a, n, x, i, e, t, y – seven little letters that when placed together, form a word, and more importantly, a state of mind, that can change your life forever. But not necessarily in a negative way…
In the beginning I was always an anxious child; I hated change, I loved routines, I would worry incessantly and I was a perfectionist (to this day, I still relate to these things!). As a child, I was known as a ‘worry wart’; I would worry or stress about things that kids didn’t need to. In particular, I worried about change. I hated change in routines. I hated trying new things. I was a creature of habit. Upon reflection, I think I feared change so much because I always wanted to be in control. And change forces you to relinquish control and then form new routines - a nightmare for someone who loves order and predictability.
Manifestation As the years progressed, so did my anxiety. My anxiety manifested in a variety of ways – migraines, obsessive compulsive behaviours, strict routines and high levels of stress. I continued to go about my daily life thinking I was just a ‘worry wart’ or a highly anxious person. I just thought this was my personality and that this was how I managed the world around me.
In part, this was, and still is, my personality – I am highly strung, I am always on the go, I enjoy routine, I strive to be the best I can be, and I get anxious about certain things. But it wasn’t until my anxieties BECAME my life, as opposed to PART of my life, that things changed forever.
After completing my Bachelor of Education (primary), I was employed as a primary school teacher – and I loved it!!! But as time went by, without realising it, the pressures I placed on myself began to overwhelm me. After years and years of being anxious, my mind, body and soul screamed, ‘Enough is enough!!’ In 2009, whilst attending a school assembly with my class, I suffered the first of many panic attacks. The newest manifestation of my anxiety.
When one door closes
In 2010, after suffering severe anxiety and panic attacks, I resigned as a primary school teacher. Although my decision to resign was made with a heavy heart, it was a decision I needed to make, and one that led me to where I am now.
The year of my resignation saw me almost housebound. Going to the supermarket was a huge challenge, driving was becoming a major trigger of my anxiety, and simple things like having a shower brought on my panic. I would spend my days on the couch, watching mind-numbing TV and trying to fill the hours with things other than my harmful negative thoughts. I had hit rock bottom – I no longer had purpose. And I could feel the heavy, dark cloud of depression floating above me and resting on my shoulders. My family history is rife with anxiety and depression, so I was completely aware of the signs and symptoms of depression and I knew I did NOT want to go down that road. I needed to feel ‘myself’ again; I needed purpose.
Another door opens
I was, and still am, a creative person. I like to use my imagination and I love to create with my hands. I knew that being creative would help fill my time, and my mind, in a productive and positive way. I decided to work from home and opened up my own online business creating personalised artwork for children. For five years, I designed, created, networked and grew my little business. During those five years, I chatted with so many parents of young children, and it was two particular conversations with parents that changed everything for me.
These parents had primary school aged children who were anxious - not just every day worries, but anxieties that consumed the minds of these little people on a daily basis. Knowing, from personal experience, how much these children were suffering, I wanted to do something to help them. I closed my online business and decided to dedicate my time to helping children manage their anxieties.
Combining my personal challenges with anxiety, my experience as a teacher, my love of design, and my obsession with all things sausage dogs, I designed the little wuppy®. The little wuppy® is a sausage dog worry puppy designed as an aid to help ease children’s worries, and to help comfort them.
Children are encouraged to send their worries to the little wuppy® by placing its heart against their own. Children can also stroke or rub the soft minky backing to help centre and calm themselves, and can use the little wuppy® as a focus tool when they are trying to concentrate at kinder/school. This is especially helpful for children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) or sensory processing issues.
The little wuppy® is small enough for a child to hold in their hands, pop into their bags or pocket, or place under their pillow – but big enough to make a difference.
Although anxiety is (and always will be) a part of my life, without it, I would not be where I am today.
I am extremely passionate about the need to talk openly and honestly about anxiety, and want to help remove the stigma surrounding mental health issues, especially in regards to children.
Experiencing anxiety has helped me help others, and helping others is one of the most fulfilling and joyous things in life! It is my purpose.