Come day two, I knew what the therapist Debbie had told me about herself, but apart from that I knew very little about her in a friendship kind of way. I didn't know her favourite food or her choice of music and yet it felt like waiting for an old friend to arrive, someone I had known my whole life, someone I could trust implicitly; the sort of trust I would need to allow Ellie to spend time with someone.
This feeling was all the more extraordinary if you know me well, and not many people do, but that's the point! I do not trust people, I do not share things with people, I certainly do not like people in my home and on the whole I much prefer canine company to that of humans.
So come day two of my therapy sessions which by the way have been provided by the charity Save our Soldier as opposed to the police service stepping up in any which way with productive methods of therapy. Although after three months of being off sick I do have a referral to a psychologist in the offing! My therapist though is Debbie Banks and believe me I was somewhat unnerved to find myself actually looking forward to her coming back into my home for the second day.
Debbie brought with her, her beautiful little man Dave (a dachshund!) and our three canine friends set to doing their thing whilst we went about doing ours.
In some respects it seems that all we did was talk for two whole days, I shared thoughts and feelings with her that have never seen the light of day yet alone been openly discussed, but it was so much more. How one person has the capacity to listen so keenly, caringly and respectfully is and always will be somewhat of a mystery. Yes in policing we listen intently to witnesses and victims, yes of course we do, but for our purpose on the whole, we have our agendas.When Debbie listened to me talk, about me, for me she is also doing it for me not her! One hundred percent selflessness.
I'm reminded of one of those Velcro walls where people dress in the sticky stuff and then run head long at it before jumping at it and sticking. Normally my thoughts only ever get as far as that proverbial wall and get stuck there, front and centre of my brain regurgitating themselves in my minds eye over and over. What Debbie does is strip off that sticky suit from your thoughts so they can move around more freely, jump at those brain walls and slip right off again!
I have tried counselling before but I have never trusted the counsellor, and you surely have to trust someone you are going to bare your soul to. Plus the ones I have tried have only ever given me allotted slots, so you get to be sad, angry or crying for 45 minutes before instantly stopping those feelings midway through their own personal riot before then exiting into a waiting room full of people. Regardless of what you were discussing, or how sensitive your disclosure was when your time slot is up that is that.
It was different with Debbie, she listened sometimes answered with her own thoughts, it was much more like a conversation than before when I'd just got to sit there like a comedian regurgitating my life's very own cruel in jokes waiting for the counsellor to react. This time it was more like I was vomiting up my life's fur balls whilst Debbie then diligently came along behind clearing them away before then putting things straight for me by her magical finger wagging!
Debbie used a technique called, Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR)
Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) is a relatively new treatment which has been found to reduce the symptoms of PTSD.
It involves making side-to-side eye movements, usually by following the movement of your therapist's finger, while recalling the traumatic incident. Other methods may include the therapist tapping their finger or playing a tone.
It's not clear exactly how EMDR works but it may help you to change the negative way you think about a traumatic experience.
As I explained in Day One's blog when Debbie initially started waving her fingers around I was somewhat taken aback and sceptical. It felt a little odd and unsettling for a sceptical git like me but I knew I trusted her so went with it. It is easy, there is no mysticism in it and nothing to be concerned about.
Another technique Debbie used was called havening, which is a fairly new technique invented by a Dr Ruden. Debbie used this alongside and sometimes at the same time as EMDR. Debbie rubbed my arms, my head and even the palms of my hands. We hummed nursery rhymes, we counted to twenty out loud and we visited mind palaces. My safe places where I could visualise something I loved that brought me pleasure in the real world. Mine was the Maldives after a couple of amazing holidays over there.
Event Havening consists of three main components:
- Activation of an emotional event by recall;
- Havening touch which is applied to the arms, face and palm;
- Distraction techniques such as visualizing, humming songs and/or counting.
These three components when applied alter the brain waves to allow for the receptor to become internalised and thus block any response.
Therefore if you're feeling anxious or struggling to deal with difficult memories, the simple act of rubbing your arms may help banish the emotional pain.
Havening, can help reduce anxiety and depression by altering the way memories are stored or recalled.
The process is thought to work by boosting levels of the mood stabilising brain chemical serotonin, which can disrupt the link between memory of an event and the distress it causes.
The third technique Debbie used was related to the Vagus Nerve.
We used an exercise involving chanting and breathing exercises whereby Debbie had me breathing in and out very deeply. On the exhale we would make a low gutteral voo 'ing' noise which we would maintain until the breath was all gone before then repeating upwards of 20-30 times.
We don’t always know why we feel the way we do or how we know the answer to any given question. Sometimes we just do. Some of us chalk it up to instinct or a sixth sense.
Perhaps the answer may be the vagus nerve it is after all a physical link between the mind and the body.
Debbie spoke with me about the importance of aligning the vagus nerve from where it starts in the brain stem all the way down to the colon. According to researchers, it is, the internal eye that connects the mind to the body.The vagus nerve literally activates the parasympathetic nervous system – the mechanism that controls involuntary actions and affects mood. So when we breathe deeply and slowly, we can stimulate the vagus nerve.
Having undergone all these treatments over five or six hours for two days I was somewhat mentally exhausted but very contented. I felt like I had experienced a lovely day at the seaside in all that gorgeous sea air leaving me feeling physically and mentally exhausted but so happy experiencing a warm fuzzy feeling inside.
I waved good bye to Debbie with a heavy heart as she had brought light into my darkness and I already felt different. the same but different. A new me, new beginnings...
The following day after she left, I felt I should write this blog entry right away but something stopped me. I had a happiness bubbling inside that I had not felt in many a month if not years. I still had the aches and pains of my fibromyalgia but my brain felt relief , I felt like I had been given a gift. One of those gifts that brings you such overwhelming joy you want to hold on to it very tightly and you don't want to share it at all for fear of sullying it or maybe even bursting your bubble.
It was my gift and for once I felt I deserved my place in this world.
Debbie and I had laughed numerous times over our two days together about the way I perceived the human population outside my own four walls. I saw everyone as 'fuckers' nasty time wasting creatures always getting in my way, always ruining my day, always looking at me with hatred in their hearts! She has taught me I needed to find the compassionate human being in myself, towards them and more importantly towards myself. Live and let live if you like.
As I walk my pooches now, or go about my life out there in the world I cannot promise I don't still have my 'fucker' moments because I do! But I am giving myself permission to be me, permission to be in this world and I actually feel relief from allowing everyone else to go about their business too. My constant paranoia of assuming they are hating on me for being around them or looking down on me has been erased.
I have to report I have also listened to music for the last two days...Music me! A simple pleasure but one I couldn't, didn't want to enjoy previously. So if you do see a dumpy middle aged woman bopping along the pavement with two hounds dragging her along do give me a smile!! A bus driver spotted me rocking out to 'Come On Eileen' earlier and beamed at me, he was clearly amused but in a friendly knowing way!!
From here on in then... Debbie has provided me with two tracks to listen to each day, one is breathing exercises and the other is a personalised recording she has done for me to fight my Fibromyalgia symptoms. She is also talking about a couple more days worth of sessions.
In summary then I feel like I got very lucky, something brought me to Debbie's door, some unseen power allowed this intervention. Maybe it was my bravery in reaching out or maybe it really was just a lucky break. Whatever it was I think I will be reflecting on its majesty for some time to come if not the rest of my life.
If you are suffering I urge you to talk to somebody. Honesty is the first step to wellness, with yourself and then loved ones and finally work.
Stand up for your rights, walk the walk, you would no doubt ask victims of crime to report what has happened to them, to be brave enough to speak out against the atrocity that befell them. So why don't you stand up for yourself and the atrocity that is the mental health that is affecting you? Talk about your mental health, seek help, visit your GP. Reach out to a charity like I have maybe and ask for help, or maybe speak to Mind's Blue Light campaign or even a Blue Light Champion at work if your force has them? Maybe you have peer support through your welfare department? Trust me when you come clean you will be amazed how many others are suffering too, I was!!
Please do not suffer alone, the way you are feeling will not go away, its like a fly that needs swatting. It'll buzz on and on until the noise of that buzzing will be all you can hear and life as you know it will cease to exist.