Chloe's way back

Chloe's  way back
Chloe's  way back

A PSYCHOLOGIST said it was as if she'd had been involved in an horrific car accident.

As her kidneys showed signs of failure and she became paralysed from the waist down, her father believed she might die.

Launceston's Chloe Cunningham last year had no idea why she was in immense pain, feverish, shaking uncontrollably, or why she couldn't walk until she received the diagnosis of a condition completely unbeknown to her.

Conversion disorder - caused by bullying.

Clinical psychologists believe that the disorder's physical fallouts are primarily caused by an unconscious conflict from a repressed traumatic event.

The psychological disorder has symptoms of anxiety, depression and fatigue that can manifest itself through the brain's subconscious in physical symptoms such as pain, paralysis, or blindness.

Miss Cunningham's condition started with mild body trembling in December 2010.

She stopped eating, losing 10 kilograms.

``Then, I had shakes in my head and my upper body,'' Miss Cunningham said,

``My kidneys were failing at one point. I had short-term memory loss and incredibly bad pain running everywhere.

``Then I was paralysed in both legs and in a wheelchair for six months.''

Chloe's father Reuben said the ordeal resulted in his daughter's hospitalisation for four months - one month of which was spent in a neurology ward at Royal Melbourne Hospital.

``A psychologist we were dealing with said to us at the time that Chloe has got the symptoms of somebody who has been in an horrific car accident,'' he said.

``Improvements started when he found it was caused by bullying, and within three months she was back to the Chloe of old.''

Miss Cunningham explained her condition:

``Your mind has a critic and a compassionate voice.

``When someone has a really terrible experience and they keep it in, the critic takes over, telling you that you aren't good enough, that you are fat, that you are ugly.

``And you start to believe it.''

She said her ``conversion'' was triggered by a school-life characterised by bullying and social exclusion which caused her to relocate from three Launceston schools.

Miss Cunningham could never understand why she was either harassed and excluded from groups almost every day, from 12 years old until she left school at year 10.

She eventually became used to it.

``Food was thrown at me, drinks were poured down my back, there was name-calling, Facebook bullying'' Miss Cunningham said.

``It wasn't just from the one group at school. There was bullying in every group I was associated with.

``Some people would start it and others would join in.''

She said she has overcome her experience with conversion disorder, only shell-shocked to the point of some permanent memory loss.

Miss Cunningham, with her father, has set up a Tasmanian anti-bullying organisation Angel's Goal and hopes to visit schools, workplaces and sporting groups to spread awareness on mental impacts of bullying.

The organisation has been endorsed by Education Minister Nick McKim, Launceston MLC Rosemary Armitage, Launceston Mayor Albert, and Bass Labor MHA Brian Wightman.

Boxing champion Jeff Fenech has taken on a role as its ambassador.

To learn more about the Cunningham's anti-bullying initiative, visit www.angelsgoal.com.au