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Season 1 Episode 17 – Joey Laguio

Joey Laguio is a passionate and multidisciplinary music and technology educator who volunteers at Anxiety Canada.

In this episode, Joey shares how he struggled with anxiety growing up, came to become involved with Anxiety Canada, and how he appreciates that “In CBT there’s so much of that looking at evidence, looking at what’s realistic and balanced.”

John Bateman (JB): Welcome Joey! What’s your anxiety story?

Joey Laguio (JL): My whole life has been a lot of anxiety. Ever since I was a kid, I remember not wanting to go to school. I’d always have stomach aches. I would just keep lying to my parents saying, ‘I don’t want to go, I don’t want to go’. And I just didn’t know why. And it seemed like other kids all easily could go to school and they were having fun. And there was me, feeling like it’s the end of the world every day. But at the same time it was really weird because I developed a habit of being a really high achiever.

JL: Looking back, it’s so easy to see that was such a defence mechanism for me to just keep achieving and being perfect so that no one could see that I was actually super not okay inside. But if anything, it was bad that I actually continued to succeed and succeed. Even through high school and university doing Engineering. I almost wish that I had failed earlier and showed myself that I was brave enough to fail earlier. Because I was just so good at keeping the face on, telling everyone things are good and I’m good at doing so many things. When really I was not okay. But I have come a long way since then, especially since I was a kid, and especially post-graduation after university.

JL: It’s been a journey. And it’s only recently that I’ve started going to therapy over maybe four or five years. Oh yeah. That’s, yeah. I don’t consider, I mean, you’re a young man. Yeah. I’d like to think so. Four or five years, that’s, that’s a good stretch to be doing that. And that’s, yeah. You know, it’s important to, I F I find a lot of people, they kind of, what we’ve talked about is how, you know, you go along, you feel better than you stop, right? Oh yes. Like to be honest though, like it’s still comes up often, like often, like I think this has come up in a lot of the previous interviews is that it doesn’t go away. Like even though I’m well seasoned and you know, all the CBT concepts, which I’m super passionate about.

JL: There are still moments where I’m still not okay. But at the same time I see that overall I am doing better. Sometimes in my low moments I think back to everything I worked on in therapy and in counseling and with psychologists and I’m like, Oh man, I’ve come so far from from where I was before that definitely, even if I’m not feeling the best at this moment, there’s so much evidence I’m doing better. In CBT there’s so much of that looking at evidence, looking at what’s realistic and balanced. If I look at the facts, I really have been showing improvement even though my mind and my emotions sometimes tell me otherwise. Nowadays I consider those to be symptoms in the same way that you get a cough with a cold.

JB: Exactly. They’re symptoms. That doesn’t mean that you’re going down the rabbit hole again. It just means you’re having that symptom and it will go away. That’s why I do journaling sometimes.

JL: It’s important to keep journaling when you’re feeling good. It’s good to go to a journal and have that reminder that I felt good. In the past I would only write about the things that I wanted to pursue or that I wanted to do or how bad I was feeling. But more recently my entries have been about how I’m feeling grateful for X, Y, Z and you know what? Things are not too bad. I’ve also written messages in my journal recently telling my future self, who’s more anxious, remember you feel good right now and you can feel good again too.

JB: Joey, you worked at Anxiety Canada, and now you’re a volunteer. What did you do then, and what do you do now?

JL: That’s also quite a story. I started out because my psychologist, who is my hero, recommended me to anxiety to Canada to be a speaker and to talk about my story just because like I was finally at a point where I was feeling better about my life and what I was doing. So it was like, okay, yeah, maybe I can open up about advocacy. So I started out as a volunteer, just doing a few things here and there. And then because of my background in engineering and software engineering, in May, 2018 I started work project managing the MindShift CBT app. It was so wonderful to apply my skills in software to something that was so personally relevant.

JB: And it sounds, Joey, like it’s relevant to a lot of people.

JL: 100 per cent! It’s always really emotional for me to go to places where people are saying all these nice things about something that we’ve made at Anxiety Canada that I was such a part of. And when I think about all the stuff that I’ve been through, it all bubbles up and I just feel all this emotion because I realize that yes, I’ve been through some stuff, but that in a lot of ways it was very much worth it in the sense that a lot of my experience helped inform how MindShift CBT is.

JB: Oh yeah. So what kind of, what kind of stuff do you do on a daily now? Like when you’re dealing with anxiety, what do you do?

JL: Oh, so what do I do? Well, what’s nice is that it’s so ingrained into my habits that like, ‘Oh, it’s like that thing is happening again’. Like, I’m going to act accordingly. For example, for me driving has always been a super huge phobia. But it was also always really hard to open up about it because it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s just seems like something that literally everyone is doing’. My parents and friends will be like, ‘Why aren’t you driving’? And I didn’t want to admit it’s because like I have nightmares about it. Literally my thought would be, if I was six feet this way, I would be dead.

JB: Put it in that perspective, it certainly is sobering.

JL: Yeah. And so it was a tough thing to overcome. But the reason why I bring it up now is because it was a lot of exposure therapy for me, which I continuously practice now. Things like parallel parking. For me it’s the kind of thing where I literally have to be aware of the fact, ‘Hey, I’m feeling that discomfort, parallel parking right now. But you know what? I know that this is exposure therapy for me. And I know that on a scale of from zero to 10, this is around like a four or five, which is manageable, I can do it. Yeah’. And so what I do is I’m just like, yeah, this seems reasonable. I’m going to do it. And then I noticed that for the next few weeks, like if I keep doing that, I know my anxiety keeps going down. But I also noticed that if I’m not aware of those practices, that my anxiety actually comes back. And so it is something that I continuously have to be aware of at practice. Otherwise it just comes creeping back.

JB: I’d like to point out that a lot of people are very dismissive of their fears because other people don’t have those fears that they think, Oh, I’m afraid of Heights. It’s stupid. Oh, no, I don’t, I don’t like writing tests. Just a stupid little thing of mine. I think people should really focus on not trivializing what they’re afraid of and take it seriously and saying, yes, I’m afraid of parallel parking. I’m afraid of flying, I’m afraid of heights. Those two things actually are pretty relevant to me, but, um, but I think it’s important not to do that, that 100% yet, but it’s easy in conversation.

JL: Oh yeah. That’s come up a lot in my therapy sessions. It’s like every time, my small victories, I’ll just throw them away. I’ll be like, Oh yeah, like, yeah, I parked today. But honestly, like, so and then Martinez like, well, hold on for you, this was a huge deal and this is a one step. Yeah. So yeah, 100%. It’s just, it’s a, it’s a habit though. Yeah.

JB: Well, you know what, we’re at a time, but you’ve been a great person to finish this off. I appreciate you being here and being a part of it and thanks very much for your openness, Joey. Thank you.