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Tree Uprooted

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Melanie Phillips 

Winter 2018

Tree Uprooted

I came across this picture and thought, “how like life this is”. The tree has been uprooted and although that should be the end of it, instead it has continued to grow, just in a different direction. Life sometimes does that to us, pushes us into a different direction, we fight against it, resist all we can to change. That is normal as most of us don’t really like change.

However, frequently we need to make changes to evolve and move our lives forward, though often we don’t realise it!

I started to have panic attacks and anxiety

My own life was in turmoil about 15 years ago. I had left my partner, but we needed to house share until it could be sold, my father had died suddenly and there were major changes taking place at work. I didn’t know how to cope or where to turn and the worst part was I started to have panic attacks and anxiety. I was either sleeping far too much or not enough, there was no balance at all in my life.

Then the house sold and I moved into a flat that needed to be completely gutted. I was doing that evenings and weekends, while dealing with the changes at work and my grief for the loss of my father. I felt as though I was on a continual emotional rollercoaster. About 10 months later my mother become ill, she was in hospital for months in Scotland. I was still in London at the time, so this meant travelling up at weekends to help support my sister.

How much more could life throw at me? It felt like a challenge!

Sadly, after about 6 months in and out of hospital my mother died. We were all devastated as we had been convinced she would pull through. It was the final straw for me and I was signed off with depression and stress, but living on my own, this wasn’t very helpful as I just became more insular. Mixed in with the depression was of course a lot of grief, not just for my parents but also for the life I thought I was meant to be living.

I started to look around for something to help and found a training workshop about Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and I was surprised at how a seemingly simple method could make changes in my mind set so quickly. When I was having stressful moments at work, I would go to the ladies and sit there and tap on the emotions that were flowing through me. Often there was anger, but of course it wasn’t about work it was anger as part of the grief I was feeling regarding the loss of my parents.

I found The Quest Institute

Through the EFT course I met other like-minded people, some of whom were also going through life changing events. It was through them that I found The Quest Institute, I had no idea at the time how much my life was about to change.

Whilst doing the 10-month course I went to see a Quest trained therapist and my life started to open up. I was able to deal with the anxiety and stress at work, panic attacks came but I was able to deal with them using the techniques that I was being taught.

I began to realise that I was relying on external forces to ‘fix’ my life, but that was never going to lead to a happy outcome. It is called living in ELOC, external locus of control. Instead, I started to try to live my life in a more ILOC state of mind, internal locus of control. All this means is that instead of waiting for something to happen to change my mood, my life, or my day, I took back control. For example, I would be living ELOC if I decided all I needed was the latest phone to make my life great. Really? Is this a truth? Or can I be more ILOC? If I have the latest phone that would be nice, but whether I have it or not can’t really change my life.

Being more ILOC gave me back my life

I was taking my life back. I was being taught, on the course and through therapy, how to use various techniques in different situations.

I began to deal with things rather than hide from them and hope they would disappear, which I can tell you from experience doesn’t work…

One example was when I was driving into work. There was a lot of traffic on the motorway and just before my junction there was a tunnel, which we were all stuck in. Not moving. Nothing happening. Needless to say, this triggered a panic attack. In the past, I have no doubt that I would have had a full-blown panic attack there and then in the tunnel. Instead, I thought what can I do to change the situation? Not a lot. So, I controlled my breathing, became mindful of where I was and what I could do to change my thinking to be more ILOC. As I used a technique I had been taught, I smiled to myself when I realised those old anxious thoughts were floating away. They were never real, even though at the time they did feel very real. It was a wonderful feeling to take back my emotions in that moment, I was now back in control. To have the realisation that I can choose how I feel, react or respond to any given situation was empowering. Especially now I know when I am being emotionally hijacked by life and the various situations we can face in our daily lives.

Life often tests our strength

Of course, sometimes life tests us and earlier this year a number of things happened in my family and life that brought back the depression. Initially, I didn’t notice that it was there, I slept walked back into the old ways. It was a few months before I realised what was happening, how I had been shutting my life down, not taking care of myself.

The difference this time though was, once I did realise what was happening, I went to another Quest-trained therapist and got the help and support I needed to get through this.

Depression can be sneaky like that, creeping up on you when you least expect it. But now I am back in control, after only a couple of sessions. Because now when the depression tries to return, I greet it like an old friend, sit with it and look at where it is coming from. Often it is an illusion, a story I am telling myself and I can therefore change it. It no longer has control over me as it did in the past. I am breaking out of the old habit of sitting and looking outside for someone or something to change how I feel. Instead, I play some music, or go for a walk, anything that breaks the old cycle of sitting and doing nothing other than accepting the depression has returned.

Often, when I consider why the depression is trying to make a comeback, I realise I have been overthinking a situation or thinking about the past a lot. Above all, it is the understanding that nothing has to be the way it has always been, we can break those old habits and move our lives towards the life we want and indeed deserve to live.

All of this makes me, I believe, a better therapist. When a client talks to me about how they can’t see the future, I know what they are going through. Because I have been there, no future to be seen only darkness, filled with anxious, negative thoughts. However, I also know it can be changed, that life is worth fighting for, that changes can happen far quicker and more permanently than we could ever imagine.

Just like the tree, my life had been uprooted and changed beyond recognition and, just like the tree, I have started to grow in a different direction. Now, I work full time as a therapist and supervisor to other therapists, I enjoy interacting with my clients and seeing the changes they make to their lives.

I’m now the Research Manager for the QCHPA

Now, I am the Research Manager for The Quest Institute, and its professional arm QCHPA (Quest Cognitive Hypnotherapy Practitioner Association). This involves gathering the data of those fortunate clients who have been to see a Quest-trained therapist. The information is anonymised and sent to an independent data collation group called Pragmatic Tracker. It is now heading into year five, the pilot study was published in the Mental Health Review Journal, our research is listed in NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence in the NHS) and the data is being used by several research projects about the effectiveness of therapy.

In the recent studies, it showed that using 118 cases measuring the effectiveness of Cognitive Hypnotherapy for the treatment of depression and anxiety, 71% considered themselves recovered after an average of 4 sessions. That compared to an average of 42% for other approaches using the same measures such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). This is amazing, and I know from personal experience how effective the treatment is. Whilst this is a small study it establishes proof of the principle.

Don’t just take my word for it, there is ample research and evidence, all independently verified that proves it works. When you visit a QCH trained therapist they will do their best for you, working within your model of the world, helping you to unlock your potential.

Life can be and is good. If you are experiencing anxiety, stress or depression, do please seek help, because nothing has to be the way it has always been.