Tossing and turning in bed, I breathed out a heavy sigh. ‘Yet another night of getting no sleep,’ I thought.
I was only 14 but I’d been battling anxiety for the past few years.
Born with dwarfism, and just 137cm tall, meant I was often stared at in the street.
Some people even shouted out ‘midget’ as I walked past. It was painful to deal with.
My mind racing with hundreds of thoughts, I put on Toy Story 2, hoping it would help me unwind.
When it reached the scene where cowboy Woody gets sewn up and repaired, I started to relax.
And as I watched the paintbrush glide over Woody’s shoe, my spine tingled.
It wasn’t long before I started to drift off.
After that, I began to realise that whenever I watched a movie where someone was groomed or had make-up applied, I’d feel instantly relaxed.
Going online, I searched YouTube to see if there were any videos especially for this.
It turned out there were – and I discovered that heaps of people experienced the same feeling.
It even had a name – autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR).
It’s when a certain sound or movement triggers a relaxing, tingling sensation that moves down the body.
After watching a video of a woman pretending to apply make-up to the viewer’s face, I decided to make my own.
Speaking in a low, hushed voice, I gently brushed bronzer and foundation onto the camera lens.
I wasn’t sure how the video would do, but I posted it on YouTube.
Within a few weeks, the number of viewers crept up to 2000! And I got comments.
‘This is so relaxing,’ people wrote.
‘I almost fell asleep,’ someone else said.
It felt great, so I decided to make more videos. Looking into other ASMR triggers, I discovered people often feel it when they’re listening to someone eat.
Getting some jelly beans, I sat and recorded myself loudly chewing on the lollies.
Another time, I acted out a cranial nerve examination, pretending I was the doctor and the viewer was my patient getting assessed.
At first it felt a bit strange, but I soon got into the role-playing.
And as I continued to make videos, my following grew. Four months in, I was amazed to see I’d hit 1000 subscribers.
Initially, I didn’t tell my family about the videos, but as their popularity increased, I decided to let them know.
‘I make videos of me eating or applying make-up to relax people,’ I told my mum Anita, 45, dad Jeremy, 55, and two sisters, Georgia, 23, and Madison, 16.
They were fine about it.
‘As long as you’re being safe, go for it,’ Mum said.
Experimenting with other videos, I’d crinkle pieces of paper or tap my fingernails on random objects.
It was incredible to see how a simple sound could have such a huge impact.
Within a year, I’d hit 10,000 subscribers! People from all over the world messaged me.
War veterans struggling with PTSD would say I’d helped stop their nightmares.
And fans dealing with mental health issues said they were no longer feeling quite as bad thanks to my soothing videos.
It was mind-blowing to think I was genuinely helping people.
As an extra bonus, I was even earning money, thanks to adverts.
With over a million views of my videos, I was earning up to $1000 a month.
Plus, making the videos was helping me cope with my own anxiety.
Filming was like a form of meditation, which helped me sleep.
And I’d get positive comments about my dwarfism, with people calling me unique and one of a kind.
Nowadays, I’m doing it full time. I even get stopped in the street by people saying how my videos help them get to sleep.
One time, I was sitting at the train station when a girl handed me a note before walking off.
I just wanted to say thank you so much, it read. I get panic attacks and you’ve helped calm me.
It was so lovely to hear and I kept the note.
Now in my sixth year of making ASMR content, I have over 130,000 subscribers.
I can get up to 200 messages a day from fans. They’re mainly expressions of gratitude from people telling me how I’ve helped them.
My most popular video to date is one of me smacking my lips, which has racked up a huge 1.6 million views.
I never expected it to take off the way it has.
My friends and family have been very supportive of my unusual venture – although my sisters do find it annoying when they can’t find the shampoo as I’ve taken it to my room for a nail-tapping video!
Some may dismiss ASMR as a myth, but the proof is out there – every day I’m thanked by strangers for helping them relax and switch off.
As long as people keep watching my videos, I’ll keep chewing, tapping and whispering away