SHE had her dream job working at the House of Commons – but Lisa Erlandsen was gripped by severe panic attacks.

Now she has set up a local practice offering the mental health programme which she credits with saving her life.

Lisa, 29, spent four years working for Bournemouth East MP Tobias Ellwood, while those around her were unaware her mental health was declining.

“I was getting such severe panic attacks I was collapsing on trains on the way to work. I was afraid to fly so holidays become a nightmare. I was starving myself and attempted self-harm,” she said.

“When Tobias got promoted to the Foreign Office, I had to go to a meeting with the Foreign Office. That had been my dream when I was at university. I was shaking. I was just sitting there thinking, ‘I’m going to pass out’.”

Her anxieties included emetophobia, a severe fear of being sick.

“It got to the stage where I wasn’t eating at all, which they could see at work. I turned to drinking, quite hard, to cope. In every area of life it was quite obvious I wasn’t coping,” she said.

Although some MPs have spoken about their own mental health problems recently, Lisa, a senior parliamentary assistant, was afraid to speak up. “I was struggling for four years, maybe five, and people didn’t talk about it then,” she said.

“I was signed off work for a little while because I wasn’t coping very well. Tobias was just brilliant.”

She discovered the mental health course the Thrive Programme after seeing doctors, psychologists and counsellors, and going on a waiting list for talking therapy.

“I was getting nowhere with NHS treatments and I knew I was in a really, really bad way, so I eventually decide to pay to go private,” she said.

She underwent the Thrive Programme with its founder, Rob Kelly, who was a psychotherapist for 20 years.

She says the programme “quite literally saved my life”.

The training is spread over six to eight weeks and involves building self-esteem and confidence so people feel more in control of their wellbeing.

Lisa went on to qualify as one of around 80 licensed Thrive consultants in the UK and set up her own business, Thrive With Lisa, in Poole Road, Branksome.

“I became aware of Bournemouth when I applied for the job with Tobias. I just loved it. Every time I got off the train from London, I thought, ‘This is exactly what I want and need’,” she said.

She says of the Thrive Programme: “Rather than coping skills, it’s more about teaching you that it’s like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, that the pieces fit together to make sense.”

Lisa plans to start her 30s with a Tough Mudder obstacle race which she is calling her ‘Dirty 30’.

She said many friends had been surprised to discover she had been dealing with mental health problems.

“I remember the girls saying ‘We’ve gone through your Facebook to see if we could find out what we missed’,” she said.

“Since I got myself qualified, quite a few of them have come to me saying ‘I’m struggling and I can’t tell anyone’.”