post and one was from someone who found me on twitter. I am very appreciative that anyone would take the time to read or comment on something I have done. I am still learning on how to get it out there more, I don’t expect much. I just really want to help others and motivate them to want to get better.
R: Have you been officially diagnosed by a health professional?
L: Yes, I was diagnosed with anxiety in primary school by a health professional and I was also diagnosed with depression in my mid teen years.
“I took antidepressants for a few years. I am not against them, but for me it was personally not improving my mental health. I gained weight on my antidepressants because my appetite increased and this made me extremely self-conscious.”
R: Did they prescribe medication?
R: Do you / Did you take medication?
L: I took antidepressants for a few years. I am not against them, but for me it was personally not improving my mental health. I gained weight on my antidepressants because my appetite increased and this made me extremely self-conscious.
R: How do you best manage it? (medication, meditation, yoga, alternative medicines, or something else)
L: I eventually found a psychologist that I clicked with. She let me talk through my problems and then gave me tools to help cope with and overcome my anxiety. I had to be the one to put the tools into place though, which I eventually did. I also put myself out of my comfort zone and did things that made me anxious in order to get past them. I have been seeing a chiropractor since I was 12 years old. My chiropractor is trained in neuro emotional technique (NET) a mind-body technique that helps correct imbalances that cause stress. I notice great relief after NET.
R: Did any treatments work?
L: Yes, I believe a combination of the above all contributed.
R: Do you feel as if you’re in control now?
L: I believe I am in more control now. I can sometimes recognise when a panic attack is coming on and decide to change my thoughts and distract myself.
R: Have you seen a therapist?
L: Yes, a psychologist.
R: If so, did therapy help?
L: Yes, because my psychologist gave me advice and skills, I just had to implement them.
R: Where does your Anxiety come from?
L: I couldn’t pin point exactly where my anxiety came from. I believe it may stem from being a shy child and having family members with mental illnesses.
R: Did any health professionals explain where your Anxiety originated?
L: I wouldn’t say they figured out where it originated from, but probably hereditary.
R: Do family members have Anxiety?
R: Anxiety can result from a difficult childhood. Did you experience trauma as a child?
L: I didn’t have a stressful upbringing, however when I was a few months old I had heart surgery. The first operation was not successful, I had to have a blood transfusion and I lost the pulse in my foot. When I was three years old I lost my Pa to cancer. I may not remember much from those ages, especially my heart surgery, but I am open to believing that these traumas could relate to my anxiety.
R: If you could go back and give your younger self some advice about social anxiety, what would you say? What would you do differently?
L: I would say to my younger self to not worry about what other people could be thinking of you because it’s highly likely they aren’t judging or thinking about you anyway. I would tell myself to look at all the positives and accept help sooner. So I don’t look back on my childhood as being an anxious and negative time.
R: Do you tell friends, family and colleagues that you have anxiety?
L: Yes, I am happy to tell friends and family. Though sometimes family members (extended family) cannot fathom mental illness. If suitable, I will tell colleagues as well.
R: Do you know others with anxiety?
— Larisa T (@larisajayne97) August 7, 2016
R: How do you educate yourself on management and resources? Do you read specific blogs, magazines or news articles?
L: I tend to refer back to the education my psychologist provided me with. I sometimes look for posts on the internet, but nothing in particular. I also love finding inspiring quotes because they motivate me.
R: Have you read any great books about anxiety?
L: My youth mental health centre provided me with a print out of a chapter from a book. The book is called Self-Esteem by Matthew McKay. Chapter 2 is called The Pathological Critic which talks about the inner negative voice. When I read this, I found it very relatable.
— Larisa T (@larisajayne97) August 9, 2016
R: Can you recommend any therapists / doctors / specialists / coaches / mentors / clinics / foundations?
L: I would recommend headspace. A youth mental health foundation that I went through with support easily accessible.
R: What’s on your horizon for 2016?
L: I have been successful and fortunate enough to have been offered a position in a Graduate Nurse Program at a hospital. So in October I will commence my grad year, where I will be working, but still receive support as I transition from student nurse to nurse. I celebrate my 19th birthday in September and hopefully more camping trips are on the cards.
R: What next for your anxiety (GAD)?
L: To continue to put myself out of my comfort zone and hopefully motivate and inspire other people.
R: Thanks Larisa!
Rodger Hoefel in conversation with Larisa Jayne
Images supplied by Larisa, or from Larisa’s Twitter