How Tyler went from ‘debilitating anxiety’ to a full-time job, volunteer work and more
Tyler Kingsley Phillips is a busy man – he’s currently editing a monthly magazine, working five days a week, and volunteering at the National Military Vehicle Museum. But life hasn’t always been so easy for Tyler, who is on the autism spectrum.
Born and bred just outside Adelaide in South Australia, 23-year-old Tyler says that debilitating levels of anxiety hijacked his life when he was in year 12. He realised that his ability to reach for any of his life goals or take part in local social opportunities was vanishing before him.
Over the past two years – with support from Feros Care – he has overcome massive barriers in his struggle with anxiety, which had left him unable to socialise, continue with his eduction or seek employment.
Troubled years …
In 2017, Tyler was attending a mainstream high school, when one day he suddenly began to feel ill … and he just couldn’t get better.
“We didn’t know what happened. It was a nasty loop of anxiety and irritable bowel syndrome, and then I would worry about it more and it would get worse and worse.
“At the time, I was trying to complete year 12. So that put a massive dampener on my life for a couple of years.”
Tyler was too fearful and overcome with anxiety to attend social events and too unwell to continue with his schooling. He became house-bound and left school so he could concentrate on his health.
“I was crippled for a couple of years until I got support.”
Support, pushing boundaries, and living life
Tyler, who is on the autism spectrum, says that Feros Care’s support in accessing the NDIS was a crucial turning point in embarking on a healing journey and learning how to live a life that wasn’t controlled by overwhelming levels of anxiety .
He says he started accessing support services so he could regularly talk to a psychologist and begin reconsidering how he could try again to achieve his life goals.
“To start with, a support worker would come out once a week and, when I got a better, I reduced how often I needed support.”
Support workers initially tried taking Tyler on outings such as visiting the park, playing mini golf or going bowling “just to push the boundaries”.
“We would start by going out for half an hour, then for 40 mins, then that would become 50 minutes and 60 minutes.”
Tyler doesn’t use the assistance of support workers any more, but says that for the two to three years that he did, “they did absolutely great work with me”.
“They would help me achieve personal goals like getting out more and reintegrating into society. Having supports helped me get over my anxiety, get my driver’s licence and then get a job. It’s only been in the last year or two, that I’ve managed to get myself sorted.”
In 2021, Tyler says he was able to get his driver’s licence and then later in the year was successful in being hired for his first job.
“I worked as a warehouse person – It was very, very hard work.”
Working towards independence
The journey Tyler made with his support workers, he says, was a “gradual and increasing positive progression” and “a real step into independence”.
When he began working, he says he noticed that his anxiety dropped into the background of his life as he was busy with his employment.
He also continued to talk to his psychologist regularly, an invaluable strategy he has continued to utilise.
“The psychological support helped me manage my head state, and I still use funds for that purpose. It was a very, very helpful thing when I saw my first psychologist and I did find a psychologist who works because he enjoys it, so I see him quite regularly.
“I’ve also got my family support – and I support them – so in terms of my mental health that’s working.”
While exploring what would motivate him to leave his house and increase his social connections, Tyler says his parents took him to the nearby National Military Vehicle Museum which is operated on a volunteer basis by members of the Military Vehicle Preservation Society of South Australia.
“So I went out there and started doing a bit of volunteering and cleaning out … and fast forward to now and I’ve got my own military vehicle down there. I’m on the board there now too, so I have some higher powers when we’re making decisions around purchases and grants.”
Tyler is making new friends at the museum and has recently been appointed as editor for the museum’s monthly magazine, Olive Drab, which is distributed to museum members.
“It’s quite fun and it’s always nice hearing about something that is going on from other people.”
Tyler is working five days a week with Grace Records Management, driving and delivering files and secure documents to clients. And, in any spare time he has during a typically busy week, Tyler says he still likes to connect with his friends while playing video games.
“When I did have my disconnect with society, I enjoyed my video games so I could keep in contact with my friends. So I still do that today.”
Words of wisdom
“The best piece of advice that I would give to others struggling with anxiety is that it might seem like the world is against you and there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, but there is always someone you can turn to.
“Remember that – there is always someone willing to help. Some people may think that the world is against them … but there is always someone.
“I would say to someone to not be afraid to ask for the help. It’s a big step, and it may feel like a big risk, but it’s the first step to conquering your fears.”
And what about Tyler’s plans for the future?
At this stage, he says, he’s keen to “keep my head down, work, get a nest egg and try and get my own place.
“And I may try and dabble in the relationship side of things … but no comment on that just now!”