“My real name is Johnston Ho but you can call me Jo Ho. People know me as an outgoing, friendly, funny and random individual, which can be proven on numerous Hero Holiday trips. From dressing up as a girl, to dressing up and singing as Taylor Swift, to dancing with the father of the family who I helped to build a house for, to creating my own secret handshake in the community I built a house in, I love life…”Social anxiety sucks. What if fear plagued you every minute of every day? The fear of the unknown, the fear of people, the fear of new situations. Every day you feel the same pain coupled with sweaty palms, a racing heartbeat, and nerves worn raw and thin. What if the simple act of taking the next step forward seemed too difficult? When you are paralyzed by depression, anxiety, or any other number of mood disorders, the pain of feeling judged or isolated by others can sometimes be so intense that there can seem no way out but to end the pain at what you perceive to be the source: you. But there can be relief from it, there can be hope, and there can be freedom. Johnston is living proof.Johnston can point back to the summer of 2007 as being where things had reached their worst. By the time he had reached his 16th birthday that day in August, he felt so alone, so rejected and so paralyzed with depression and anxiety that there seemed no hope left. His list of options seemed to grow thinner. But somehow, at that lowest point is where he began the climb back out. As he sat home, alone on his 16th birthday, out of desperation to find help, Johnston began to research his problems. Slowly, through what he read and studied, he began to realize that he suffered from social anxiety. He wasn’t the problem, nor did he bring it on in any way. Life happens with or without our permission, and he now recognized his feelings for what they were: a mood disorder.But recognizing something and following through with a game plan can be two very different worlds. When we suffer with mental health issues, it can be very difficult to separate ourselves from the disorder. It’s hidden inside of us and quite frankly, it would prefer to stay that way. That’s how it thrives and succeeds at convincing its victim that there is no escape. But like any lie, sooner or later it must be exposed for what it is, and Johnston found out how to do that.One week after his birthday, Johnston found himself on a bus, headed towards Vicente Guerrero, Mexico. Having already endured the two hour ferry ride to Vancouver and arriving at the hotel in Abbotsford by himself, Johnston was at a bit of a loss. Could he handle being away from home for two weeks? Could he handle being around 15 other strangers and what he was about to encounter on this trip that he was unwillingly signed up for?”I was late for the bus and when I got on I said LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute)ly nothing to the person beside me for about 4 or 5 hours. Then someone started a poker game at the back of the bus and somehow I began to relax and had the chance to be myself. I won the game and I actually started to relax and felt my SA (social anxiety) slipping away. During the trip I started talking more and didn’t stop; I got to be myself and not what my SA wanted me to be. And that was just the beginning…”During his time on Hero Holiday, Johnston was a part of a 15 member team of participants who built a house for a family that desperately needed it. Together with that family, nail by nail, they forged a new future and hope for each other. For the family it was about shelter, safety and being lifted out of paralyzing poverty. For Johnston it was about a hand up to hope and freedom. Both came empty handed and both left full of promise. This is what Hero Holiday is about: succeeding together.”I have battled with anxiety most of my life. This trip has changed my life, but probably not in the way that the organizers thought it would change me. I used to keep all of my emotions inside and after this trip everything changed. I even wore a sombrero from Abbotsford to Victoria on the ferry! I would have never done that before.I used to get extreme anxiety using the phone, going on msn or Facebook, knocking on people’s doors, saying hi to anyone, walking down the hallway at school, going to social events, using instructions, getting responsibility, and many other things. Now, I am not the same.The reason why I am so open about my past mental problems is that I lost track of what was most important: the value of life, what every day means, what one day can bring and what you have to show. Your potential is limitless. Risk everything for what you truly want. You only live once so stand up, speak loud and live your dream.”For more information on how you can be a part of a life-changing trip like the one Johnston was on, check out www.livedifferent.com. We would love to have you join us. You belong here!