I have been painfully shy all of my life. My earliest memory of that fact was when I was no more than eight
years old. My mother threw me out of the house every morning one summer and told me not to come back until tea time. I walked
around the streets every day for hour after hour by myself.
As a child, I dreaded those annual summer street outings when all the local children were carted away to
the seaside for the day. On the coach journey up and down everybody else would be laughing and singing while I sat bolt upright,
shaking, looking straight out the window. Each Christmas, a party was thrown in the local church hall again for all the kids.
The only year I went, the girl next door had to take me home half an hour after I had arrived because I was so upset.
I found my salvation at the age of nine: football. I absolutely loved it. It started off when my father used
to kick a ball around down at my local pitch. Soon, I joined a local team and managed my own street team. We used play eight
aside matches on my Primary School's muddy pitch. I had found something in which I could be myself.
In Secondary school I was accepted because I was good at football and most other sports. Gradually I
found my confidence. I left secondary school a good all round sportsman and academic. I was the only boy from my year at school
who went on to university.
It was at university that I came into direct contact with girls for the first time. Going to an all boys Secondary
school, the only contact I had with girls was when one of my classmates mooned at them out of the school minibus window on
the way back from a game.
At university I was painfully shy around girls. After a few not too serious girlfriends, I found a lovely
girl and we were a couple for six years, married for two of those, with two lovely step daughters. I settled down and grew
out of a lot of my shyness. I became a lot more content.
A year after we met, I was diagnosed with Huntington's Disease. Huntington's is a genetic brain disorder similar
to Motor Neurons and Parkinson's. There is no cure. It is hereditary. If either parent has it there is a 50% chance that each
son or daughter will have it too. So when my eldest brother was diagnosed shortly before me I knew there was a 50% chance
that I had it.
When my test results came back positive, I put it completely out of my head and went on with my life for a
few years. I was twenty-three when I had the test and had just qualified as I journalist. I I took temporary jobs
for a few years to support my family as my wife went through university.
My intense shyness and social anxiety of my childhood gradually returned over the next few years. I gradually
pulled myself away from my friends and I stopped playing football. My problems were at their worst around the time that my
wife graduated from university and instantly found a job with her degree.
It shattered my confidence and self esteem. Whenever anybody called at our home I would hide upstairs in our
bedroom or pretend to be ill. My anxiety was so strong at times that even simple tasks such as walking out of my front door
or standing in a post office queue were overwhelming painful..
For almost two years my wife tried to go on leading her life, going out with her friends - friends that had
once been ours . When the inevitable finally happened and the marriage ended after just two years I came back to my family
home a complete wreck.
Coming back to live in my old family home after six years away was devastating. Soon after, I found out that
my wife had moved in her new boyfriend. I took an overdose. Thankfully I was found and taken into hospital. I ended up in
a psychiatric ward for eight days. When I came out, I was put on medication - which I am still on today.
One of the first things I did when I came home was to set up my own shyness and social anxiety website called
'SHY United.' The site offers advice and support to people who suffer from shyness and social anxiety in a positive and safe
environment. The site has been a tremendous success. After only nine months it has had 23,000 visitors. The site has forums,
chat room, weblogs, poetry, essays, and a lot more. The site has had visitors from virtually every age group.