wE'Re AlL mAd HeRe

Anxiety, Social Anxiety, Panic… and the rest!

The Observer

I’m going to appear in The Observer magazine on Sunday, (inside The Guardian.) I was interviewed recently by journalist Rachel Cooke in relation to my experiences with anxiety. The article is great and I’m excited to see it in print. I really hope it encourages others to get support and to be honest if they’re struggling.
I’m a little worried about the photographs though.. (I haven’t seen them.) Mainly because I wasn’t allowed to smile. The photographer asked me to ‘look thoughful and reserved.’ However, seeing as I’m not a professional I had no clue what to do and I’m worried that I might look like a ‘poser’ or seem really vain. Fortunately I’ll be on holiday when it comes out so I won’t be able to look at it!
For anyone who does read it here’s a disclaimer: I wasn’t trying to look like a model and I’m certainly not a poser. What you’re looking at is my; “Oh God I bet I look like a right idiot” face.
Anxiety UK’s CEO Nicky Lidbetter is also interviewed and she describes her previous struggles with Agrophobia and Panic Disorder.
I’m so pleased that a broadsheet publication is highlighting the Anxiety conditions that some people suffer with. It’s really worth a read if you’re interested.



Categories: Anxiety

Tags: , ,

36 replies

  1. If you are interested in a viewer response, I thought the photographer was setting you up in the pensive-fragile-emo-pixie look what with all that haunted/blanched lighting. But I enjoyed the article this morning, it resonated etc, and look, here I am at your blog. All the best.

    • Definitely the emo look yes! Thank you for the kind words, I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

    • I live with depression, dealt with it for years, so I understood your emotions deeply. Iread the article, and helped me a lot, panic and depression are kinda cousins…Oh, the photograph…you look very good. Beautiful, indeed. I hope your boyfriend is not the jealous kind!

  2. I read your article in the Observer. I’m a clinical psychologist and I think that something called Attention Training which someone has put on you tube may help with your circular negative thoughts (or rumination). This is a technique which forms part of metacognitive therapy.

  3. Well, your wee story even made it into the Guardian online via Rachel Cooke, where I’ve just read it. Well done for adding articulately to awareness raising concerning that particular affliction of the invisible kind.

    Personally, even though confident, certifiably durable and demonstrably cool under pressure – one day a few years back, something pierced my Achilles heal so to speak, at a time when under immense sort of work strain, I’d unknowingly used up my ‘safety reserve’…

    I woke up one day and basically ‘imploded’. (A psychologist’s metaphor). Being not very familiar with physical effects of ‘panic’ I thought it a physical CV or adrenal malfunction until later that day, when asked for personal details, I realised I was struggling to recall and think clearly. I remember the doc saying “home time off for you ’til this straightens out – but concerned about the downer”. He saw me like the coyote in the roadrunner cartoon who’d just been knocked over the cliff edge – just before noticing the ground had gone from under him… and plummeting. He was correct.

    Anyway, even normally solid constitutions may malfunction mentally. Weakness has zilch to do with it. Some folks are a bit timid or nervy genetically… others develop a mental limp due to childhood conditioning (the presence of bad stuff or perhaps subtle absence of certain positive building blocks) or adult stresses or events.
    Folk become so used to compensating, they’re not even aware of it…. Only of the resultant feelings or physical effects.

    I recall saying once “How can I explain to others, something that I can’t explain to myself?” and mentioning to friends “It’s mental, but to use a physical metaphor, it’s like having a stone in your shoe and having to cover up and compensate for the discomfort and lameness with necessary adaptions… in lieu of understanding how it got there and hence being confident of removing it and remaining stone free permanently”
    Keep up your writing, I’m sure it’s good for you and readership alike. It’s good to just jump in and do it! All my life folk have said I ought to write stuff. Maybe I will sometime.
    For web use – you screwed up your background image in various ways. So…

    By way of goodwill – I include link to an improved fix of your pic. Maybe you’ll have to paste into your browser address bar. Depends if your blog settings turn this into a clickable link. It’s safe, just has a cryptic name automatically given by share/pasteboard I use for temp images.
    You ought to be able to just save a copy to your PC – then in your WP panel just swap it (under ‘custom background probably’)

  4. Excellent piece, and I hope it gets a few more people thinking about anxiety disorders. Slightly spooky but also immensely reassuring to see stuff you’ve thought and felt set down in print by a total stranger…!

  5. It was a good article, (relax, the photo was fine!) could relate to your experiences of school, despite being male and roughly twice your age (yes, it affects men too..) School can be hell for a sensitive introvert. Enjoying your blog, I love your sense of humour – your final comment to your school class & teachers was hilarious, as was your gym piece. Keep writing and good luck with your support group project and life in general.

  6. Claire – I just read the article and wanted to thank you for putting yourself out there like this. I have only recently come to realise that anxiety has played a defining role in my life since I was 14yo, and am beginning to rationalise the memories of episodes that I never understood before. The article has come at just the right moment for me and I just wanted to say thank you.

  7. Good luck to you. Discovered the blog via the observer piece. Hit a brick wall of anxiety a few years ago and found the practice of mindfulness really helped. Got to it via CBT. Will sit down later and read through the blog.

  8. Claire,

    What a fantastic article. I’ve suffered intensely for years and all of it rang true. The article managed to bring awareness and give a sense of history and depth.

    And I think there might even be a smirk hidden in one of the photos 🙂

    I’ve reposted and will be following the blog now.

    Great work.

  9. Hi Claire – just found your blog via the Guardian. As someone who’s just been signed off PhD work for a few months because of anxiety it was a good and timely read.

  10. Thank you Claire, it cannot have been easy to place yourself in the public eye like this, yet you have done so with grace, humour, and strength. I think the above comments cover much of what I would otherwise say.

    I think your comment on social media is especially apt – I withdrew from Facebook and twitter a couple of years ago, finding it to create far too much negativity in my life, and since then I have felt guilt at doing so, but I know it was for the best.

    I’ll have to have a peek at the rest of your blog.

    Thanks again.


  11. Claire I wanted to thank you for your honesty and sharing your story.

    I, like many others who I’m sure you will be reaching out to, am only starting to realise that this is something not to be embarrassed or ashamed of and that with the right techniques I can begin to deal with the issues rather than hide away from, essentially making them worse in the long run.

    Your article is perfect timing for me and I just wanted to say thank you. It helps to know I am not alone in all this, not a freak for feeling this way and that most importantly there is support out there.

    I wish you all the best in your journey, it is crazy you are struggling to give back. I hope when I get through this I will be able to share my experiences with others to help them. I had a great mentor at my local CBT self help group and it really helped me to talk through my issues with someone who could connect where I was coming from. I look forward to adding your blog to my support network.

    Thanks again.

  12. Thank-you for writing this piece. I too struggle with anxiety and have done since childhood. I am beginning to get support to tackle the debilitating effects and your article has encouraged me to keep going. I could relate to many of your experiences. I think you are a strong individual and thankyou for highlighting and sharinh. Hope you have a well deserved holiday. Take care, Claire

  13. I have suffered from stress and anxiety, increasingly, in the last few years. I hope that the article will bring about a change of attitude from governments. particularly with regard to the NHS ! I have tried CBT, twice. Although it can help, there is no follow up care procedure. Full time Carers are being targetted by the govts. austerity program which means that while the number of people suffering from stress and anxiety grows there are fewer people being trained to treat us.

    An article in Saturdays Guardian predicts a dystopian psychological nightmare for the coming generation. Beba Gol…..s new film about teenage interaction with the screen points out the fragmentation of the individual from Community/Society. Where will all of these young people go to for help when they find that they the screen is not an escape but a trap !

  14. Hi Claire. I just read the article online. I would also thank you for your honesty – I have been through similar, and this year, I have (under doctor’s advisement) quit anti-depressants, and I’ve kind of ‘sloganized’ it as ‘taking my life back’. I think articles like this one in The Observer, and blogs like yours, are extremely useful for raising awareness of and reducing the stigma still attached to a condition that is still seen as largely ‘intangible’.


  15. I found my way here from the Observer as well. The experiences you described really resonated, especially the effect of things that happened at school so many years down the line. I’m 33 and the anxiety I experienced when I was 14 still returns, especially socially, although I can contain it (mostly). I just wanted to thank you for being brave and contributing so publicly!

  16. Well done on participating in the Guardian article. I’ve felt anxious to varying degrees for most of my adult life. Coffee really didn’t help. It can seem like you are going mad. Despite the anxious feelings I managed to get a new job this week which really contradicted my own view of myself. So the lesson – keep going.

  17. Just wanted to thank you for sharing your story in the Guardian article recently. Your own experiences resonated with me as I went through a similar pattern to yourself of first feeling anxiety around the age of 15, and then it intensifying when I hit university. The coping techniques you mentioned in the article sound great and I will definitely be using some of those to help me through my third year.

    It’s great to see anxiety mentioned in such a high-profile article, as I believe there’s still very much a culture of ‘woman up and get on with it’ in this country with regards to mental health issues which really needs to change.

    Thanks again – p.s. don’t worry, you look great in the photos! 🙂

  18. Well done on a good interview. I’ve been up and down with anxiety, mainly okay now, citalopram was effective in a longer term change. Surprisingly common, especially in the workplace, and I’m sure the causes will be bottomed out eventually….interesting to consider the possible link between GI bacteria, serotonin/dopamine and anxiety/depression, for example.

  19. Well done on a good article that is helpful and reassuring. I’ve had ups and downs with anxiety…. citalopram was helpful in effecting a major change. Surprisingly common, especially in the workplace. I’m sure they’ll bottom out the causes eventually…the link between GI bacteria and serotonin/dopamine is very interesting. It’s a natural and commonplace phenomenon…we’re not alone, even if it feels like it, and this article is a very good reminder

  20. a very well written article on Anxiety disorders. I am a Phobia Counselor at The Anxiety and Phobia Treatment at White Plains Hospital in White Plains, New York. The only comment I would make is that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Exposure Therapy can be combined which will then be the most effective treatment for panic disorder or other anxiety disorders.

  21. Claire – it was a very good, thoughtful article and you looked gorgeous. Anxiety is a miserable thing to live with – I’m a free floating anxiety girl, and it’s rooted in being on constant red alert from my childhood. So I know where it comes from and every time I hear the ‘You are Incompetent’ voice I try to talk back to it. A friend suggesting starting a Nice Things file which sounds cheesier than a Welsh Rarebit Competition but it works. You write down all the nice things people have said to you – about work, about you, everything and you keep it to balance the toxic voice in your head. But blogs like this are so useful because firstly they lessen the shame and isolation that anxiety sufferers feel, and people can also swap ideas and help each other. Congratulations again. xx

  22. Thanks Clare for being brave and telling the truth. Article came at a good time for me too. I’ve found yoga, meditation and mindfulness techniques (particularly counting blessings, I do this every night in bed!) very helpful, trick is keeping them up and not stopping because you feel “cured”! I’ve come to accept that my default setting will be as a worrier – and I’ll always need to work to balance that.

    Thanks again.

  23. Hey Claire, just stumbled across the Observer article via twitter and was surprised to see your (serious) face on the screen – definitely remember you more smiley. Great article and I’m glad to hear you’re getting the support you need. I never knew you were suffering with this and you’ll probably be surprised to hear I get anxiety attacks too. Guess we’re all too caught up in our own problems and in hiding them from other people to actually notice theirs. Best of luck with it all and I hope things continue to improve for you x
    Laura Goold

  24. Really enjoyed the article. Wonderful to feel not alone in this anxiety. I will check out the charity that you mention too. Love this blog. Happy I found it.

  25. guess my anxiety disorder isn’t so dramatic. bur i suffer from ruminants thoughts and i sure looks like hell. love the piece and your picture. so pretty.

    • Hey,

      I’ve just read the article on the Guardian site and I thought it was very good. I also suffer with anxiety/depression and find it hard to sum up how I feel. I’ve had numerous sessions with CBT and I’ve been on Sertraline since 2006 – which was when I first plucked up the courage to visit my GP to start the ball rolling.

      I can definitely relate to the vast majority of what you said. Even though I’ve been through numerous therapy sessions (one-on-one, group etc); I still need support and should book myself back in with the doctor to re-evaluate my current medication.

      With that in mind; I was wondering if you kept taking your mix of medication whilst you were undertaking the CBT sessions?

      Although I’ve been taking Sertraline for a number of years, I have never felt as though it helps. I’ve also found that the over-thinking, holding my breath and the sheer panic of daily life (etc) is just too debilitating for the CBT to be effective.

      Did you find that Valium and Sertraline were an effective combination? I definitely feel as though I need something extra to calm me down and then maybe I will be able to adsorb the CBT teaching, without letting the anxiety act as a shield.

      (If only they made a single pill we could take to make us all “normal”, hey)

      Anyway; I won’t bang on too much for now. If you don’t mind, I’ll definitely be following your blog in the hope that it will inspire me to keep my own battle going.



      • Hello,
        I’m sorry to hear that you’re having g such a tough time. Well done for getting support though. I hope your doctor is helpful.
        In my experience, CBT & therapy works much better when you are rested & more stable. I took 3 weeks off work before I began therapy, mainly because I was too distressed to think straight. Have you thought about taking some time off work? Even if only a week. Try & get lots of sleep (I use Nytol when it’s really bad,) eat well, keep yourself distracted with films & puzzles. I found Cardio exercise to be very effective as it burns off excess adrenalin (which we have too much off!) However, do not exercise if your doctor advises against it.
        In regards to medication, I found that Sertralin is a more of a mood stabiliser (hormone balancing) rather than ‘anxiety reducing.’ It basically helps to keep my moods from dipping & making life that little bit harder. Diazepam (Valium) should definitely be used with caution. It’s effectively a strong sedative. In my experience its not something you can take & then ‘function’ normally. I only took it when my panic attacks were so bad that I became hysterical. If yours sometimes reach this height then I would suggest discussing the possibly of a prescription with your doctor. Otherwise, it might do more harm than good.
        I know, if only there was a legitimate chill pill!!
        Good luck with everything.
        Keep in touch!

  26. I read your article and it was like I was reading one about myself. I have had exactly the same experiences as you with anxiety – even starting with the “going red thing” as a teenager. Like you I was on ad’s and so decided to try CBT. That changed my life and after working hard with that and persevering, I am now medication-free and able to manage my panic attacks. Like you, they still crop up from time to time if I’m tired or hungover but its true to say that the CBT “evidence” strategy of dealing with if has helped immensely. It was good to hear your story as I’ve never really discussed it with another sufferer. Good Luck! X

  27. Hi Claire. Like a lot of the other comments above, I read the Guardian article (and have had a quick read of your blog) and recognized a lot of myself in what you say. I’m just starting treatment for anxiety and depression and the article came along at just the right time! It’s good to know I’m not alone even when I’m feeling isolated by what’s going on in my head. The article was great by the way, and the pictures are lovely too.

  28. Hello again,

    Yeah, I’ll definitely keep you posted. Like you say; it’s always nice to be able to discuss things and have some support.

    In fact; I’ve just booked an appointment with my GP, so reading the article and blog has already given me that much needed kick up the bum. I kept putting it off, even though I knew I needed to do it … which wasn’t getting me anywhere.

    I certainly have some CBT techniques, but find it extremely hard to relax, so it never has the chance to be effective. Fingers crossed, I’ll get some extra help from the doctor in that sense.

    I’m also waiting to hear back about a follow up therapy group, so that would be ideal to re-investigate the above if I’m feeling more relaxed and able to fully utilise the techniques learnt.

    I can also see where you’re coming from with the exercise approach. I think I need to get some more of this done, because I definitely have additional adrenaline to use up. I do quite a bit of walking already, but maybe I should take it up a step. Not too sure it will stretch to jogging – just more walking and maybe a yoga course. (I’ve been meaning to take this up for some time)

    Anyway; I’ll let you get back to your freckle-building holiday now. Thanks for the reply. It’s much appreciated.

    Have a good one.


  29. I came here after reading the Guardian piece, and just wanted to say thank you. I’ve suffered various forms of anxiety and depression for the last 12 years but I’m experiencing one of my worst bouts at the moment and it was comforting to read that there are other people out there who have similar experiences to me. You’ve inspired me to seek help again and to keep going.

    Rich 🙂

  30. Don’t worry at all! You look very calm, graceful and elegant, and came across really well in the article too. Glad that the Observer article sent me here.

  31. Wow! Thank you for this wonderful and very witty message. It’s so up lifting to read about how you’ve successfully managed your ‘panic’ all of these years and now have a loving family and impressive CV to show for it. Really made me smile. 🙂

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