I understand that it is helpful for my clients to know why I do what I do. The truth is that it has been my personal journey with anxiety, panic attacks and depression, and care for others that has brought me to where I am today.
I experienced panic and anxiety and very dark debilitating episodes in the worst ways for nearly 25 years.
Looking back now I have very clear recollections of experiencing anxiety as a child. By the time I was 8/9 I had obsessive/compulsive thoughts, and behaviours that I used to manage my feelings. As teenager I was for a long time unaware I was experiencing anxiety and it took 4 years for me to even figure out what was happening to me. All I knew is that I increasingly experienced sensations that felt real and had thoughts that were absolutely terrifying, both of which left me filled with fear. With each negative experience my world became smaller and smaller as each attack stole my confidence, energy and confused my thoughts further as I struggled to comprehend and make sense of what was happening to me. I just wanted it to stop and for me to 'return to normal'.
Initially my ability to sit in lessons diminished and my education suffered, I struggled to concentrate as I was often so tired from the huge unending rollercoaster of emotions I experienced in a day. I amended my hobbies, stopped enjoying travel (leaving my safe zones was frightening), and I socialised less (the company of friends and social situations was tremendously challenging). Daily activities such as taking an aspirin for a headache, eating, drinking or answering the door was challenging as my thoughts raced away with me.
Initially I used a variety of methods to cope, this included avoidance of situations, OCD, and as I grew older I began using substances to excess. To start with it appeared my chosen methods worked, I thought this was the answer, that I just needed to modify my life and habits. However, eventually, and inevitably, all these methods began to fail. Mentally and emotionally I was exhausted and at this point I finally sought help from my GP. I realised that I couldn't carry on living with this as my life experience.
I was initially offered drugs including antidepressants and beta blockers, before accessing counselling and CBT. I had issues with the medications prescribed, and try as might, none of the talk therapies I was offered helped either. I was low, very low. I was struggling to function day to day, my situation was not improving and could not see a way to be free of my symptoms and suffering. With support from my family, my remaining friends, and my partner, I limped along. I just wanted to be normal, like so many of my friends appeared to be.
During this time I had undertaken further training and had developed as a youth work practitioner, having been promoted to project leader and then a manager. I had found that focussing my mind on study and assisting others, acted as a distraction and temporarily aleviated my anxiety (although it brought other challenges). Working with young people who themselves were struggling helped me to gain a positive perspective on my own situation, and I recognised my experiences, knowledge and skills were valuable, I was able to actively listen and empathise with the young people I worked and focus on developing creative and innovative projects to support their needs. Alas, it wasn't long before I had a very bad episode, a breakdown, which left me very ill. I was incapacitated for 6 months and took a further 12 months to recover to where I was previously.
At this point I was desperate to try anything. Fortunately I was refered to another psychotherapist who, unusually for the time, was adept at NLP and hypnotherapy. I had a breakthrough! I learned my most important lesson, for the first time I was helped to understand that my highy creative mind that never stopped and had caused me so many problems to this point, could also offer me the solutions I so desperately sought.
From my new perspective I launched into evolving my understanding the nature of personal reality and psychology, and learning about thought mechanisms, triggers and identifying solutions.
Over the past decade I have gained an incredble amount of knowledge and understanding about the brain, moreover I have a practical awareness of many techniques that support self management. I have personally learned specific skills in emerging fields of psychology that have enabled me to live without the fears, panic and dark days I once had.
I now believe I was gifted my journey.
I experience joy sharing my learning with others, educating and empowering young people and supporting their learning and development so that they may live peaceably and deveop their unique talents to share with benefit to others.
From my own experience I understand what depair and desperation feels like and personally and professionally I know that there are massive gaps in provision of emotional health education for children and young people.
However, I also know that starting today we can all learn skills and techniques that assist in understanding, assessing, managing and improving our emotional health and that most importantly that we can teach the next generation too and improve their outcomes and their life chances.