Claire Louise Gordon
I’m Claire a 21-year-old dreamer from Glasgow! I love to help others and have a passion for writing, makeup, Disney princesses and my little guinea pig.
I write about my mental health story, as well as the effects it has had on my time at university, which you can check out here: clairelouiisexo or follow me on Twitter and Instagram. I love making new friends!!
What condition/s do you suffer from and when were you diagnosed?
I suffer from anxiety, panic attacks and depression. I was diagnosed with anxiety in 2014 after suffering from panic attacks for a few months and feeling like I couldn’t manage them myself anymore. I was only recently diagnosed with depression (October 2016) so I am still coming to terms with my diagnosis and learning how to manage it.
What are the main symptoms you suffer from?
My main symptom used to be panic attacks, but it’s been a while since I’ve had one (thankfully). Currently my main symptoms include sleep and eating problems (too much of both) and a complete lack of energy and motivation. Some days are better than others but I haven’t felt much motivation or energy in a long time.
What 3 things have you learned about your condition since being diagnosed?
- Mental health really does affect everyone differently and my symptoms are not the same as others.
- Depression and anxiety are not taken seriously (I thought they were beforehand, but having experienced the isolation firsthand, it’s clear that not many people understand the illnesses).
- People with depression sometimes feel okay and ‘normal’ like before, it’s not a constant sadness that is there constantly, but it’s never far away. Same with anxiety, sometimes I can do the wildest things and feel no panic or worry and sometimes leaving my house reduces me into a panicky mess in case I have to speak to someone. Some days are really full on symptom-wise and some days you feel okay again.
In what way has the NHS supported or not supported you?
The NHS has helped me in that I get my medication from my GP & through the NHS and all of my appointments have been with my GP at a surgery run by the NHS. However, I have also been on the NHS counselling waiting list for almost two years now and so that has been a very tough, long wait.
What is the hardest part about your illness, in your opinion?
Definitely the bad days. The de-motivation/exhaustion/lethargic/emotional days are so tough. Some days I’ve found it hard to get out of bed, falling behind in work or on tasks I have to do which then makes me feel worse about being a failure or falling behind and it’s just an awful cycle I find it really hard to break out of.
List 3 phrases you hate hearing off other people about your condition.
- I get really frustrated when people use the terms anxiety and depression lightly, like ‘XX is giving me anxiety’ when they really mean they just feel anxious, or ‘XX happened and now I feel so depressed’ when they just felt down for a day or two. I feel like this really trivialized mental health and contributes to the embarrassment and stigma around these conditions which makes sufferers less likely to ask for help – in my case anyway.
- ‘Now that you’ve got medicine why can’t you come out to clubs/drink/dancing (etc)’. Just be-cause I take medicine for my conditions, particularly anxiety, that dulls the effect of my panic at-tacks doesn’t mean I’m suddenly ‘cured’ and can do all of the things that trigger me in the first place. I’ve been asked this so many times from former friends and I just hate how much pres-sure it puts on, there are so many better ways to word this!
- ‘You won’t feel as bad if you drink more water/eat healthier.’ I know that eating healthy will prob-ably make me feel better, but when I have barely enough motivation to get out bed, it’s way less effort to open a packet of crisps than it is to prepare a healthy meal.
List 3 things you wish people would say/do instead.
- I wish that people would think before they say certain words and remember that mental health conditions are not feelings and be mindful of their words.
- ‘What would you like to do at the weekend? We were thinking of going out for drinks.’ Feels way less pressure.
- If there’s a particular bad day where I can’t stop eating junk food and am feeling awful, I think it’s best just to not be reminded of it. We all know that water, fruit and veg are key to a healthy life, but if I’m having a day where it’s chocolate every hour – I probably already feel guilty and don’t need to be told.
Do you have any cheats/tricks to get you through the day or to help you complete certain tasks?
I like to set myself to-do lists and then reward myself when I complete each task/the full list. I also think that getting myself ready for the day (hair done, makeup done) helps with my motivation and makes me less likely to get back into bed. My main problem with tasks is definitely the motivation factor so I try a few things every day to try to help me complete tasks, but rewards and getting all made up are definitely my main tricks.
Have you picked up any new hobbies or activities since being diagnosed that you didn’t think you would?
My blog! I’ve always loved writing and reading others’ work but always been too scared to give it a go myself. In December 2016, I decided to make my own blog and get it looking all pretty so it was there in case I wanted to write anything and then one day decided I would like to try to create the resource I wish I had when I was struggling. I’ve always been an honest, upfront per-son, yet sometimes it does feel strange sharing so much of my life but I always feel so much better afterwards and I’ve found it really therapeutic to get it all out there. I’m not sure what it was that pushed me over that fear, but I’m so glad I decided to give it a go, it’s really boosted my confidence!
What do you do? Work, study?
I took a break from uni due to my mental health as I was falling behind, feeling really low/suicidal and realised I needed time to try to heal myself. Currently I work part-time as a tutor, which I love! It’s great for getting me out the house 3 times a week and working with kids is just so much fun. I’m enjoying my days off at the moment though, having a break has really helped me start to feel better.
What are you plans for the future?
I’m aiming to return to uni in September 2017 to complete my final year. I’m feeling kind of mixed about it, as I’ll be graduating a year later than all of my former classmates since they’re about to finish now and I’m away, but determined to get it over with. After uni, I’m not sure. I would love to keep working on my blog, make a career from writing and maybe ever start my own business but I want to see how the next few months go before making any solid commitments. I’m also considering teaching, but not 100% on it yet.
Is there anything you would do differently since being diagnosed, and why?
Honestly, if I could go back with what I know now, I wouldn’t keep it all to myself or be embarrassed. Mental health, and any illness really, isn’t something to be ashamed of at all and affects way more people than you realise. It’s just best to be as honest as you’re comfortable with. It’s not my fault that I have anxiety or depression, even though it felt like it was all because of me at the start and I feel like I wouldn’t have struggled as much with loneliness and isolation if I’d known that before.
Has your illness taught you anything about life?
My illness has taught me that our health is the most important thing of all. For too long I was trying to hide it all, ashamed of my diagnosis/symptoms, and pretend everything was okay which made me feel a whole lot worse and isolated. I tried to take on lots of work at once and, as a complete perfectionist, put myself under too much pressure to the detriment of my health. I’m still learning, but I understand it more now – it’s so much more important to put yourself first.
What advice/information do you wish you were told when you were first diagnosed?
I wish I was told not to keep it to myself, both before and after diagnosis. I feel like keeping the way I felt all bottled up made it 10 times worse.
What would be your main piece of advice for people who has just been diagnosed with your condition?
Talk about it! Don’t keep it all bottled up, whether you’re worried about the diagnosis or some-thing else, talk to someone you trust. Don’t be scared either. Words like ‘depression’ and ‘anxiety’ sound so terrifying and it is scary to think you’ll be like this for the rest of your life, but there are so many ways to seek help and manage your condition. Take some time to come to terms with your diagnosis and take it from there. Also, if you are advised to start medication, talk to someone about that. I was terrified to start medication because I’d heard so many horror stories about side effects but it’s not been as bad as I thought it would. The first few weeks were a bit up and down but any issues have settled right down, so I would definitely say to chat about medications and the side effects to hopefully calm any nerves.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read Claire’s amazing story, make sure you go and check out her blog and find out more about what she has to say! We only have a few more Confessions left to post, this events time is coming to an end very soon but I just thought I would say now how amazed I was at all the responses Amy and I have received, as well as how grateful I am to all those who both took part, read and connected through this experiences!
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