This is Lou’s Focussed Mindfulness story – she has had debilitating anxiety all her life.
Hi, Lou, thanks for sharing your experience of Focussed Mindfulness. Why did you first seek help?
I came to see Clare because I was suffering with intense anxiety and panic attacks that I have had since my teens; I am now 52 years old.
My childhood was traumatic
Both my mother and father had serious mental health problems which meant they were both sectioned when I was 2 years old, and they separated soon after that. I was then abused physically, mentally and emotionally for some years by my stepfather. This included being beaten on several occasions in a planned and humiliating way and experiencing punishments such as being forced to eat out of a dog bowl on the floor in front of my older siblings.
It lead to chronic anxiety
Unsurprisingly, these experiences had a serious negative impact on my feelings of self-worth and self-confidence. I didn’t do well at school. As I grew up and progressed through my life I began to struggle with severe anxiety particularly in relation to work. My anxiety has manifested as rushes of adrenaline which shoot down my arms and legs and flood the whole of the front of my body, together with a sense of dread and foreboding. At the same time as I feel these sensations, my thoughts become intensely self-critical, looping repeatedly round and round my head, faster and faster. I then get strong sensations of self-loathing.
I got good at covering it up.
I became very good at covering up how I felt. Even now people are surprised when I tell them. I put a lot of pressure on myself and did not think to ask for help for a long time. I played down what had happened to me as a child; to me it was normal. I coped. My sleep suffered. Amazingly I was able to study for a degree and made a good career for myself.
My anxiety got worse as I grew up
Then I had my children and the anxiety got a lot worse. My mental health completely broke down and I had to leave two successive jobs. It took me 6 years to go back to work. In that time I began taking antidepressants, although I have never felt depression is my primary issue; I am still on tablets now. I had cognitive behavior therapy which as a technique seemed incredibly laborious and the effects did not last. I saw a homeopath who advised me that my beliefs were at the root of my anxiety, so I began having transactional analysis psychotherapy. I had weekly sessions for 3 years. Those sessions helped me get back on my feet and back into work.
Therapy didn’t cure me
However, the anxiety persisted. And it could be extremely intense. By this point I had amassed a whole raft of self-help tools to get me through days, through moments – meditations, affirmations, exercise, relaxation CDs, breathing, distraction. Distraction seemed to help the most. But the old anxiety was always there, reminding me how fragile my mental health was. I was resigned to it and I hated it. I was resolved to live in spite of it. It was a fight.
This was the point at which I met Clare.
Hand on heart, the focused mindfulness sessions have had a more immediate and profound and lasting impact on my anxiety and wellbeing than every one of the approaches I have previously tried, all combined. This has been in just 4 sessions spread over about 6 weeks.
It is as though the other approaches have been simply two-dimensional in their effect, whereas focused mindfulness operates on three or four dimensions. The biggest contrast for me was in how physical and felt the FM sessions were. In the psychotherapy, we talked about events that happened in the past and we talked about how they made me feel and we talked about different ways of thinking about them. In FM we didn’t talk much about any of that. Instead, it was all about feeling my feelings, by which I mean both physical sensations and emotions. In FM Clare guided me to go into my body and feel how I felt during those events. She then guided me to process and release and resolve those feelings. It was as quick as that.
Changes were immediate
Immediately I began to notice changes. I noticed I was more aware of certain parts of my body, as though I felt I had a whole body for the first time in a long time. I felt happy and at ease and I realised there was no dread in my body. From the first session I went from waking in the night 4 nights a week to 4 nights a month. If I did wake in the night, I was able to drop back off again easily. By the final session a lot of my habitual anxious thought patterns had fallen away and I was experiencing a very new way to be. Some of these thought patterns I didn’t even know I had until I noticed they were gone. And I didn’t even have to do anything to make them go, they just disappeared.
I have tools to deal with relapses
My anxiety hasn’t entirely gone but it seems like more of a normal reaction now. Some weeks after my final session my partner observed that when I experience a setback which would previously have triggered me to become highly anxious and to panic, I am much more resilient and able to cope. If I falter now and feel anxious, I recover quicker than before and my recovery seems simple and automatic. Six weeks after my final session I also feel as though I have reconnected with old pleasures and things I used to value deeply and started to enjoy them again. I feel to have more inner confidence. So this is what life looks like when you are no longer in the death grip of anxiety. Amazing.
It is empowering!
I liked that Clare encouraged me to be empowered in my own healing. She was not interested in any of it being about her. She was just totally committed to driving it firmly but kindly along. She was fearless and deeply compassionate.