For January, we’re shining the spotlight on NCS Grad Joe has been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, a learning disability, and has struggled with confidence and social anxiety throughout his teen years. After he took part in NCS on the Isle of Wight in October, he noticed a change in himself he couldn’t believe.
Joe opens up about his journey and reveals how NCS has helped him to come out of his shell and meet new people!
Social interactions can be quite hard for me because of my high anxiety and Asperger Syndrome, which is part of the autism spectrum. I wanted to go on NCS to get over my anxiety and meet new friends. I was very nervous, but also quite excited.
Initially, I met everyone during the icebreaker session. First I met Daniel, who seemed like someone I didn’t have much in common with, yet he still spoke to me and we got along really well. This surprised me because I wouldn’t normally talk to people that I don’t have much in common with.
I was very nervous throughout the session, but everyone was really nice and didn’t judge me for anything –hey actually liked me! That made me feel happy and welcome.
Our weekend of adventures started around 4pm on Friday, where we all met to get the coach. It was great seeing everyone again! Then I realised how heavy my bag was and that it didn’t have wheels. I had to carry this thing several miles in waiting areas, two coaches and even a ferry. It was a really long journey and I was ready to break into tears due to stress, anxiety and fear. I’ve never been that far away from home before. Another boy named Dan helped me with my bag and spoke to me even when I was in a bad state or being rude. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know how I would’ve got there. That was the first moment when I realised all these people were here for me and I actually felt part of a group. I felt bad for him but he always said it was okay. It meant a lot to me.
Saturday started off slow as I was still feeling bad due to my anxiety but as the day went on, it got better and better. All of the challenges were pretty hard, but I wanted to go across this obstacle course that was set up. My whole team helped me through it– it made me so happy to have their support to get me through most of the course. I felt myself starting to change.
By Sunday night I really felt like a changed person. A few of my friends and I were playing with a deck of cards – laughing, joking, and throwing trash talk here and there. It was hilarious; I hadn’t laughed so much in ages!
Then there was a disco, which at first we didn’t feel excited about. Usually I don’t go to them but if I did, I would sit at the side with a few friends. This time, I actually danced. I actually got out of my comfort zone and danced, and had the time of my life. The feeling was indescribable.
I took a few moments away to myself and looked around and thought: “This is all real, I’m doing this. I’m actually getting involved. People want me involved. I’m actually happy.” You couldn’t get the smile off my face the entire night.
On Monday something was different. I felt much more confident, like my world had been changed for the better. Everyone helped, every single person on that trip made me feel better about myself. But to be honest, I was exhausted and I wanted to get back home… and to my computer.
I still suffer with anxiety now, but it’s much less frequent and I just feel like a more confident person around school – I’m much happier. My time with NCS on the Isle of Wight was the best and most emotional weekend of my life–I wouldn’t change it for the world.