I walk slowly, out of the house, down the drive and eventually onto the street. I do not allow my eyes to meet anyone else’s. I stop as I clench my fists and then I run my hands through my hair. My breathing is disjointed. I head back to my drive and sit against the wall for a moment.

“Carl, what are you doing? Aren’t you going to work today?”

I turn, and see my mum speaking to me as she unlocks her car.

“Yes,” I reply quietly.

I have to start walking again. I have to face another day, but I am terrified. Terrified of life.


I blink a few times to keep my eyes open. I then start to rub them to get the sleepy dust out of them, the result of another night’s poor-quality sleep. All I can see in front of me as I walk, is the pavement, all I can hear, are the noises of cars and people talking on their phones. Noise, that is all. My mind is elsewhere, not in this moment.


I don’t know how this all started, but it did, and that’s what happened. I guess I’ve always been a worrier but not like this, not like I’ve been in the last year. I suppose it started when I left college and joined the real world. My friends went off to university, but my grades weren’t good enough and anyway, university did not feel right for me. Instead I started an apprenticeship at the local council: a job to put some money in my pocket. When I started earning money, making a living and facing the challenges of work, that’s when it started.


“Yes?” says the bus driver.

“Sorry?” I respond, looking up and briefly catching the bus driver’s eyes, before looking away again quickly.

I had completely wandered off for a moment then. My mind had gone completely blank.

“Where are you heading?”

“Pile Street,”


“Pile Street, please”


I sometimes have to repeat myself like this, as I become nervous when speaking. I get the money out as quickly as I can, whilst my hands are shaking, I look down the crowded bus; there is no space. I stay standing near the front as I don’t want to become trapped in the crowd. I sense that everybody is looking at me and so I lift my head for a moment. Nobody is looking at me, everybody seems quite preoccupied with their own thoughts.


I preview the day ahead of me, with the thoughts of everyone seeming frustrated and angry at work. It’s probably all my fault. I can visualise myself being well and truly told off. I don’t know what I’ve done but it’s probably something.

Then I start to think back, back before I started college and when I was a younger kid. The fun and enjoyment that I got out of life. As I think about this, a tear comes to my eyes. How I wish I could escape this reality and run away somewhere, somewhere far away. I realise that I have been daydreaming for at least ten minutes and the bus has gone quieter.

Soon my stop comes, so I start walking slowly towards the exit.

“Thanks,” I half whisper to the bus driver, but he doesn’t respond.


I hear the bus drive away. I hear so many cars whizz by on the road and I continue to look down. I force myself to move towards the office, which is there in front of me. It is a large, daunting building with little sign of life. Even the people walking in and out, seem like emotionless zombies.


I walk through the entrance, to the stairs and then into the open office. As I do all these things, I hear my heartbeat start to race, I hear my breathing quicken and I feel sweat on my palms. I want to run to the toilet to throw up, but I fear I will be judged for being late.

I do it! I walk through the office. This is always the hardest part of the day. I keep my head down and walk over to my desk, where, at present, there is no sign of my boss. I unpack my stuff quickly and quietly and then sit down at my desk. I turn on the laptop after I’ve double checked that it’s muted. This… this is just the beginning of the day.


“Hey, how’s it going?” asks my boss, as I look up to see him approach.

“Good,” I murmur nervously.

“Sorry?” asks my boss, looking straight at me.

I have no choice but to look up. I can feel the sweat appearing on my arms.

“Good,” I repeat but louder this time.

“I have a couple of tasks for you to complete,” says my boss, passing over a few pieces of paper, as he moves his chair towards me.


I’ve spent most of the morning trying to complete these tasks, but I must admit that I have found them challenging. I’ve wanted to leave my seat and head to the toilet, but even doing that, I am scared that I might draw attention to myself.

When lunchtime arrives, I go for a walk. I sit down on a quiet park bench. I stare in front of me and spot some kids, no older than five, playing with their parents. They are only playing with a ball, but they look so happy, like nothing else in the world matters.

I can barely eat, as I feel sick. Now I start to think back to my childhood before all this started, before this anxiety came. I never used to be scared of life. I used to love every minute of it.


I find that the rest of the day goes slowly, as always. I feel completely drained. My eyelids are heavy, my head keeps dropping and in addition, my shoulders feel very tight. I am counting down the hours before I can leave this place. It’s only Tuesday!

I’ve completed some of the work, but, as usual, have really struggled to focus. Being able to focus on one thing at a time seems near impossible to me.


Eventually the end of the day comes. I am hoping that my boss doesn’t ask me to give a summary of how far I’ve got, but luckily, he doesn’t. I start to head out as he also puts on his coat. I always wait until he’s leaving as I don’t want it to look like I’m slacking and leaving early.

“Night,” he says.

“Night,” I reply but don’t look at him.


I sit on the bus looking down at my clean shoes on the dirty floor. I try to focus on this but then thoughts take over.

What if I can’t complete all this work?

   What if I get into massive trouble?

   What if I can’t find another job after they fire me?

   What if I always feel like this?


Soon the bus arrives.  I only just notice my stop in time to get off. I start walking slowly towards my house. My heart is still pumping fast. My head leads me as it hangs in front of my body.


Once inside, I put down my bag.

“Hey Carl, how are you?” asks mum.

“I…I….I…” I stutter.

Then I look up and make eye contact. I can’t hold anything back. I fall to the floor in pieces and curl up into a ball.

“Carl,” says mum softly, as she rushes to my side and hugs me as I sit on the floor.

“It’s ok… it’s ok…” she repeats.

“I need to talk, mum,” I say…

Suddenly, for the first time all day, my heart beat and breathing slows down. I feel the safest that I have been feeling all day. I need to tell her everything.


Important notice:

If you or anyone you know, are experiencing any of the symptoms or issues experienced in the story today, please encourage yourself or the individual to talk, and to see a professional if necessary. In lots of cases, people hide or keep their mental health challenges to themselves and it gets worse. I know from experience when faced with difficulties, that when I’ve talked to people it has always significantly improved my well-being each time.

Speak to family and friends where possible but there are some other sources available if you wish to talk to someone independently. There are many but a couple of key ones for the UK:




Jonny Pardoe


Jonny Pardoe © March 2019

Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash




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