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Jodie’s Story

Hi my name is Jodie and I have suffered with health anxiety, depression and panic attacks for most of my adult life. I am now 44 years old and so I feel that I’ve been this way for too long! Looking back over my childhood I was always an anxious child, a worrier but I never dreamt that this would lead to the problems I now have. I had my first panic attack when I was 22 and I was out Christmas shopping which I know is enough to give anyone panic attacks. I had recently changed my job and was not happy in my new workplace, my Grandfather had died and I think these things all had a knock on effect on me.

I struggled with going out and especially going into crowded shops etc but over the years I managed to overcome most of my fears and lead a relatively anxiety free life.

I married and had my first baby in 1989. I became pregnant again in 1990 and at the same time began to suffer with problems eating. I had severe pain in my chest when I ate and was sick a lot. I lost weight throughout my pregnancy but was unable to undergo tests until after the baby was born.
My second daughter was born perfectly healthy in April 1991 and a couple of months later I had tests at the local hospital. I was told my eating problem was due to an inflammation in my gullet, I was prescribed tablets and sent home. Unfortunately the problem continued and over the next 6 months my weight dropped to under 7 stone. My GP and my consultant at the hospital both told me I had post-natal depression and then anorexia but I knew there was something wrong.

The turning point for me came when I met a lady at a friend’s house whose uncle was a specialist in the oesophagus and worked in London. My husband and I went to see him the week before Christmas in 1991 and he knew immediately what my problem was. I had achalasia which meant that a muscle in my gullet was not working properly and was not allowing food to pass into my stomach, hence the pain and vomiting.

The diagnosis was the best Christmas present I had ever had and I couldn’t wait to travel back to London in January for surgery. I was in hospital for 2 weeks and had a major operation but it worked and within days I was eating normally again. I vowed that I would never worry about my health again and for a few months I was really well. I became pregnant in March 1993 and suddenly my health anxiety began.

I lost all faith in doctors and hospitals and was unable to go for my ante-natal appointments until I was about 20 weeks pregnant. My first scan showed that the baby had multiple cysts in his brain and there was a high risk of Down’s Syndrome. Thankfully an amniocentesis showed I was carrying a healthy baby boy and he was and is gorgeous.

During this time my eldest daughter had been diagnosed with haemangiomas on her tongue and had had several operations on these. They recurred every few months and even grew on the side of her face. We were told that she would probably grow out of them when she was about 7 and she did and she had her last operation just after her 7th birthday. My Mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and in 1997 my Father died suddenly of cancer. I had begun by this time to worry constantly about my health, especially my heart as I suffered with palpitations. I have a wonderful GP and with her help and medication I was able to lead a relatively normal life.

Soon after my wonderful Dad died I discovered my husband had been having an affair with a friend and I just fell apart. I became severely depressed, began to self harm and was admitted for the first of several stays in a psychiatric ward. Over the next 2 years I was very up and down and in 2000 my husband left me and moved in with the office junior who was 20 years his junior! I coped well initially with this but my husband was a solicitor and I wasn’t srong enough to fight him. I ended up back in hospital for 2 months and when I came out the house was sold, my children were living with him and his girlfriend and I was moved into a flat on my own.

This was when I bagan to fight back and over the next few years I moved into a lovely little house, my children began to stay regularly and we now share custody. I met a wonderful man 5 years ago, started work and I felt I had achieved so much. My health anxiety had, however, never disappeared but I managed to cope with it. I started a new job as a medical secretary which I thought would either be the best or worst move I could make.

For over 2 years it was wonderful but last year my life fell apart again. My 16 year old daughter contracted meningitis in November and for a week was very poorly. I didn’t give a thought to my health anxiety whilst she was ill as my all consuming thoughts were obviously about her. She began to improve but just before she left hospital I suffered a major panic attack whilst visiting her. This has triggered off my health anxiety to an horrendous level.

The week after she came home, my partner went into hospital for a knee replacement and I found it so hard to visit him due to a feeling of constant panic whenever I went near the hospital. My symtoms worsened over the next few months and I have had to give up my job as I began to focus on all the medical problems I was typing about and this led to constant anxiety at work. I started to have problems going out to the shops, friends homes and have been virtually housebound for the past few months and feel I have nowhere to turn.

I have been prescribed medication but I am unable to take anything as the fear of side-effects is as bad as the anxiety. I have also developed phobias about certain food, plants, flowers, beauty products ie shampoos, make-up etc. I worry if I touch these things I am going to suffer an allergic reaction which will kill me and this is how I feel about medication.

I suffer with palpitations, mainly ectopic beats, and have had ecgs which have said my heart is fine but due to my mistrust of doctors I don’t believe anything anyone tells me. Every ache or pain however slight sets off a spiral of obsessive thoughts – is it a heart attack? A brain heamorrhage? A DVT? etc etc

I feel lost and very alone. My partner has been wonderful and is so supportive as are family and friends but you begin to feel that there is only so much they can, and should, have to put up with and I really don’t know what to do anymore. I have contemplated suicide on numerous occasions but I know I could never do that to my children and the people who love me but at the same time I selfishly feel ‘what about me’, how can I live the rest of my life like this. I don’t live at the moment I exist from one day to the next in a constant fog of anxiety.

If anyone else feels the same as this please e-mail me. It would be wonderful to feel that I am not alone.