Stories

Mar 30

Wow, This One Guy Totally Explained Anxiety Using Custard!

TEDxLeamington Spa 2015 Event Photos

TEDxLeamington Spa 2015 Event Photos

You may remember that aaaaages ago I gave a TEDx talk about anxiety and custard.

Since then I’ve been asked “when is your TED video up?” approximately… a lot of times.

Finally, I can answer that question. (Although you’ve probably guessed.)

It’s up now.

It contains me. Silly doodles. Stupid jokes. Honesty. Ideas about being less anxious. A malfunctioning slide clicker. And custard.

Watch it! (If you want.)

Hope you like it!

Some Feedback

There are words in it!Anonymous

I have finally arranged to do something properly about my anxiety issues. Your Ted Talk was very much the start of the process… thank you.Louise

I like the stage layout, that background is really lovely.Someone, probably

Mar 11

Are You A Waste of Time?

Time by Kinchan1, on Flickr

The world’s least comfortable waterslide.

Original Photo © Kinchan1, Kinchan1 on Flickr.
CC BY 2.0

Recently I got a haircut. And, as you might expect, nothing particularly surprising happened.

But, as I was paying, the hairdresser asked a question. “Do you have 50p by any chance?”

Immediately I sprang into action. I searched rapidly, poring through my wallet, tipping coins into my hand and picking out the right change for her.

She whispered something to me I could barely hear. “Relax, no-one’s throwing you out!”

I laughed and smiled and gave her the money. I hadn’t been feeling especially anxious, so I assumed she was joking.

But as I walked away I realised she wasn’t joking. More than that… she was right.

Read more…

Feb 09

How I Accidentally Had an Endoscopy, Or: Anxiety & Me

This post contains excerpts from the early chapters of Walking on Custard. This version was originally published online over at Mindtank, an awesome blog for sharing mental health and anxiety stories. Do check them out and give them plenty of support!


/doh by striatic, on Flickr

Mistakes were made.

Original Photo © d26b73, striatic on Flickr.
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License

Worrying has always been my primary way of dealing with the world.

For most of my life, I thought this was normal. (When I wasn’t worrying about worrying so much, anyway…)

Read more…

Jun 10

What I Learned In Berlin & Copenhagen (About The Future, Flying Vegetables & Travel Anxiety)

denmark party

Part of the party.

Anybody who has known me for even a short time knows I am attracted to ridiculousness like a moth attracted to fire.

Where the thing on fire is a cow dressed as clown.

(Of course, it’s possible that ridiculous events are attracted to me, and not the other way around. I’ve never been able to figure this out.)

Occasionally I attempt to resist and be sensible for a while, but no matter what I try, silliness seems to follow me.

A couple of months ago, during one of these “attempts to be sensible”, I booked onto a conference being held in Berlin at the end of May: Alive in Berlin.

I didn’t know much about it, but figured it would provide a nice celebration after releasing my first book and a chance to do a bit of travelling while I make my next plan.

But then, a couple of days after I booked on, this post popped up on my facebook:

Read more…

May 14

It’s Okay To Need A Little Help

This post was originally written for tinybuddha.com. You can find the original post here

It’s 2004, and I awake in a student college in Melbourne, Australia. This comes as no surprise, because, at the time, I lived there.

I groggily stagger to the shared bathroom on my floor, to perform my morning washing routine. There’s nothing unusual about my lavatory procedure, so I’ll omit the details, for all of our benefits.

So far, so good. Already I’m full of optimism for today.

As I wash my hands, I glimpse myself in the mirror and notice my majestic, messy bed-head.

I often sport a disturbing, motley “I’ve just fallen out of bed” look for entire days, as I forget to check in the morning that I look sufficiently acceptable to go outside.

I usually see myself in a mirror just before I go to bed, and invariably feel retrospectively ashamed that I’ve had tufts of hair beaming in assorted directions since I woke up.

On this day, however, I notice my unconventional tufty hair and take immediate, drastic action, slapping the top of my head with my wet hands to encourage my mane into an acceptable shape. I stride out of the bathroom, feeling satisfied.

Universe 0, Neil 1. One triumph already: not appearing for the entire day as if I have just fallen out of bed. What an excellent start to the day…

Read more…

Mar 21

“We Have Everything We Need”

stopped in traffic 2.0 by ** RCB **, on Flickr

A typical relaxing drive home…

Photo © Robert Couse-Baker, ** RCB ** on Flickr.
CC Attribution 2.0

I love driving.

I counted down the days to my seventeenth birthday, when I could finally get my licence. I would no longer need to rely on the goodwill of others to go to parties and on adventures.*

* These ‘adventures’ often consisted of me and my friends all putting on Hawaiian shirts (no, there was no reason, before you ask) and flipping a coin at each junction to decide which way to go. Wild and crazy youth, right?

On one particular day, about ten years ago, I was driving along in an excellent mood.

The weather was beautiful, it was nearly my birthday, and a girl I liked had just agreed to go out later in the week for a drink.

I expect I was singing loudly and embarrassingly to some terrible song when I hit a traffic jam.

At first, I didn’t think anything of it.

Read more…

Mar 03

Distracted by Cake

I was intending to write the next part of the series about anxiety, but I accidentally wrote a story about a cake instead. I’m sorry.

The Story About A Cake

Day One Hundred and Eighty - Lemon Surpr by Yortw, on Flickr

“Hello. Would you like to talk about enlightenment?”

Photo © Yortw, yortw on Flickr
CC Attribution 2.0 Generic License

“Hello,” said the cake. “Have you ever met a talking cake before?”

Read more…

Feb 27

I Was Ashamed of Being Anxious

Vertigo by colmbritton, on Flickr. No hiding anxiety here!

A long way to fall…

Photo © Colm Britton, colmbritton on Flickr
CC Attribution 2.0 Generic License

Many years ago, a German exchange student came to live with my family for a year.

This had many implications, including some interesting cultural exchange, another teenager to share the household washing-up burden that SO UNFAIRLY fell on my brother and I, and an extra excuse to go on lots of fun trips.

During one outing to a theme park, we came across a terrifying ride, called Oh Dear God Why Would You Go On THIS Are You A Total Fool.*

* I may not be remembering the name of this ride correctly.

It involved lying flat, suspended only by a thick elastic cord, and being pulled seventy feet in the air, and then being dropped towards the ground below. For “fun”.

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Feb 25

What Is Anxiety?!

Conga ant by ggallice, on Flickr

A terrifying vision of possible bitey disaster

Photo © Geoff Gallice, gruntzooki on Flickr
CC Attribution-SA 2.0 Generic License

I was once attacked by a Bolivian Conga Ant.

Well. Nearly.

I was visiting the rainforest (obviously). One day, I awoke at 5am to find an ant wandering along the surface of the mosquito net, inches in front of my face.

I watched it for a moment, half-dozing, listening to the sounds of the jungle while I slowly woke up… until I realised with a jolt… THAT ANT IS INSIDE MY MOSQUITO NET.

I responded calmly and rationally by flying into a complete panic.

Read more…