I’m Leaving Trauma on Tour, for Shereen Soliman…

Dear Followers, Friends and anyone who finds their way to this blog,

Thank you for following me on Trauma on Tour, I really appreciate your support and I hope that you’ve enjoyed my blog posts this far.

It’s now the time for me to move this blog to my personal website as I continue to work on my Personal Development and Wellness Concept. So, from this point onwards you’ll receive emails from me, Shereen Soliman, rather than Trauma on Tour. To give you an update on my current work: I’m bringing out my first book in January – The Backpackers Natural Beauty Book, which is a collection of skin care recipes that are easy to make, chemical free and completely natural and ecological. Following this, I hope to bring out In Search Of Compassion, a book of short stories which takes the reader through a journey of situations, giving perspective on human behaviour and the necessity to have compassion during the most challenging times. This book is finished and ready to go but I’m going to try and get a publisher for it.

On my personal website you’ll find the same style of life observing blog posts, therapy reviews, therapy guides as well as my concept and book information.

It’s been an interesting year, exploring my psyche and the path it’s taken me on in my state of recovery but it’s now time to share the lessons I learnt on a wider scale.

Thank you for reading, writing encouraging comments and accompanying me on my journey this far. If you’re interested in personal growth, awareness or self care then please follow me on facebook, pintrest or twitter for more inspirational sharings.

Best wishes and Happy New Year!

Yours sincerely,

Shereen

 

Advertisements

Compassion for the Christmas Monster

Every house has a monster at Christmas. You know, the one who gets stressed out and is basically a nightmare to be around. Full of tension and trying-so-hard-to-be-happy that they couldn’t spot authentic happiness if it slapped them in the face? Well, this year that’s me.

Who am I kidding? It’s me most years!

Last year I somehow managed to escape the fate of the Christmas monster, probably because we glided through the holiday in a drunken stupor in my Dad’s absence. The first Christmas is always the hardest apparently and especially as my Dad was a Muslim and didn’t drink it seemed only right to go through a painful Christmas period the only way us Brit’s knew how – with an abundance of alcohol. It’s funny how the emotions play on the brain, as though they zap energy from painful times so that the memories don’t stay fixed, a kind of protective mechanism from enduring suffering maybe. It only became apparent today when we were asked what we did for last years celebrations – my Mum and I looked at each other cluelessly. We didn’t know. I later discussed this with my brother – he didn’t know either. None of us knew what we ate, if there had been a tree or if we had even exchanged presents. Come to think of it, the only thing I do remember is doing the Christmas shop… Wine, Whisky, Amaretto – could this be the reason why we don’t remember?

The fact of the matter is that I don’t remember being a monster last year, which is refreshing because when I am in the guilt ridden state of not-being-able-to-step-out-of- being-a-monster it seems like I have spent my life that way and that I will always be that way, but thankfully, that’s not reality. This very example of what we can all remember from last year demonstrates how these are all just tricks on the mind – that we can think that we will be in our current state for ever and that our life will be shaped this way, but in reality this isn’t true. I remember managing to pull myself out of a dark depression with this thought when my Dad had died, but I also remember how difficult it was to believe it, against the odds of how I felt at the time.

The thing is that sometimes we are monsters. With emotions running high and the pressure to enjoy family holidays it can be so challenging to not turn into a monster and today I just didn’t have the strength in me to keep it calm.

I’m lucky to come from a forgiving and compassionate family though. With a brother who takes me out for a gin and tells me to not worry because tomorrow is another day, and a mother who comes to tell me she loves me, hugs me and tells me that I’m forgiven for the way I’ve behaved lately –even though I have not earned either of these actions. These things made me melt. Knowing that I didn’t deserve to be treated so nice after being so horrible and knowing that I was still loved for all my worst traits. It’s this compassion that melts the hearts of monsters and brings them back into the love of life.

If you have a monster this year, show them some compassion.

A Little Bit Of Perspective at Christmas

I read a lot of books. Usually about 5 at any one time because I need to switch around a variety to stay engaged. Typically in my reading portfolio there’s a business book, a self development book, a science/research type book, a book about spirituality and a novel of some kind. The novels are usually about someone’s life story or life events, obviously because I love analysing human behaviour.

Recently I was recommended ‘The Girl On The Train’ by Paula Hawkins. I’d seen adverts for this book plastered all over the place – most notably the displays at train stations – and I noticed that there’s a lot of hype about the book at the moment. It made me wonder why. From what I read, I wondered if it seemed quite reflective of the situations that many people in modern western society find themselves in. Popular books usually hit a common note with it’s audience if it resonates with them, usually through the stories or the characters. That thought left me feeling quite sad about the society that I live in. Let me summarise the characters to give you an idea why.

There was:
A alcoholic who is avoiding the depressive life’s she’s created for herself and appears to drink as a way to numb the pain – at least from what I can make out.
A woman who has narcissistic behaviour and uses intimate relationships as a way to fill the gaping void of grief for the death of her brother that she hasn’t fully deal with.
A mirage of other characters who live in the illusion that they’re happy because they have a job in the city/own house/status quo happy relationship (inc baby in one case) even though their secret thought patterns are very negative.

The book is very well written and the author did a great job of creating character depth and drawing the reader into the situations. However, I simply couldn’t finish it because the reality of the situation made me feel so deflated. In one sense it’s a compliment to the author because I was clearly so drawn into the book that it was evoking such a depth of feeling within me. However, the feeling itself was depressing. It made me realise how inept we are as a culture of dealing with certain life events. The very popularity of the book made me wonder if we face an epidemic in western societies – a subconscious apathy in the illusion of happiness?

Lucky for me I already had another book to switch over to: ‘In Order to Live’ by Yeonmi Park. This book is about a girl who escapes life in North Korea. It talks about the famine and what it was like to live through starvation. How she and her family would risk their lives and walk for miles to receive less food than one UK family might throw away in a week. This girl has to repeatedly physically fight off men who constantly try to rape her while she is trafficked across borders like a commodity. She’s 13.

In the second book there is no opportunity to create significance out of hardship, because everyone is in hardship so there’s no difference. However there is a strong sense of compassion and human intimacy between the characters, which together with the hardship seems to create a wealth of emotional resilience.

Both these books made me ponder about psychological trauma and the significance of it in the perspective of our lives. I believe that it’s necessary to acknowledge and validate a difficult life experience in order to process it. But I wonder how much quicker this process would be if we didn’t have the opportunity to claim significance for the story. I wonder if this perspective on life might make someone think differently about their situation.

As we come closer to Christmas, I remember how difficult last year was. A quite Christmas day with a gaping void that so many painful emotions swirled around in the absence of my Father. What I remember most though, is how we talked about missing him and how the conversations always ended with gratitude. We were grateful that we had such an amazing person in our lives for so many years. We were grateful that we had each other. We were grateful that we had our health, a roof over our heads and food on our table. It’s easy to say thanks flippantly but when we allow ourselves to immerse in the situation of others, that’s when we can really feel gratitude. I wonder if the characters in The Girl On The Train might think differently about their privileged lives if they woke up every morning with the excruciating pain of life threatening hunger? Or if they were separated from their family and anyone who spoke their language, in to a trade channel that constantly tried to rape them? I wonder if we might think differently about our own pain if we could see it through the perspective of others?

Even if we are missing someone at Christmas, have hardship or ill health it’s valuable to remeber that there are people in the World who don’t have food, safety or shelter at one of the most joyous times of year.

Wishing you a Christmas full of gratitude x

Physical Abuse – Could Lack of Emotional Validation Be The Cause?

I know the news isn’t the most unbiased picture of what’s going on in the World (especially not in the UK at least). However, the most recent headlines are ones causing me to wonder why certain events seem to be happening on mass. One if of wide spread sexual abuse in the UK Football Association and the other is the rise in self harm cases in children and young adults in the UK. Both abusive acts on the body, either towards the self or another person’s body. Both violent, abusive and harmful acts against the body. When I take a step back and look at these acts, I wonder if they’re both physical expressions of pent-up negative emotional energy? Possibly committed because of inner turmoil that hasn’t been addressed for whatever reason.

I can relate to inner turmoil because of my own challenging life events. When I was in my most destroyed state, I was pretty toxic to those around me. Angry, reactive, sometimes out of control as I spun around firing out a whirlpool of negativity. Blaming and shaming anyone who came in the vicinity of my pain. I’ve also been on the receiving end of this toxic behaviour because life has a tendency to offer us mirrors of our state, so when I was in my most destructive state I happened to meet people who treated me very negatively. And in true irony of the Universe, I’ve also been on the listening end of this behaviour as many people have sought counsel from me as they confess to their own pain and how they express it. (I mean what did I expect when I named my blog ‘Trauma on Tour’).

Through expressing, receiving and witnessing these emotional expressions of inner pain I’ve come to wonder if our lack of basic emotional expression in the Western society could be the cause of this abuse. That due to the lack of expressing the lightest of emotion that we’re now starting to witness a pressure cooker effect? That what might have been a little bit of pain from shame or blame, has been held on to, suppressed and refuelled in the mind as it churns over again and again and again.

With the fear and the shame that cloaks our society it’s difficult for someone to come forward with any emotional expression. God forbid someone might be overly happy in the office. Or that they might cry in public. Or get passionate about a project they’re working on. I don’t know about you but I’ve spent most of my life trying to find acceptance in the fact that I’m naturally very emotionally expressive. It’s difficult because it means that I get attacked or rejected often, regardless of the emotion. From “what are you so happy about?” to awkwardness from friends when I spent a few days in bed depressively grieving my Dad’s death. For some it was such a shock to see such depth of emotion that our friendship never got over it. Could it be that some of us have got into the habit of naturally suppressing daily emotions that the build up is now starting to splurge out? That the level of toxicity in the physical act reflects the darkness of the wound inside? Could the epidemic of male on male abuse in the 80’s be the result of suppressed pain that was experienced in the earlier years of these men – as women’s empowerment took hold of the mothers of those abusers – omitting them of the love or attention they required as children? Could the self harm in young adults be the result of emotional vents which aren’t getting validated in a world of technology? Could this lack of validation be causing a pressure cooker effect on a conservative culture that’s on the brink of exploding?

I certainly don’t have the answers, but I think it’s about time that we got over the shock of emotional expression and instead started asking why. Otherwise we’re never even going to get close to the answers and we’re never going to figure out how to proactively avoid such behaviour. We can start today by checking in with how we feel right now. For me, that’s scared. I’m scared about publishing this article because I’m worried it will rustle features, causing people who also feel scared to attack out at me for opening up this subject. The thing is that I know that those attacks are just opinions that come from other people’s pain, not mine, and besides words don’t hurt me. Emotional acknowledged and  validated, lesson understood, reflection made and compassion developed. But what happens when we suppress that emotional energy? Where does the pain go if we don’t let it out?

Photo Credit – Buzz Andersen

3 Values to Live Your Life by. From my Father, a Good Man

Nothing can quite prepare you for the phone call you’ve always dreaded. The panicked voice from a parent, relaying direct information down the phone.

“There are three paramedics resuscitating your Dad”

It was all my Mum had to say.

I got up from the cafe I was sitting in and heading down the escalators with the phone to my ear.

“Ok. I’m leaving now. I’ll be home in 3 hours”

“Ok” She replied and hung up.

I called my brother, he was on his way home too. It would take him 1 and ½ hours to get to our family home and in the space in between my Mum would sit and wait. Luckily a neighbour and friend went round to comfort her. The ambulance outside giving something away.

It took me 3 and a ½ hours to get home. Straight up the motorway from the bottom of England to the middle. I have no recollection of the actual drive apart from the vague feeling of the rush I had within me to get there and get there fast.

As I pulled up, there was a silver van outside my house. There were two men sitting in the front seats wearing black suits. Men from the morgue. I knew. I’d known all along. I’d known he’d had died before I got in my car and drove, but I hadn’t allowed myself to entertain those thoughts in case they sent me off the road spinning.

The rest of the evening was a blur. Each one took our turn to say goodbye to him before the men from the morgue took him away. Some family friends came round, someone made us food, and then all of a sudden it was dark and it was just the three of us. My Mum, my brother and me. Standing outside the house in silence.

I remember the night clearly. The moon was a waxing crescent and the sky was clear, the stars shining through sharply.  We all paused there, outside the back door, my Mum lighting up a cigarette. We stood in silence at first, no one really knowing what to say about the loss of someone so great. Not just for us, but the world. To lose a man of such good values, a local hero. Before long we were talking about what my brother and I had learnt from him, values which had been installed in us to live through a legacy. Values demonstrated without words and through actions. Values that will stay with us forever.

  1. Have integrity. No matter what the circumstances, my Dad would always come through on his word. Even in the most difficult situations, and trust me if you’re a community Doctor there are many difficult situations. Integrity was something that was installed in him and he expected of those around him, his children included. It was practised daily in our family life, something that my brother and I thought was the norm of society. It’s only now, as adults that we realise that it’s somewhat of a rarity in the world these days.
  1. Be compassionate to others. I never truly understood what compassion was until my Dad passed away but looking back I know that he completely embodied it. There was the time that a grief stricken family tried to sue him for an error that wasn’t his, only for him to say that “People act in unusual ways because of grief”. There’s also the time when a patient with psychiatric problems waited in his surgery car park to attack him, by slapping him across the face with a belt. All he would say is that it wasn’t the patient’s fault, and that they just needed some help to get on back on the right track. At the time I felt puzzled with him and angry at the people trying to do him harm but I can hear his voice clearly respond to me “You never know what someone else has been through, and maybe if you did, you might see things differently”.
  1. Have courage to stand up for what you believe in. The most admirable thing about my father was that he always stood up for what he believed in, no matter who he was up against. Amongst many strong and positive beliefs, he believed in providing the best health care possible for his patients, a value that would often come up against boards of directors when discussing health care budgets. My Dad would never compromise his values and he wouldn’t sell out on his patients, even if it meant losing his job over it. It took a tremendous amount of courage for Muslim Egyptian man to exercise these values in predominantly White, Catholic, ‘old boys school’ type environments but my Dad didn’t see the differences on the surface that many of us do. He just focused on what was important at the time – ‘what’s the best for the patients?’ Then he stood by it and fought for it.

The death of a parent, a spouse or any family member is always a difficult part of life, but what got us through the darkest parts was the reflection that we had such a decent man in our lives. Of course I would have loved to have my Dad around for another 30 years, and I miss him every day. But in the 30 years that he shared with me he gave me some of the best gifts I could have ever wish for – good values, and for that I’m grateful.

The vagus nerve, emotions and the difficulty with mindfulness practices

Let’s talk about emotions! Here’s some science.

healing from the freeze

“Now, many people who don’t know a lot about trauma think that trauma has something to do with something that happened to you a long time ago. In fact,the past is the past and the only thing that matters is what happens right now. And what is trauma is the residue that a past event leaves in your own sensory experiences in your body and it’s not that event out there that becomes intolerable but the physical sensations with which you live that become intolerable and you will do anything to make them go away.” (Bessel van der Kolk)

Last week, during a two-day deep cleaning/paint prep binge (see the kitchen ceiling to the right!), I listened to a recorded talk by Bessel van der Kolk given at the May 2011 22nd Annual International Trauma Conference. The title of van der Kolk’s title is a mouthful: “Putting neuroplasticity into clinical…

View original post 945 more words

Life Aint Always Plain Sailin’

I’ve only done a few yacht deliveries and each time it’s completely different

From what I’ve experienced so far I’ve seen that sometimes the weather can get rough. However, I’ve learnt that if we prepare by learning how to read the weather and how to recover from a storm then we’ll have what we need to experience the storm, learn from it and carry on sailing. So far, I’ve learnt that the sailors who take the time to stop and repair their boat, end up having a better journey. I’ve also noticed that sailors who surround themselves with a good crew and take care of each other also end up having a more enjoyable sail. Some sailors tell me that if they have some home comforts on board, like nice treats and good tunes then it makes all the difference when weathering through the stormy times.

There’s lots of things for sailors to experience on their journey. Cool things, like dolphins and getting the boat to go fast when it catches the wind right. There’s also challenging things like the possibility of the rudder falling off or a fight between the crew. The sailors that recover best in the most difficult times are those who talk about things beforehand, prepare themselves with the right tools and react in a mindful way. The ones who seem to suffer are those who assume that everything’s going to be plain sailing, then find that they’re caught out when the weather turns.

Sometimes I get worried when I see a load of boats heading towards a squal (storm patch) and I end up shouting and screaming “NOT THAT WAY” but that’s not helpful because

  1. a) All they can hear is screaming… which just makes me seem a little crazy
  2. b) Sometime people don’t need directions, they just need the information so they can act, if they want to

I’m trying to work out how to use my radio so I can send them a message with the weather information on. That way they can work out what they want to do with that information. If they still sail into the storm and the boat gets damaged then it’s ok because they know that help is reachable by radio. There are also good boat yards and boat shops around to help get the yachts repaired. There’s also plenty of good sailors out there ready to share their knowledge, skills and expertise if needed.

I know this because I’ve been in a few bad storms lately and they came out of nowhere! I only managed to get out of them because I called for help from those around me. There were sailors who lent me their tools so I could make repairs and amendments, and those who gave me guidance when the fog came down. Some even towed me when my boat broke down all together! It’s been an interesting experience getting through the worst of it and now that it’s over I’ve been spending a lot of time, energy and effort to get back into shape. It’s been worth it though because now the boat is looking better than ever and I’ve learnt a lot about the kind of weather that’s out there.

 The thing is that it’s not my responsibility to go after the boats that are heading towards bad weather, even if I have been there and know of the consequences. Although, I do feel that’s my responsibility to share the lessons of my experience so that others can learn from them if they want to. I mean, isn’t that every sailor’s responsibility?

Therapy Review – Myofascial release and cranio sacral therapy

Therapy Review – Myofascial release and craniosacral therapy, by Emmeline Gee, Angels on Board

I’ve known Emmeline for a while, back from my yachting days when I was living in Mallorca. Having worked in the same industry that she runs her business in (and is highly recommended within), I was aware of her reputation as being an extremely good massage therapist when we first started to become friends and I’ve since had a lot of massages from her which have always been very intuitive and therapeutic. This isn’t why I made friends with her, she’s an absolutely amazing person too and has been a great friend to me, especially in the months after my Dad’s death when I was trying to hold jobs down and work through, what in reflection was, the worst period of my life. She’s a gem and when the opportunity comes up to hang out with her and explore new therapies that she’s learnt, I jump at the chance.

My review is set into three parts – description of the session, how I felt directly before and after the treatment, my overall review.

The Session – 7th July 2016, 1pm

This session wasn’t a usual massage session. It was more of a specific bodywork session to see how I reacted to some new methods of trauma treatment which Emmeline had been working with. Having already known me (and my body, the story and the physical manifestation of my emotional pain) we worked together through feedback throughout the treatment and she used her instinct to try out different movements based on a collective knowledge of all her therapy training (it’s pretty extensive in terms of physiological and psychological subjects).

One thing that I admire about the way Emmeline starts her treatments is that once she has the client settled in the correct position on the couch she takes a moment to focus on herself by taking a few deep breaths. She told me what she was doing and I know that this simple moment allows her to focus on her intention for the treatment and I guess it helps her step out of any busyness that might be happening in her mind – I try to do the same thing when I find myself racing around in my thoughts, it always helps, when I manage to remember. By doing this at the start of the treatment it also gives the client space to take a few breaths and settle into the treatment themselves.

Firstly Emmeline told me that she was going to perform some myofascial stretches from my legs. According to the theory of myofascial release therapy, the myofascia (the 3D network of connective tissue which holds the body together) can store physical and emotional trauma. .,By performing these slow, gentle and sustained stretches, the tissue can be encouraged to release restrictions that may have been caused by such trauma. I lay on my back and she began to gently pull on my left foot, very very gradually stretching my whole left side and I could literally feel the stretch as it travelled up from my ankle, up my calf, knee, thigh, stomach and my rib cage. When the stretch got that far my body started to numb out and rather than feel a stretch, I was just receiving some random twangs of stretches in higher parts of my body, like my shoulder and neck, but no general stretch as I had felt so prominently up my leg. She performed the same stretch on my right leg and it had very much the same effect. It was quite interesting realising such a numbness in my chest area and as it is the area where I feel the most discomfort (especially on my left side), it was strange to feel such a numb sensation when I’m used to, at least, feeling discomfort. When she did the stretch, I just felt numb.

Following the leg stretches, she then performed a stretch on the top half of my body. She placed on hand on my upper left arm and one on my head to help stretch my neck, and this I could feel. Again, it was very subtle but I felt very small releases which were really gratifying. The only thing I can think of to physically compare this to is to think of bubble wrap – it was as though by stretching this tissue that the little bubbles of tension (like the bubble wrap air bubbles) were gently popping, but not in a harsh pop and bang way, more in a gentle squeeze then release kind of way.

Emmeline asked me to turn over onto my front and carried out some myofascial release on my back. With both hands placed on my back, she moved them in certain directions which caused a really interesting kind of stretch. I’m not sure if it was my imagination or what I was actually feeling but I felt subtle stretches quite far deep inside my chest. It was as though my chest muscles had a netting holding them and I could feel the tension as it stretched one way and a release as it was moved to stretch another, much in the same way you’d feel if you were wrapped in fishing net – one strand tightening as other areas loosen off. It was such a strange sensation at first but the release was quite incredible, especially considering that the movements were so slow and subtle. Usually, I have to have quite strong massages with a lot of pressure to feel a release so this technique really surprised me.

After the myofascial part, she moved on to the craniosacral part and asked me to turn around onto my back again. To be completely honest, I had no idea what this treatment even was at the moment that I had it and every time Emmeline went to tell me the theory about it, we seemed to get interrupted and I never found out. I think that worked in our favour as I found the treatment to be really powerful and I just went with the flow not knowing what to expect. As I can have a tendency to really over think things, had I known the theory behind the treatment there is a chance that I could have subconsciously created or blocked some aspect of it but because I didn’t then I couldn’t use my mind to steer my body responses.

She placed one hand on my neck and one on my chest and seemed to keep them there still. She didn’t say anything and didn’t seem to move and I just lay there, feeling what was happening to my body. Firstly I felt a strong warming sensation travel up my legs from my toes up my body, it was a slightly tingling feeling but the main thing I noticed was a general sense of comfort that came with the warmth, it felt nice. As the feeling travelled up I felt it up my stomach, and then I felt nothing move further up. Again, the feeling stopped around my chest area and there was a total void of feeling there. Then suddenly I felt the feeling move from my upper arms, down to my fingers and up my neck until my whole body felt warm apart from the ‘nothing’ feeling around my neck. The phrase ‘heart of stone’ came to mind which made me feel really frustrated with myself and I had to concentrate on my breath before I started to go into negative talks berating myself for not feeling something.  I’m not sure how long this lasted, possibly 5-7 minutes.

After this, Emmeline moved her hands to what I think was the side of my head – I say think, because she didn’t actually touch my body but I somehow knew that’ where they were, maybe I felt the warmth of them or sensed them through the shadows of darkness that blocked the tiny fragments of light through my eyelids – the same way that you know when someone draws the curtains when you’ve got your eyes closed in a light room. She did explain every movement as she went through but I felt relaxed by this stage that a lot of the words didn’t stay in my brain, I was just too busy relishing in a really nice feeling of warmth and comfort. I do remember her saying that this part can cause some involuntary movements and although I did have some twitches I wonder if me knowing this may have blocked some involuntary movements which may otherwise have happened if I didn’t have that nugget of information. The thing is that in post traumatic stress the mind tries to control a lot of things in fear of losing security and I know that with me there is a very strong control on ‘letting go’, as if I subconsciously think that if I do, someone will try and attack me. I do know that I allow myself to let go more when I’m in the presence of women, more so than men and also around friends more so than strangers, so at least both these things were going in the favour of this treatment. The twitches that I did have were that the ring finger on each of my hands flicked at one point, individual of each other, and at one point I felt my whole body wobbly very gently.

After this, Emmeline asked me to lie on my right side and curl up into the foetus position, while she sat down on a small stool and faced my back. I think she placed one hand behind the bottom of my spine and one at the top of my neck, I don’t know why I think this because I don’t remember her explaining where her hands were but I just felt that they were there even though, again, she made no body contact with me. I was in this position for a few minutes again and when this was over she whispered that she was going to leave me in the room on my own now and that she would be outside when I felt I was ready to come out of the treatment. I’m not sure how long I ended up staying there in that position, but I do know that I felt a few more gentle rocks, again, extreamly subtly apart from one which felt like quite a noticeable one. After a few moments I felt the need to lie on my back with my arms stretched out and I took the opportunity to really tap into what I was feeling and then I felt a sensation come from the pit of my stomach, up my body and out of my eyes – that familiar ‘whosh’ of tears. I didn’t feel sad and there was no sudden in takes of breath like you get when you’re crying hard, no, just the exiting of water out of my face again. Just a few tears this time. After the tears went I felt refreshed and more energised than I had done earlier. I got up, got dressed and went off to find Emmeline and discuss my thoughts.

Pre-session sense check (7th July 2016 DD MMM 2016, 12 O’clock – one hour before the treatment)

Physically – As a standard my left side is feeling tense. I’ve noticed that this is an ever-changing sensation, sometimes intense, sometimes loose, and I think it must change depending on how I’m feeling about my security. It did seem to intensify in the morning before the treatment and it could have been because I’m scared of letting go and new treatments are obviously a way for me to push these boundaries, so if I feel this I know it’s linked to anxiety. Apart from that I felt well rested and healthy in my body.

Emotionally – My mind felt busy from the morning and Emmeline had already sensed this because she suggested that we meditate for 10 minutes before the treatment – great idea and it calmed me down. I originally explained this to her as I felt like I could be worried about her seeing my vulnerabilities, which is ridiculous because this woman has seen me at my utter worse so I don’t know why this would bother me. We talked this anxiety through and just voicing it cleared a lot of it away.

Post-session sense check (9th July 2016 – 2 days after the treatment)

Initially I wrote down how I felt an hour or so after the treatment but I had much greater sensations throughout that day of the treatment and in the following days that I’ve done my sense checks after I experienced the main effects.

Physically – The days following the treatment I felt very subtle shakes within my body when I really focused on it, this was mainly during my meditation that I do every morning but I also felt the need to meditate in the evening after the session too. I felt like that was a lot of emotion in my body that I was trying to let out but somehow couldn’t and I know that if I meditate when I feel like this then it gives an opening to the emotion that my mind can’t shut in. During the meditation I felt subtle shaking like quick but gentle wobbles that were across my whole body simultaneously, as though I was inside something that was shaking, rather than it feeling like my body was shaking. The only thing I can think to compare it to is being in a swell and feeling your body pulsate with it, apart from it was a lot faster, however just as gentle. The pace was about 4 beats per second (yes I tapped into it and timed it but it’s the only way I can think to really describe it accurately). Tears also came out of me during the meditations, so I know that something got stirred up during this treatment and came out in the days following it. I’ve never had a sensation like this before and to physically see this in my own body was pretty powerful.

Emotionally – I feel very sensitive to a lot of feelings after the treatment and I’m aware that I’m reacting on this. It’s weird because I get waves of numbness and I’m aware of the numbness and it’s strange sensing feelings and learning to actually feel them again, it’s also really comforting knowing that I’m getting these sensations back but with the joy and the security feelings I’m also getting pain, upset and excruciating vulnerability that I’m consciously nourishing through self care. I’m also making sure that I am vocalising these feelings, as if to educate my conscious mind on what is going on so I can attach a language to them. Luckily I’m in Palma and have lots of consciously aware friends who understand the sense I’m trying to make out of my treatment exploration so I’ve got people around me who are comfortable hearing my vocalisation of these weird and wonderful feelings that are popping up.

Overall Review

This was a very subtle but very powerful treatment for me. There were obviously a few things at play here – I felt very comfortable at the time of the treatment because Emmeline and I had talked through the anxiety I had that morning, we had also meditated and I know her well, I trust her and I feel safe with her so obviously I was able to go quite deep into this treatment. Emmeline is the kind of therapist that does create a strong space of comfort for the client and I remember this from my first treatment with her which was only the second time I’d met her. She also explains what she is going to do, what she is doing and if the client is comfortable with it she will ask for feedback on what is being felt and put this information with the intuition to guide her next movements. She is in fact one of the best therapists I’ve worked with for this very reason and I’m conscious that I do benchmark a lot of my treatments on the standard that I’ve seen from her. From what I know, this high standard has been reached because she is consistently working on fine-tuning her knowledge and skills in terms of feedback, review, investigating new therapy methods through workshops, reading and experimentation. It’ a very interesting student-therapist dynamic that keeps her intuition sharp and her game spot on, many therapists could learn from having a simple massage with her.

I found the mysofacial massage to be subtly powerful and I didn’t expect that. Some of the movements felt similar to ways I’ve felt when I’ve done some advanced twisting yoga moves, a subtle gentle inner stretch which is almost undetectable. I think that to be able to really benefit from this kind of massage that a lot relies on how conscious the client is of their body because without this I suspect some of the benefits could go unnoticed, or if someone was concerned with busy thoughts and unable to sink in to the treatment. It’s definitely something that I would like to explore more and over a longer period of time to see it if releases any deeper trauma.

I’m not sure if it was the craniosacral massage itself or the combination of the two together, but I felt a very powerful response during this part of the treatment. I’ve tried a few other therapies which try to encourage involuntary movements and I’m conscious that I have a strong mind that can usually block a lot of these efforts and I know this comes from a protection stance because the most prominent time of my life when I felt involuntary movement was when I was fighting with my attacker. I’m still scared of involuntary responses and I’m aware that this means that I’m missing out on a lot of good things in life but I will venture there when I’m ready. In the mean time, the gentle fast-paced rocking that I experienced was phenomenal and although it brought tears with it, I was fascinated when I felt this, especially when I could tap into it the following days after during meditation.

I think that these two massages could be very effective as trauma release therapies, however I think it is imperative that the client feels emotionally safe before the treatment and has a place where they can feel safe in the days after, otherwise I think the benefits could be limited from what they could be.

 If you like this Therapy Review, please check out my Blog, my Sketches and my Therapies.

Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Abuse When We ‘Should’ Have

As a Brit watching the media coverage of the US presidential debate, I’ve found myself quite shocked at the allegations and accusations. But nothing has surprised me more than the lack of compassion towards the women who have come forward to report claims of sexual abuse from Donald Trump. The most outrageous thing I’ve witnessed over and over again is the questions fired towards these women demanding why they didn’t report the abuse sooner, or why they didn’t report it to the police.

From someone who has been assaulted in a violent attempted rape, I know firsthand why victims don’t report the abuse when they should or could have and I’d like to give those who haven’t been in such a situation some insider information.

  1. When you’re emotionally charged, you don’t act rationally

It’s so simple for someone on the outside of the situation to tell someone what they should’ve done, during or following a traumatic event. However, the thing that is constantly overlooked here is that when we are emotionally charged, our brains function differently. The emotions literally take control and rational thinking goes out of the window. It’s easy for a rational thinker to think ‘how can I get justice in this situation?’ or ‘what is the appropriate method of reporting this?’ But once someone is threatened, they are no longer in a rational mindset.

They feel vulnerable, scared and most likely have some form of survivor guilt. These overwhelming emotions often lead to one main response: Get away from the situation. That means getting away physically, mentally and emotionally. It means not revisiting it, not talking about it and sometimes not even acknowledging it for years. So when these women are asked why they didn’t report the abuse in the wake of a traumatic situation it’s because that would have required the rational thinking part of the brain that they didn’t have access to.

  1. You Will Be Shamed

I remember watching the reactions of the people who I confessed to – that I had been attacked. Amongst the huge disengagement and avoidance I received, I also had the following questions:

‘What were you wearing?’

‘Were you drunk?’

‘What were you doing? ’

All these questions focused on my actions of the evening, as though I must have done something to invite such an aggravated response from a man. It was as though people thought I was walking into a lion’s den waving around a large steak to provoke him to pounce on me. The thing is that men aren’t lions, they are conscious humans who have the ability to control their behaviour based on their judgement of what they think is right or wrong. Even if women did go about waving their bodies around as provocateurs, are we responsible for the men who can’t control their animalistic advances? Personally, I think that in a conscious and civilised society men should be able to control their urges, and I think that we should expect this collectively too.

Unfortunately this isn’t the case. As the Trump campaign has demonstrated if someone comes out about this kind of mal-treatment they can expect to be publicly shamed and ridiculed. Is it any wonder that no one came out until one person had the courage to take this one? Then once one person had spoken, everyone came out of the shadows to tell their own stories. It’ been the same for all public sexual abuse stories – Bill Crosby, Jimmy Savile (UK), everyone was silent until one spoke. Then, everyone came out even though it was sometimes decades after the event.

In order to encourage change of this kind of predatory behaviour, our culture needs to approach these kinds of claims without judgement. So if someone tells you a story of abuse, stop and think about the situation before you ask questions that could infer it’s their fault. No one deserves to be abused and they shouldn’t be shamed for being a victim of it either.

  1. You’re out on your own

Most victims go internal after being abused, convincing themselves it was their fault and that they brought it on themselves. This is because we live in a culture where the acknowledgement of abuse means that difficult emotions will have to be aired. There will be shame, guilt, blame, upset and fear that are horrible to experience and as a society we avoid these emotions at all costs. However, this avoidance in-avertedly advocates this rape culture, allowing it to continue unchallenged. I don’t believe that this is done maliciously, instead, I think it’s the fear driven subconscious trying to evade difficult emotions. However, for a victim who is already experiencing their own traumatic emotions, the last thing they want to feel is avoided by others. That makes the decision to tell someone extremely difficult because by doing so they are risking community isolation. Maybe if we lived in a society where abuse victims were treated the same as victims of ill health then this might be an easier decision, but that’s not the case. Until this changes, victims of abuse may stay silent for years in fear of being outcast from their community.

  1. There are repercussions

To be any kind of whistleblower takes a tremendous amount of courage, especially when blowing it on someone who has fame, power or is a person of influence. Victims of abuse are going out there on their own to report shameful behaviour against someone who probably doesn’t want to admit wrongdoing. That means they’re probably going to deny it viscously at all costs – by attacking back at the victim. A vulnerable, shaken and abused person doesn’t want to create more drama, especially not if it means it will destroy their career, family status or personal reputation. When they’re going up against someone who has a louder voice and bigger audience than themselves they have to consider whether or not speaking out is worth it at all. This decision can be toyed around with for years until victims finally get the courage to voice the event. Sometimes it can take a trigger or their abuser gloating, or taking it a step too far. Sometimes it can take someone else to speak out first and acknowledge that they’re not the only one. Sometimes it’s when they’ve conjured up the courage to face the pain, shame, isolation and repercussions that speaking out will incur.

To change this culture we need to create a supportive environment so that reports can be aired without judgement of the victim. We need to connect with our own emotions and feel what it must have been like to be abused in that situation before we comment. We need to stop this ‘them vs us’ perspective and instead see each other compassionately as human beings.

Three Life Lessons From Growing Out of Trauma

  1. Life is precious.

One day you are going to die.

I am going to die.

It could be tomorrow by getting hit by a bus, it could be in 20 years time with a horrible illness but the truth of the matter is that one day I will be a lifeless, cold, corpse and everything will be over.

Yes, this is pretty morbid, especially as most of my posts are bringing messages of ‘yes you can conquer anything, love life to the full etc’ but that joyful message doesn’t hit home as hard as the realisation that we are all going to die someday, life is short. Embrace it.

While thinking about that, ask yourself these questions:

  1. If you dropped dead right now would you be happy with how you’ve spent your life?
  2. Did you chase your dreams?
  3. Did you tell the people you love often enough?
  4. Were you happy with what you achieved?

If the answer to any of these questions is no then I seriously insist that you explore these questions more and ask yourself what the hell are you doing with your life?

We can often get wrapped up in the nitty gritty of life, and I get it, we’ve all got our things to do, got to pay the bills right? When you’ve come through a life threatening situation though, you see things a little differently and it’s as though you really see what matters.

I remember when I experienced this mindset change quite vividly. There was a poignant moment during the attack that I seriously thought “I am going to be raped, murdered and then left here to rot”. This was the exact moment that I seemed to spring into life. As though something inside me said “No fucking way”. It was the moment that I pulled out all the stops to get out of that situation, and I did get out of it. I survived and I’m here writing about it today. That situation was the scariest thing that has happened to me in my entire life and it has brought me a whole load of uninvited emotions that I otherwise wouldn’t have experienced. They weren’t pleasant and I would never wish for someone to go through something as horrific as having to literally fight for their survival or to experience the rickershay of emotions that pop up at every trigger in the aftermath – the panic, the fear, the depression, the shame, the guilt, I could go on. However, without this experience I wouldn’t have the perspective I do now, so I’m passing this message on to you. We only have one life, don’t take it for granted.

  1. Fear is a signpost for growth

Fear is a funny thing, sometimes I know it’s there and I can really feel the terror, the butterflies, the anxiety – like I’m going to physically vomit  because of it, and then sometimes I can’t feel it at all but it’s there lingering in the background controlling my thoughts and actions behind my subconscious state. The second type of fear is the most debilitating, it’s the unconscious state of fear that causes us to disengage in a relationship, cause arguments to create distance and generally provoke negative actions in a way to protect ourselves.

What I’ve come to realise as I unpick the triggers in my post trauma state is that every negative reaction we have usually comes from fear. That means any judgment or blame towards others, the avoidance of a particular subject/person, numbness, suppression or outright anger – all of these deflection techniques are the ego’s way of protecting us when we’re in a state of fear. When we become aware of this and we can see the ego’s behaviour it becomes easier to question it and find out why the fear is there in the first place and from my own experience I’ve found that underneath fear are almost always signposts for growth.

In a recent situation where I was starting to become vulnerable with a man I found myself judging, blaming and becoming angry with him, I didn’t even realise that I was doing it until a friend pointed this out to me. So I decided to address it like all my other triggers. When I did this, at first I found myself in tears. I was terrified. I was scared that if I let someone into that vulnerable emotional space that something awful was going to happen to me and that I would experience all the emotions from heartbreak, attempted rape and the death of someone close all over again. I desperately did not want to feel all those emotions in that intensity again and I was terrified that this situation was headed that way. Having got to know my triggers very well, I know that they create a whole world of illogical scenarios in my head based on a couple of situations in my life and during those moments of fear I remember what those scenarios feel like which causes me to back out fast. The reality though, is very different because the past doesn’t determine the future and the trick is to remind myself of this reality when I’m experiencing what feel like very real occurrences. Practising that continuously is what has allowed me to grow out of trauma in to a more authentic and stronger person than I was before. The next time you find yourself bearing way from something, as yourself why? If it comes down to fear then it could be an opportunity for growth too.

  1. Communicating that we don’t know how to feel is the first step to connecting

Anyone who knows about Brene Brown’s research on shame and vulnerability will already know that vulnerability is where human connections thrive. I’ve watched her TED talks, I’d read the books but what I hadn’t done is really practiced what she preached when it came to vulnerability and to be honest it’s because I wasn’t aware that I didn’t know how to be vulnerable. To be completely honest, I thought I knew all about vulnerability before I experienced my traumas but in reality I was running away from all negative feelings in my very privileged and somewhat entitled life, without the awareness that I was running. So when I was faced with so many difficult situations I got to experience first-hand what she meant in The Power of Vulnerability, especially when she explains about those vulnerable moments:

  • Making that phone call to the relative who just lost someone, even though you have no idea what to say
  • Telling someone you love them, without knowing if they feel the same
  • Admitting to someone you care about that you did something wrong and that you’re sorry

What all these situations do is communicate our feelings at the times when it’s the hardest because those are the times when it matters the most. When I was on the receiving end of these situations I appreciated the friends who called me and said “I don’t know what to say”, over those who just avoided me altogether because we could at least converse over the fact that neither of us knew how to deal with the situation which meant we were in it together. I also did this with the vulnerable situation where I acted reactively with the guy I previously mentioned, after I had become vulnerable. I explained that I was terrified and that I didn’t know how to handle the situation and because of that I had pushed him away. In both these situations I found that communicating the very observation of the feeling led to me becoming a lot closer with these people and that is the start of practicing vulnerability.

All our life experiences give us a choice. The choice to deal with them, learn and grow from them or the choice to shut off, avoid and live in a life of safe guards. For me, the latter meant that I would give up the nomadic lifestyle which was the very thing that made me feel alive, so I had to find away to grow out of it or I knew that I faced a life locked in silent misery, clouded by apathy and an inability to connect with other people. Urgh, no thanks.