I started VS a few months after I left school. My friend group only cared about drugs and drama and I was very anxious about a lot of things, but especially the thought of getting a job. My mum wasn’t having any of it though so she made me come here. I remember my first day, not like it was yesterday, but like it was a little over a month ago. I wore my most blend-inable outfit, stressed the whole bus journey in and walked the loooong 2 minute journey from the bus stop to the offices. I almost turned around a few times and went home. Pushing the buzzer for the first time was so scary I felt sick but when I walked into the room I was met by friendly faces and a reassuring energy. Not that that made me much less anxious.
On the first day we get to eat breakfast rolls together to start us off which now I think is lovely but then I had an intense fear of eating in front of people and i hated every second of it. After we played a game to get to know each other’s names and I said my legal name because I was scared to say my actual name which now looking back it seems ridiculous because I could not have been put in a more accepting group.
The actual activity of the day was a trip to the beach which seems like a safe bet but obviously I hadn’t faced enough of my fears already. We had to collect wood for a fire. I am terrified of spiders. A lifelong fear that even landed me in CAMHs when I was younger. Now I was with a bunch of people I didn’t know, scared of looking lazy but equally scared of picking up a stick that could have a spider on it. Obviously it wasn’t that bad though because I came back.
The next day was climbing. Definitely a challenge for other people but I L O V E climbing, it was something I did to relieve anxiety as a child.
Finally the part of challenge week that really made me understand why its called that. The bothy trip. I have been to bothies before but they all had nothing in them and I did not visit in October. Which for those of you who don’t obsess over how likely it is you’ll see a spider the chances are very high in October. I was feeling positive on the bus with my crochet and as we trekked across the field with all our things. But then we went in and to my horror the place is covered with cobwebs. I inspect the two rooms and pick the less cobwebby one. Job does a quick spider sweep and I start putting my things in and sorting my indoor footwear.
The room next door goes quiet suddenly. Then a few seconds later a mass of legs catches my eye and I see an absolute beast of a spider crawling towards me. This is how I remember it, but my brain might be dramatising things.
I don’t remember too much after but everything everyone did for me changed my view on life. I think I ran into the kitchen where Patrick was cooking. I was crying and trying to explain why I was crying but i couldn’t get any words out and he told me i didn’t need to say anything and he gave me a hug. I don’t think I can put into words how much those two simple things made me feel apart from this stranger cared about me.
Even though I was feeling a little emotionally stunned I was still thinking the spider that had disappeared under the bed platform and how I was going to have to be in there in the dark with it on the loose. But Job came to the rescue and army crawled under the platform to get the spider. At home I was always told to just deal with it but here in front of me there was a staff member I’d met two days prior under a bed platform chasing a spider so I would be less anxious. I somehow even surrounded by spiders and cobwebs and new people felt safe.
Three days and 1 giant spider is all it took. The rest of the trip was filled with little moments like those. George clearing the windowsill of our room even though he also wasn’t a fan of spiders (Job did have to save us again) and keeping the candle on so I could sleep, Kieran offering to clear away any that I find and Jaxon just sitting happily colouring in at the end of the table after meals which made it hard to feel anxious when it just felt so homely. It wasn’t all anxiety and spiders though.
Another fun fact about October is it is prime time for mushrooms. I really love mushrooms and being able to identify all the different species. We went on a walk on the second day and I was in heaven. Not only was I getting to see so many more types than in East Lothian, but other people were also interested. It was a crazy thought to me. Back home everybody knew I liked the topic but that was it.
The trip ended with the sun shines on. And people had the sun shining on me. It flipped a switch back on in my mind. I was interesting and funny and caring and people could care about me. It made me realise how bad it had gotten and maybe my friends were not actually my friends. I also came away with a huge sense of achievement because i had slept in a room with an unknown number of spiders and lived to tell the tale.
I wish I could talk about all of our trips but we’ll be here forever so I’m going to skip ahead to our Discover trip to Etive. Etive is a beautiful place and the bothy is lovely. Except for the loft. It’s just beams with mesh holding in the insulation and a thick layer of cobwebs. Not exactly my dream sleeping arrangement. I did have the option to sleep in the less cobwebby bedroom downstairs but I wanted to push myself and I’m really glad I did. I went up there at the very last minute at night and left as soon as I regained consciousness in the morning. It was awful and I didn’t sleep very much but it was very worth it because those 4 nights did more for my spider anxiety than the years of therapy I’d had before.
Due to unfortunate circumstances or maybe fortunate our final expedition had to be changed last minute and we ended up in Etive. It was a bit of a chaotic short trip with a lot of illness but it was good to revisit the loft because this time I didn’t feel like panicking when I sat up there. It was nice to be with everyone and sit with my tea in a sleeping bag before breakfast and there was something kind of beautiful about the way the cobwebs framed the window. It was relaxing.
I came to Venture Scotland to help me be more confident and it definitely helped. I have a job now and my manager is slowly giving me more responsibilities that I am well equipped to deal with and I had the strength to cut off the friend who were making me miserable and reconnect with old ones but being here has enabled me to overcome a hurdle I had given up on ever getting over…
I barely think about spiders these days. It’s something I’ll forever be grateful for.