Australia 'Healthy' lawyer and surfer, 27, struck down with crippling illness

19:02  17 may  2021
19:02  17 may  2021 Source:   dailymail.co.uk

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A young woman has opened up about the weeks she spent 'lying in bed in fear' because she was so anxious that she had a hidden illness during Covid lockdown, despite being 'extremely healthy'.

Claudia Berman, from Vaucluse in Sydney's eastern suburbs, is a fit surfer and successful technology lawyer who has struggled with anxiety all her life.

The 27-year-old said her 'irrational' anxiety feels like a 'large pit in the centre of her stomach' and revolves around a fear that there is something physically wrong with her.

Ms Berman told Daily Mail Australia on Monday that her grandmother's tragic death from the Covid-19 in South Africa in 2020 tipped her over the edge.

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'My family migrated to Australia when I was six weeks old and my grandmother was like a second mother to me - when she died, it was a big trigger,' she said.

'I'm not specifically anxious about getting Covid-19, but the pandemic definitely didn't help.'

During lockdown, the young surfer had a lot of time to sit alone with nothing to occupy her besides the swirling negativity in her mind.

When she felt anxious, she would normally go and surf or go for a walk, but eventually she could barely sleep or leave her bedroom.

'I spent a large amount of time in bed feeling scared and fearful,' she said.

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Ms Bermann said her crippling illness defied logic, revealing doctors had reassured her she had no underlying medical conditions prompting the breakdowns.

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'I'm a healthy person and that's why the anxiety is so awful, because it's irrational - it's not real and there's no evidence to support it,' she said.

'I'm scared of the unknown.'

With no explanation as to when or why her crippling anxiety will come on again, the young lawyer said all she can do is try and control it by distracting herself with work - which she loves.

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She initially found it difficult to open up to family and friends about her mental health because she knew she looked heathy and people may not believe that she was dealing with mental illness, but realised everyone wanted to help.

Eventually, the young surfer was able to pull herself out of it with the help of loved ones and mental health workers, and thinks her struggle during the pandemic may have been a 'blessing in disguise'.

'I would run for the hills when I had an anxiety attack before, but I feel really on top of it now - I've learned to focus on the present, I'm open about my struggles and I've learnt that I can't control everything,' she said.

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For her 28th birthday, Ms Berman set up a Go Fund Me campaign to help raise money for mental health organisation, Beyond Blue.

Her initial goal was to raise $2,800, but on Monday the fundraiser hit $4,100.

While she knows that she can't control her anxiety attacks - which, as a surfer, she describes as 'waves' - she tries to remind herself that life is unpredictable.

'You can't control what happens, but you can control how you react,' she said.


Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia and it is more than just feeling stressed or worried.

Stress and anxious feelings are a common response to a situation where people feel under pressure, they usually pass once the stressful situation has passed.

When anxious feelings don't go away, happen without any particular reason or make it hard to cope with daily life it may be the sign of an anxiety condition.

On average, one in four people – one in three women and one in five men – will experience anxiety at some stage in their life.

In a 12-month period, over two million Australians experience anxiety.

There are many ways to help manage anxiety and the sooner people with anxiety get support, the more likely they are to recover.

Common symptoms include:

- Physical: panic attacks, hot and cold flushes, racing heart, tightening of the chest, quick breathing, restlessness, or feeling tense, wound up and edgy.

- Psychological: excessive fear, worry, catastrophizing, or obsessive thinking.

- Behavioural: avoidance of situations that make you feel anxious which can impact on study, work or social life.

Source: Beyond Blue

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