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What's it like to live with anxiety?
Resources: Personal Stories, For Myself, Video
Family man and musician Peter shares his journey from a life dominated by anxiety, to one where he understands his condition, manages it and learns to live beyond it – even seeing it as a positive force for his musical creativity.

Made possible by the generous support of Milestone Foundation, this four-part series showcases the journeys of people who have lived experience of anxiety, family and friends as supporters, education about anxiety and ideas on how to increase resilience and well-being.

Video transcript:

"My anxiety started in my early teens, and I would get almost a panic attack reading in class. I'd be embarrassed, I'd go red, I'd blush, I'd slur my speech. I would get churning in my stomach. 

No one could understand why I wouldn't talk to people, why I would have a very small group of friends. I would lock himself in our attic and I play my guitar, four or five hours a night playing my guitar. I hated looking at photographs of myself. I would always pick fault with the way I looked. 

I was interpreting people's responses to me incorrectly. 

People didn't understand anxiety in the old days, they just felt it was shyness. 

My family was Catholic Irish working in dockyards. You know, I was the delicate soul that wanted to play guitar and make plastic models. I couldn't talk to people about it because no one understood. I would say that my anxiety levels were high when I first came [to New Zealand] because I didn't know anybody. 

We worked very very hard, and then you'd have to claw your way back, so there was anxiety. There's a tipping point. The straw that broke the camel's back was having children, and seeing how my anxiety can affect my family. Things like the mood swings, the temper, the frustrations - I was seeing certain traits rub off on my family, so I decided to seek help. 

Reaching out - that first point of contact to reach out and ask for help - is the best thing you'll ever do! It’s one of the best feelings you'll ever have, because all of a sudden you understand that you're not alone. 

You know Anxiety New Zealand didn't judge me in any way, they just offered help.

The biggest and best tool I've been given is the understanding what my body is doing and why. I never had a handle on understanding why my body was literally churning the silliest things. If I got angry, I’d get lockjaw. I'd carry grievances for the same reason for days. 

When I went into an Anxiety New Zealand, there's lots of things I can find to help. I learned it’s how are you interpret what you've got. And so far, the strategies we've looked at have all worked. This is exciting! And my wife has been hugely supportive. She's known issues I've had. You can have all the help in the world, but it comes back to your home, it comes back to your family. 

It's hard to explain to a non musician but it's probably the same as somebody who goes to a gym and gets to burn or whatever, it's just one of those magical moments and people who play guitar - they know. I've always played in bands. 

You've got to find a passion to get over anxiety. So that's my passion. I'm lucky with my youngest having drum lessons. It’s what I get from giving music lessons and seeing children grow. You'll never have a better form of confidence building – it gives you confidence, it gets you over shyness. 

My name's Peter and I live with anxiety."