November 24, 2016

I was 18 the first time I was completely and utterly whacked round the face by anxiety. It was the summer before I was due to go to university. I remember being at work and suddenly feeling like the world looked different, people became blurry and I felt disorientated- it was terrifying. I left the shop I was working in and my Dad came to meet me, where he took me home to my Mum. I remember asking her if I was going mad- I felt completely disconnected from reality and the people I loved.

In the first few weeks I suffered panic attacks that would last for hours and severe paranoia- thinking people in the streets were whispering about me and laughing. The smallest of things, like going to the shop at the end of my road became impossible. I began to sleep a lot of the time, as shutting myself off from the world was the only thing that made the fear disappear. Before I was due to move to Leeds, my parents arranged a party for some close friends before we all went our separate ways, I ended up upstairs hiding under a blanket crying to my mum- the world as I knew it had disappeared, turning into something which I didn’t want to be a part of.

Having experienced trauma in the years leading up to this, it probably wasn’t that surprising that I developed anxiety, but nothing would ever have prepared me for the years that followed. I was put on medication and went off to university where I embarked on a road of self-destructive behaviours. During this time I began to experience the horror of sleep paralysis and nightmares. ‘University will be the best time of your life’- they all said, but it was the worst years of mine. It was agony in the first year not to drop out, but I didn’t want to give in.

During my second year my dad was diagnosed with bowel cancer and my anxiety quickly turned into hypochondria. I cannot express through words the shame that a daughter feels believing she herself is dying of cancer when her Dad is ill. I had several episodes over the years, where I was convinced I had MS, Meningitis, Cancer of every different part of my body, HIV, Diabetes the list goes on. One day I left work, and dropped to the pavement believing I had lost the feeling in my legs. My unbelievably understanding boyfriend at the time took me home and put me into bed, where I stayed for a whole afternoon and night convinced I was paralysed from the waist down. I have wasted hours of my life, and hours of other peoples time at hospitals, doctor’s surgeries, and on the internet diagnosing myself. I felt ashamed, not only because there are so many people that truly suffer from these illnesses but also ashamed at the realisation it was all in my head.

As time has gone on I have become less consumed by the health anxiety. Instead I have spent time plagued with self- doubt and self hate. I often feel like I am the worst person in the world. I say things and then think those around me are thinking I’m weird, or that they hate me. I have spent endless nights, overthinking things I have said, what I could have done differently. I have led a ‘double life’, dressing up and going out with friends, pretending things are fine, but not letting people know how bad things really are. My family and those who have had relationships with me have witnessed the absolute vulnerability, lack of self- esteem and negative self image that I have. Yet many people around me see the confident, calm and together me.

Holding loving relationships down has been near impossible: how can you love someone else when you hate yourself? I am so appreciative of those friends who have checked in with me over the years and I am sorry, to those that I could not give my time to, it has been all consuming. Stigma is far too real for anyone suffering from a mental health problem and it fills me with sadness when I realise how many friends I have failed to let in for fear of being judged. That is why I now spend my days working for a mental health charity teaching lessons in secondary schools on mental health and Wellbeing. In my opinion the more people that understand these issues early, the less people that will feel so alone in the world.

Read more personal stories >

Share your story

Too many people are made to feel ashamed. By sharing your story, you can help spread knowledge and perspective about mental illness that could change the way people think about it.

Comments

Thank you

Thank you for this lovely comment, it truly means so much

anxiety

I completely understand how Claudia feels i suffer to with anxiety and mild Agoraphobia, i hate feeling this way but dont know how to get past it, ive lost both parents and only 42 with my mum passing away 8 months ago this has triggered Agoraphobia (which my mum also had) my mental and physical health is suffering and i also feel like i have every disease under the sun. i just want to find happy again....maybe in time.

Claudia, I have a son who is

Claudia, I have a son who is suffering much of what you described right now. I tell him he is wonderful, beautiful, and means the world to his family and friends, but he is not able to hear and is consumed by his depression and grief. We, his parents, feel helpless. I hope that by posting on your blog you can hear that you are a beautiful and obviously intelligent young woman who does matter in this world. Much peace to you.

I have found your comment on

I have found your comment on my blog particularly moving, thank you- and I am sending lots of strength to your son and hope that in time he realises how wonderful he is too.

Axiety

I understand you well my dear friend, I myself I was diagnosed with panic disorder recently ,I had going from one hospital to another seeking help ,but me I knew I had Axiety by couldn't believe because I thought it was something else up to now am still not convinced I feel like I have terrible chronic illnesses ,I feel tired dizzy, being unreal, I can't stand straight or sit,I fear travelling, I fear crowd, I feel strange, no mood ,unhappy being on edge no future ,no solution, I fear taking medicine coz of side effects I feel out of control I hate myself I always tell GOD to grant me a chance to feel as a normal person even for a second anxiety has controlled my whole life I don't know where to hide I don't feel Luke doing anything ,all the time am thinking of my problems people see me but they font know what am feeling inside, my mind has become my worst enemy ,negative thoughts running inside me am terrified what awaits me in the future, the world is a Scarry place my psychologist doesn't offer any help they always tell me stop worrying too much they don't want to help me am all alone in a world of thought s and imagination s. Anxiety is living hell on earth it is terrible u not happy u worried u can't settle, u can't make a decision, u feel lonely inside with sorrow ,life scattered a part ,feelings of dying or doing crazy and many , its threatening y friend don't it doesn't care who u are or five u break ,am going pa difficult time av tried everything but still same,I don't know what to do any more especially being tired and dizziness it's terrible its not Fair for us people don't understand us.my family doesn't know oniy me and my doctor I fear to tell them because sinse am the first born I feel a disgrace to my family. I don't feel like working nor being left alone in the House no place is safe for me

Using your story

Hiya, I am a media student from worthing college. As part of one of my projects I am making a documentary to raise awareness about mental health problems. I felt really moved by your story and would really like to share it with other people! What I would like to do is have someone narrate your story and re enact it on the screen, either with your name or without. Would this be okay? Many thanks, Eliska F

Hi Eliska,

Hi Eliska, I have just seen your message- it is fine to use my story for your documentary- am I able to see it once you are finished? Claudia

What did you think of this blog? Tell us in the comments