When I first met Hayley, I was aware immediately that this woman could be quite messed up. Apart from anything else – she was very slight and always seem to be wearing a dark leather studded jacket – there was a deep sadness in her eyes.
I offered to see her, and she has described one of the empowering exercises we did. As human beings we don’t actually have our past, but we do have memories of it, and it is those memories (and in Hayley’s case, the meaning she had made of them) that were doing the continuing damage.
Hayley had seen a succession of psychiatrists and has been on substantial psychotherapeutic medication. For her the effectiveness of the interventions had been very limited, not getting to the causes of her continuing unhappiness.
Hayley trusted me to ‘do the job’ with her, and we did. We’ve had one follow-up session since, a week later, and she came in a pale green top and blue jeans (a complete change for her!) and her facial expression was normal and engaging.
Whilst there are one or two things we’ve yet to discuss, they are comparatively superficial.
My life changed on Monday 7th October 2013.
I’m Hayley. I’m now 41 and from the age of 18 I had been stuck in a tunnel of fear, anxiety and stress.
My life had been wonderful up until I was 12 but then I lost my uncle who was like a father to me (my own father walked out two months before I was born) and then my Nanna died 18 months later. My world fell apart.
I became anorexic at the age of 16 and by the time I was in my late teens, early twenties I was living like a hermit, I would go to work then come straight home and stay there. Going out with friends was a no go. I would always cancel an hour before meeting up making up any excuse as to why I couldn’t meet them. Phoning a friend became fearful and I would stress all day knowing I was to make that call just for a catch up.
I was a complete stress head and would worry and panic over the slightest things.
Three months before the age of 30 I was free from anorexia, but the fear and anxiety, never left me. Some days I felt free from it, but deep down it was still niggling away.
On 7th October that all changed.
This is quite difficult to write down, and a lot easier to speak about what happened, but I will try and make it as easy as possible to understand.
On that day I booked in with Andrew Sercombe at Powerchange for a two hour session. During the session we began to look at an imaginary video of my entire life.
This video was not shown on a real TV screen or a big cinema screen it was just me looking at part of a wall and focusing on me at that age.
As we ‘ran the video’ when bad events happened, I (as I am now, a 41 year old woman sitting in the session) would imagine myself jumping into the video and talking to that child, teenager, adult, giving words of comfort and encouragement.
Immediately the past was becoming less painful. Each event really didn’t seem too bad now because I had some how handled it better, with me there with that Child, Teenager, Adult. I coped with the loss of loved ones, coped with not having a father, coped with the abuse I had suffered. I could look back at the day I was born and not cry from the rejection from my Father. I finally let go of my Uncle and my Nanna. (I had never really grieved for them especially my Nanna.)
I had no confidence when I at school. All my reports read ‘She has no confidence’; ‘She doesn’t ask questions’. The thing was I was always too frightened to put my hand up in case I gave the wrong answers. I hated the sound of my own voice so would clam up and stress. But my video now showed me speaking out in class, getting the grades I should had got and didn’t. It was as though my past was being re-written.
In the room I was in during the session there was a whiteboard on the wall. Andrew asked me if I wanted to place anything on this whiteboard. I had decided that the abuse I had suffered in my 20s, my eating disorder that had gripped me for 16 years and the depression, stress, anxiety that I had suffered for many years were to be put on the whiteboard.
(This whiteboard had a border round it which seemed to keep everything I had put on there safe and couldn’t fall out.I suppose the whiteboard was acting like a box.)
Now I had the choice of turning a pretend light off on the whiteboard and make these things go dark. I thought that would be a bad idea as these would just lie dormant. Or I could make the light brighter and brighter. I chose that option. I saw the light getting brighter and brighter, it was so dazzlingly bright that everything was fading. The rays of the light were just like the sun’s rays, they were burning through the images and border and then it all disappeared.
My first real test came a week after I had finished my Powerchange session. I was asked if I wanted to meet up with a friend who I hadn’t seen for 13 years. I had NO fear, I didn’t stress and I didn’t cancel. I went out that day and totally enjoyed being free from my past that had held me back for so many years.
All I can say is, although what happened in my past happened, I now see it differently. That session has changed the way I think. I am free.