by Kevin Gabriel

About five years ago, I was delivering a routine presentation to the general staff, and I experienced an anxiety attack. This was the first anxiety attack that I had ever encountered, and because it happened during a public speaking engagement, it was a mental trauma that led to a spiraling fear of public speaking.

My anxiety attacks subsided after a few months, but my fear of public speaking only got worse.That fear then led to an anxiety disorder that affected me for several years and it was getting worse over time.

Finally, I was able to pull together the will and courage to attend a Toastmasters meeting in Spring of 2017.I figured if it did not go well, I would never have to go back and see these people again.Fortunately for me, the group was very friendly, welcoming, and supportive.I had to force myself to come for the first six months, but through repetition, practice, and support from the group, my public speaking skills started to improve.

More importantly, the anxiety that I lived with every waking moment started to get better. At first, the improvements were hard to recognize, but after a year or so, not only had I overcome my crippling fear of public speaking, but my struggles with anxiety had greatly subsided as well. Within two years, I had completely recovered from all my struggles with anxiety, and public speaking became something that I actually enjoyed. I even served as President of the UUCA Toastmasters club during my second year with the group.

I will forever be thankful for this group who so readily made me feel welcome, and as a result, helped me work through some significant mental issues. This group literally changed my life.