A COVENTRY man faces biggest fight of his life on new BBC show airing tonight.
Rob Harrison, 29 from Allesley Park has spent his entire life battling a crippling social anxiety disorder.
Tonight at 7.30pm on BBC One Rob takes on the biggest confrontation of his life by getting into a boxing ring to fight in front of hundreds of people to raise money for The Children’s Air Ambulance.
There was a time Rob Harrison couldn’t walk down the aisle of a bus or go out for a meal. Finding a job or a girlfriend seemed like an impossible dream.
Chatting to the Coventry Observer Rob said: “Since I was a child, social situations were very, very complicated for me. I didn’t want to speak in case I got judged. I didn’t want to contribute.
“I was so filled with anxiety. The only way I can describe the feeling is like you’re going for a job interview every day.
“It’s an overwhelming fear of the unknown.
“I’d get so nervous with a dry throat… really hot and bothered.”
Sometimes Rob wouldn’t leave his house for months. However, after finishing secondary school, Rob decided he had had enough and wanted to look into why he felt this way.
“I sat down with my mom and after talking about it she took me to the Caludon Centre where I was told I had a social phobia – it isn’t autism but kind of on the spectrum or so they explained.
“I actually only had one session at the Caludon Centre because when I was told these things, it made me feel better in a way.
“It was like I do have ‘something’ and it wasn’t just me being weak.
“It wasn’t like a full diagnosis but it helped… and it explained how I am the way the way I am.
“I could kind of work with that and get better with that.”
However, it was when Rob’s father passed, he said he realised that life is too short and he challenged himself to get in a boxing ring and fight in front of hundreds of people to raise money for The Children’s Air Ambulance.
“I’m very much a mother’s boy and seeing my mum on her own and how sad she was, that was also a motivation for me. I wanted to do her proud.”
You can see Rob confront his social anxiety disorder in the ring tonight on the first episode of a new BBC current affairs programme ‘We are England’ which puts current affairs into the hands of the people – and which tells their stories in their own words.
Rob now works full-time at Retail Transport Services in Coventry and is married to Lauren who he met four years ago. Together they welcomed their first child – beautiful daughter called Eliza-Rose – into the world during lockdown.
Rob said he never thought this life would happen for him, but he wanted to share his story to show there was a way out, and that things could get better.
When asked if Rob thinks he’s now cured he added: “No, I wouldn’t say it ever completely goes away.
“Even now when I’m in social situations it can be hard.
“But I’ve had years of practice of living with this social phobia and you learn different coping mechanisms.
“I’ve gone from strength to strength and I want to help others who suffer like I did.
“I want to be the person I needed back then.”
Rob’s BBC boxing debut is part of a fundraising drive from his company, Retail Transport Services, which just celebrated its 20th anniversary and wants to raise money for local causes.
You can donate by clicking here.
Watch Rob Harrison’s story on We Are England tonight (Wednesday 26th January) 7.30pm on BBC One.