My conversation with the world...

Goodbye 2019!

11 December 19

Christmas is nearly here and I, for one, will be very happy to see the back of 2019.  It's been an incredible year for many different reasons.  I won't bore you with the mundane detail, but I started the year expecting to make progress in a certain direction, full of the excitement that a new year brings.  I'd started in my new Hypnotherapy clinic in London, business was building and life was generally good, but then very early on in the year, the Universe pulled the rug from under my feet and my life went off in a totally different direction.  A disc herniated into my spine, meaning that I didn't go to work for 4 months as I gradually recovered, and that's where I am now, in December, still recovering.

In the summer, I went back to work, and things returned to some variation of normal, but I noticed that my perspective had changed.  Things that once seemed so urgent to me suddenly didn't seem so important.  I noticed that I felt much more grateful for the very simple things, like being able to nip out in my car if I wanted to, or dash up the stairs for something, or even turn over in bed at night.  I felt that I was gradually getting back some control of my life, but that I no longer wanted it to go in the direction I believed it had been travelling in at the beginning of the year.

Now for those that know, I've always been pretty heavily into the moon and the stars, but later on in the year, I became even more interested in the cycles of the moon, and how it governs energy and affects people's mood.  I noticed that in my Hypnotherapy and Counselling clinic, the clients I was seeing around very energetic moon cycle times were presenting with similar types of issues, surrounding hanging onto things; feelings, memories, anxieties, and many of them were feeling frustrated or lost or angry, and I began to notice that these things often correlated with the cycle of the moon.

As such, I've been able to use my knowledge to their advantage, not only through educating and informing my clients, but targetting sessions around specific things like letting go of what you no longer need, or noticing the feeling that hanging onto this stuff is creating within you.  Those feelings can be toxic, and the only person they are harming is you, so imagine how liberating it can feel to actually let some of this stuff go! 

My Hypnotherapy, Counselling and Mind Coaching clients are seeing such benefits from it that some of them are now arranging their sessions around the cycles of the moon, depending on whether they want to let go of something in their life, or manifest something new in their life.  And it's powerful stuff, so do be careful what you wish for!

As part of my new learning, I discovered more about the planets and how they orbit.  I also discovered that sometimes they appear to go backwards, or to use the astrological term, how the planets are in retrograde.  Specifically, I learned about Mercury in retrograde, which was taking place as I was learning about it, and I learned that not only can this lead to feelings of chaos, but it can also involve revisiting things that you've done before and perhaps hadn't fully dealt with.  Or perhaps you had, but you get the chance to do it again a different way!  Interestingly, part of my own learning was that I was getting a little bit too busy again. 

I was losing some of that focus on myself and running around trying to solve everything for everyone else, and right enough, the recovery with my back seemed to go a little bit backwards, forcing me to stop, take stock, have some more treatment and find the balance that was right for me and my life, and I don't feel selfish about saying that, because being the best that I can be enables me to do my best for the people I support.  It literally is a win-win!

And here we are, 12 or so hours before the next full moon.  This full moon is in Gemini, which is apparently all about communicating, speaking your truth and listening, so good luck with that!

My truth is that I'm going to look at two new clinics in London tomorrow, in Harley Street.  Now it might be that it's exactly the right thing for me, and if it feels right, I'll embrace it, but it might be that it isn't, and as such, I'll let it go, and send it on its way with love and gratitude.

I wish you a liberating full moon, a very merry Christmas and a wonderful 2020!

Love Island is Back!

04 June 19

I had never heard of Love Island, but two series ago, I caught part of one episode, and felt compelled to watch the rest of the series.  I then got a hold of myself, and haven't watched it since, but I found it happening again recently with something on YouTube.

I've got no idea how I came to see this thing, but there was some unpleasantness between a couple of people in the Beauty Community which involved some mud-slinging, some exaggerated stories being told, various people jumping on various bandwagons, and a make-up artist YouTuber losing a couple of million of the subscribers to his channel within 24 hours.  Each person involved made a video based on their perception of the situation, and then the others responded.

Or something.  

Now, it wasn't the make-up that compelled me to start to follow this story, but it was people's behaviour.  Their behaviour towards each other, their behaviour when they felt threatened, their behaviour when they felt attacked... and the fact that this whole thing was being documented on video, and aired to millions and millions of people, all of whom had an opinion, and that created another wave of behaviour for me to observe.

People get upset with other people every single day of the week, but to see this thing unfolding in such a public way made me feel physically sick, yet my interest in people's behaviour compelled me to observe the story, the behaviours and the outcomes for a little longer.

I quickly got over my compulsion to watch the YouTube shenanigans, which is a good thing, because within about a week, a new argument had taken over, between two brothers, which was just awful to see and hear.  I honestly pity their poor mother, seeing her boys publicly shame and humiliate each other, but it seems to be the way of the world at the moment - people will do anything for a few more subscribers to their channel.  

Human beings are complex creatures, and the human brain is a very complex piece of equipment.  It requires huge amounts of energy to function, and in order to conserve some of this energy, it takes as many short cuts as it can.  Your brain is continually pattern matching, so when you are faced with a situation, your brain tries to match the pattern to a previous experience, and then delivers an outcome, or a behaviour.  It does this for two reasons.  The first, as I've already said, is to conserve energy, rather than use huge amounts of energy re-learning, and the second is because part of our brain thrives on familiarity, and searches for a situation it is familiar with - even if that familiarity is negative or bad, rather than face the discomfort of the unknown, new situation.  

Bizarre?  I know!

The way that this fits into my point about Love Island and YouTubers falling out is because the behaviour each person exhibits is based on their brain receiving information and passing it through the amygdala before creating a physical or emotional response.  This response is automatic, and based on your life experiences.  It is based in your perception of a variety of situations, and it is unique to you.  It compares the new situation to a previously experienced situation and gives you the physical or emotional reaction that it believes you require.  Your brain does this really efficiently, as a way to cut corners and conserve energy, but... it's not always a reaction you want!

So the way you react to a threat, or some unpleasant behaviour from another person, is based on your previous experiences, some of which were learned when you were very young, and some of which are no longer useful to you.

This is why, when faced with confrontation, some people react aggressively and want to fight, some people react emotionally and burst into tears, and some people react calmly and deal with the situation for what it is - a unique situation, based on the here and now.

The question some people ask is whether or not you can change what is deemed to be an automatic reaction?  Yes, absolutely.  You can change it by first of all recognising what it is about your own behaviour that you don't like.  Initially, this is likely to be after the event.  Once you have been upset, reacted in a certain way, and then calmed down, you might feel embarrassed about the way you reacted.  Once you've done that, you can begin to notice what sort of situations trigger this unwanted response.  The next time you are in the situation, take a moment, even if it's a split second, to think.  The moment that the situation moves from the subconscious, automatic part of the brain into the conscious, logical, rational part, then you have a choice in how you react.  It can take time and effort, but ultimately, you can replace that old, automatic behaviour with a new behaviour which is one you want, and which fits with the mature adult you now are!

A great tool to help you make this change quickly and permanently is hypnosis.  Hypnosis works with the part of the mind that is automatic - the subconscious mind. By making the positive changes in this area of your mind, you can change those behaviours that you don't want.  Those behaviours and reactions that are no longer serving you and are preventing you from reaching your full potential.

My belief is that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis, and you can try some self-hypnosis by downloading my free Deep Relaxation mp3 and allowing yourself to simply relax and enjoy a few moments of peace and quiet.

So for now, I'm avoiding Love Island and YouTube, and getting on with the business of being a Hypnotherapist!

Stop The World, I Need To Get Off!

02 May 19

I try and write a little blog about once a month.  I'm normally super busy, so it's not always possible...

That is, I was super busy.  Until 7th February, when the Universe, and my back, had other ideas for me!

I've been struggling on and off for years and years with a bad back.  I put it down to a couple of things... childbirth being one, and a failed epidural and two spinal blocks (all during or after the birthing process) being the other.  There's no proof to say it's down to any of those things, but I've suffered.  Lower back, left hand side.  Always the same.  It would 'go' in the most obscure and often bizarre situations, normally through just twisting or reaching, and I'd walk around like an S-bend for a few days until it settled.

18 years ago, I discovered a brilliant Chiropractor, and then a couple of years ago, discovered a brilliant Physiotherapist, and with their support,  I've been managing the symptoms of my back.  Historically, I'd go and see the Chiro when my back would 'go' and fortunately, through working with the Physio more recently, found it 'going' less and less.  

I also did research and I noticed patterns.  I noticed that it would 'go' at a particular time in the month, and when I did my reserach, I found that this was the time that my levels of oestrogen were naturally dropping, and the levels of relaxin in my body were naturally increasing.  For most ladies, this happens when the body is getting ready to shed its womb lining, just before her period arrives.  It also happens during pregnancy, allowing the ligaments to become more loose and lax, in order to accommodate a growing baby.  The thing with relaxin is that it loosens the ligaments in other parts of the body too, but mostly the pelvis, the lower back and the knees.

In early February this year, when my back started feeling sore, I went to see the Physio, thinking nothing more of it.  I had a treatment and he told me to see how it went, and to go back if it didn't settle down by the end of the week.  I woke up 2 days later and found it to be really sore.  Knowing what I needed to do, I went downstairs, took a bag of peas from the freezer, and just before I lay on my front and popped the bag of peas on my back, I thought "I'll just empty the washing machine" and as I crouched down...BANG, my back went.  The excruciating pain flung me across the floor and I was unable to do anything other than holler.  No position was comfortable, and I can only liken it to the feelings of an electric shock.  This was at 6.30am, and to cut a very long story short, I ended up spending the day in the A&E Department of our local hospital, dressed in grey, brushed cotton, leopard print pyjamas, a grey, fleece, Tinkerbell dressing gown, odd socks and Adidas trainers.  I didn't care how I looked.  I didn't care about anything.  I was in severe, unrelenting pain.

It transpired that a disc had herniated into my spine and the pain I was experiencing down my left leg and into my foot was from severe cord compression, which was irritating the sciatic nerve.  I'd 'slipped a disc' as they used to say.  It's also known as a prolapsed disc, apparently.  Whatever you want to call it, it was the most severe, unrelenting, uncontrollable pain I've ever experienced, and I've delivered two massive babies!

So what was the prognosis at the hospital?

Well apparently, in 80% of cases, the body cleverly absorbs the disc matter that has herniated, and no further treatment is necessary, although this can take up to 6 weeks (or as I found out later, up to 12 weeks).  Imagine my joy at the hospital, when they told me to expect this level of pain for up to 6 weeks!!!  They prescribed me with some pretty powerful drugs and I went home, in some level of shock, and still in debilitating, unrelenting pain.  

For the other 20% of people, treatment might involve an injection, or ultimately, surgery to remove the disc matter from the spine.

For the first time in my life, I couldn't do anything, except lie in bed, or on the floor.  Every movement I made had to be calculated.  I couldn't cough or sneeze without crying out in pain and my life became split into chunks of time between medications.  I was taking so much medication that I had to document it and set alarms so I knew what to take and when.  To be fair, this probably kept me sane, because I had seemingly lost control of everything else, and for someone as controlled and controlling as me, that was pretty tough to accept, so micro-managing medication was probably good for me!

There were times, mostly at night, when I was desperately tired, but couldn't sleep, because I couldn't get comfortable, or the painkillers had worn off and I was waiting for the next lot to kick in, that I wondered if I would ever have any sort of life again.  I would say that the nights were probably the most difficult.  In fact, I stopped trying to have a daytime or night-time routine.  I just slept when I needed to, as I knew that I'd be awake every hour or so with pain.

I turned all of my energy inwards as the only way to get through what was happening to me.  I cut almost all communication with everyone; I virtually turned off my mobile phone, and I just went into myself to begin my recovery.  At times, the silence was deafening, but as I got used to it, I began to enjoy the stillness in my head and in my world.

Hence, no blog was written, because everything stopped.  All of my clients were brilliant, which is just lovely when you only know people professionally, but they have all been very loyal and said they would wait until I had recovered and then come back to me.  I also have a wonderful support network of people offering to help me - if only I would let them!

I'm a great believer in the Universal Law of Attraction and how the Universe gives you exactly what you need.  Often, this isn't necessarily what you want.  My life had become too busy.  I've always been busy, but I was literally running about from clinic to clinic, dashing between Derby and London, and not getting home on a Friday night until midnight or 1am.  Trying to have a life in between all of that was becoming increasingly difficult.  I was neglecting those that I care for deeply, but mostly, I was neglecting myself, and my own physical and mental wellbeing.

I'm also a great believer in the Mind-Body connection.  We carry the weight of our responsibilities in the bottom of our backs, and more specifically, a herniated disc is about feeling pressured.  

The Universe obviously decided that enough was enough and literally pulled the rug out from under my feet.  I needed to stop, which I did, because I had no choice.  I also had to accept help, which I did, and which was a challenge for me, but above all, I had to take care of myself before caring for anyone else.  I had to put myself first, which I don't know if I have ever done before.  I have had to take a serious look at my life, and make some changes.  Changes which are still evolving, but changes that I feel sure will be good for me.

And that's where I'm at!  Today, 12 weeks in, and I can sit at my desk and write, for the first time in 3 months, which is really quite an achievement.  I can't sit here for long, because I get back ache quickly, and the nerve down my leg and into my foot is still severely compressed, but I can do small things, which I am eternally grateful for.  I have a set of exercises that the Physio has given me, to start to strengthen my foot and my calf, which have weakened considerably, but I seem to be heading in the right direction.  Hopefully, I'm going to be in the 80% that recover on their own, without the need for surgical intervention, but I'm not out of the woods yet.

My advice, if you're reading this and you regularly put yourself at the bottom of the pile, is please begin to put yourself first, even if it's just in small ways.  Care for yourself and nurture yourself in the way that you would care for the most precious thing in your entire world, because as I've found, you can't take your body, your health or your wellbeing for granted, as the rug could be pulled from under your feet at any moment!

New Year, New You? Or New Year, Same Old Same Old?

16 January 19

It's 16th January 2019, and Christmas and New Year celebrations already seem like ages ago.  So, are you the type to make new year's resolutions - and have you stuck to them thus far?

The new year is a great time to evaluate the year that has gone, assess old goals and targets, and set new challenges for the coming year.  Or is it?...

It is, providing that those goals are coming from a place of positivity and growth.

All too often, we set our new year's resolutions from a place of negativity or lack.  We set them from a place of being bad at something.  

How often do we look at ourselves and then criticise?  We might look at our body and say "I'm so fat" or pick a part of our body that we don't like... "My legs have so much cellulite..." and so on.  We then make new year's resolutions based around that.  "I'm going to lose weight because I'm so fat" or "I'm going to go to the gym because my legs are so ugly."  We also make resolutions based around guilt.  After over-indulging over Christmas and new year... I'm going to stop drinking... I'm going to stop eating chocolate...  We also look at habits we don't like... I'm going to stop smoking... The list is endless.

And for the first 3 weeks or so, the gyms are packed, people stop eating chocolate, they stop drinking alcohol and they stop smoking.  Marvellous!

All of these things are great, but they require willpower.  Willpower is just what we need when we decide to do something and need a boost to help us through.  However, willpower is contained within the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is the part responsible for decision making and behaviour, but if you think of willpower as being a little bit like a muscle (although it isn't at all, it's a brain activity) excessive use can make it become fatigued, and then stop working altogether.  

Willpower is actually temporary.  Its purpose is to give us that boost we require at the beginning of an activity, to get us up and running, but once it wears off, we are left to our own devices, and all too often, as with new year's resolutions, that new behaviour falls by the wayside and is replaced by the old behaviour.  The very behaviour you wanted to change.  This can lead to even more misery as you berate yourself for being such a failure!

Does that sound like a Happy New Year?  No - it sounds rubbish!

If you set a goal to stop eating chocolate, or to stop drinking alcohol, your mind often interprets that as deprivation, and starts to crave that old familiar behaviour.  Familiarity makes the more primitive part of our brain feel safe and secure - even if that old familiar behaviour is something you want to change.  Our brains can be weird like that!

So, what's the answer?

The answer is to set realistic goals from a place of positivity.  Have a look at the year ahead and decide what is realistic for you.  What changes will help to enhance your life, rather than make you miserable because you feel deprived?

If you'd like to lose weight, you could try looking at the year ahead and implementing some small, manageable changes into your eating and exercise regime.  Those small changes aren't interpreted so fearfully by the brain and are more readily accepted.  The other thing, especially with weight, is to look at why you are overweight.  By doing this with a therapist, you can safely explore the drivers behind the behaviours you don't want. Once they are addressed, you will find that the weight often takes care of itself.  This can be said of lots of habits and behaviours you don't want.  Work on the reason behind the habit and you will often find that the habit stops - permanently.  That actually sounds like a much more beneficial gift to yourself than the gym membership you'll never use!

By setting realistic goals from a place of positivity, your mind will be in less conflict with itself, and less likely to go back to the old behaviours once the willpower has faded and Valentine's Day is upon us!

So why am I talking about new year's resolutions on 16th January?  Because I didn't make a new Year's Resolution to write this on 1st January, because I knew I wouldn't.  I decided to write it going into the third week of January, which is when the willpower begins to wear off, and we settle into our behaviours for the coming year.

Happy 2019 - I hope it is peaceful and prosperous, and that if you do choose to make changes to your life, that they are both challenging and beneficial, because challenge drives us forwards.  It helps us to develop and to learn, and that has to be beneficial, right?

The Day My Brain Broke...

26 November 18

I got a call out of the blue a couple of Sundays ago, from BBC Radio 5 Live, asking me if I had an opinion on an article that had been published that day, by Professor Dinesh Bhugra, entitled "Why I'm certain most PTSD cases are bogus."

I don't know if they were particularly interested in me because I'm a Hypnotherapist, or because I was diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in 2002.  Ten months after the day my brain broke.

Initially, I was a bit apprehensive about going on the show, feeling as though I might somehow have to 'fight my corner' but upon reading the article, and listening to the Professor speak, I felt that he did have a point, PTSD probably is being mis-diagnosed, especially when diagnoses are being given within a couple of weeks of experiencing trauma.

Trauma is actually quite common; the evidence of which is being delivered into our sphere on a daily basis via the news and social media.  However, the symptoms of PTSD are very, very specific, and according to the NHS, include flashbacks, nightmares, repetitive and distressing images and physical sensations, such as pain, anxiety, profuse sweating, feeling sick or shaking.  These can lead to behavioural changes such as withdrawal from usual daily activities, avoidance and emotional numbing.  Emotional numbing can come in many ways, including depression, the increased intake of alcohol and the use of drugs, but can also include behaviours, such as OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).

Not everyone who develops PTSD will experience all of the symptoms, and of course, trauma is subjective, meaning that something I deem as traumatic might not be traumatic to the next person and vice versa.

Historically, PTSD has been largely associated with the military, and the way that exposure to death and the trauma of life-threatening situations has left soldiers with devastating mental health issues, but it is being increasingly diagnosed in situations which have nothing to do with the military.

PTSD can take time to develop, and can easily be mis-diagnosed as depression or anxiety, because some of the symptoms are similar, but the most important thing is to get a correct diagnosis, because the treatments available can be very different to those available for depression and anxiety. 

I also think that PTSD is currently becoming a fashionable diagnosis, and I noticed that a couple of celebrities in the Professor's article have recently been diagnosed.  Now, I don't know if those people have PTSD or if they don't, as little was mentioned about what was behind their diagnoses, and I'm not a medic, but I do know this... I wouldn't wish PTSD on anyone. 

PTSD fundamentally changes who you are.  Or, it did me, anyway.  When I was diagnosed, I was no longer functioning in the way I always had.  In fact, I found that I couldn't function at all in many ways.  I began to micro manage everything, to try and get some normality in my seemingly chaotic reality.  I was in a constant state of anxiety, having flashbacks and nightmares, yet in another sense, totally numb.  I had brain fog.  I couldn't watch certain things on the television, or have conversations around certain things without breaking into what I now know is a panic attack. It was like living in a nightmare as every shred of my normality had gone. 

For me, some of that stuff never came back.  I had to learn what was the new normal, which in itself brings a huge stack of difficulties, because I also had to grieve what was the old normal.  I was suffocating and couldn't see a way out. That's when thoughts of suicide began to creep in.

Fast forward to 2018 and I have a completely different life.  Life is good and I'm happy.  Sometimes, I get sad, but life is like that.  It is up and down.

I sometimes get asked when I got cured.  I don't know if I ever did.  I began talking about it, which was new, because I had hidden what was going on as much as I could, because I was ashamed and embarrassed that I couldn't function.  I started going to self-help groups, and I went back and talked to some of the people that were involved at the time, to try and get their take on it - to try and put it into perspective, and gradually, I started to live again.  Piece by piece, I started to create my new normal, and I'm still creating it.

I am a fundamentally different person now.  I'm much more sensitive, I become exhausted and overwhelmed much more quickly and I choose the situations I get involved in - the things I give my energy to, but in many ways, I'm a much better person.

I retrained as a Hypnotherapist, and through what I do, I'm able to empathise with other people's situations, and offer depth, perspective and support to the journey that each of my clients are on.

My firm belief is that everything we go through teaches us something that we need going forwards.  I guess that I had to go through what I went through to get to where I am now, and now, I'm in a great place. I'm an experienced and successful Hypnotherapist, Counsellor and Mind Coach, with the same obscure sense of humour I've always had, but I have made sense of my own sensitivity, knowledge and experience, and put it to good use. I specialise in areas of Anxiety, Fertility and Psychosexual Issues, and I'm always learning and developing.

I'm certainly not defined by the diagnosis of PTSD that I had once upon a time.  Would I say I still have it now?  I don't know - probably, in some form, but I ensure that I take care of myself, I notice how I'm feeling, I allow myself to have down days, knowing that when that has passed, I'll be back up and getting on with my life!

I think the moral of this story is that if something doesn't feel right for you, go and get it checked out.  Go and ask for help.  There are no prizes for carrying on regardless.  You don't need to go in search of a diagnosis, just ask for some guidance.  Go and speak to your GP or a Therapist.  I know that in my Hypnotherapy and Counselling practice, I offer a free consultation, where I can listen to your story, and give you the benefit of my training and experience.  As Counsellors and Hypnotherapists, we are also people, with our own story to tell, and often, it is that story that helps to enhance and broaden our experience in order to support others on their own, very personal journey.