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As I found out, hypnotherapy isn’t about being made to make chicken noises, or paying someone to sleep for an hour or so.
At the beginning of this year I wasn’t in a great place. To start with, I don’t do well in winter anyhow; what with the lack of sunlight, the cold weather, and the pressure of all the Christmas festivities. I always felt like I ought to be happy and smiley when I’m feeling the exact opposite. Add to that the stress of buying a house for the first time; the mortgage appointments (by phone), going back and forwards with the solicitors, and then the huge relief of finally getting the keys to the house a few months after putting our offer in.
After we were given the keys to our new home I thought that the hard part was it over and I could relax, but I was wrong. There was a huge list of things to do – the floors needed sanding and painting, everything needed cleaning, we needed to order oil for the heating, to sort out the council tax and electric, and get our address updated on everything.
At first we were trying to fit everything in during evenings and weekends while still working (the new house was an hour away from where we were living at the time). After a month or so of doing this we decided to go for it and just moved in. It took several journeys to move (because we did it ourselves instead of being normal and hiring someone else!) and there were boxes everywhere – we had no idea where to put it all.
Next came learning the new route to work, the new hour’s drive commute each way, and getting used to the different roads. There were plans for building a garage (our conservatory was filled up with tools, boxes of car parts, bits of wood…), and new garden designs, as well as weeding and keeping up with what was already there. It felt like it was never ending.
On the outside I pretended I was happy – because that’s what people should be when they’ve found their perfect house, right? It was everything we needed and wanted so why on earth wouldn’t I be happy? The scary thing is I actually believed myself; that everything was OK. We’d bought a house and I was coping fine. Any thoughts or feelings that contradicted that I totally ignored like an ostrich with its head in the sand.
Then I started having moments. I got agitated and upset really easily. On weekday mornings I started waking up with that feeling of instant panic. I could feel my heart beating loudly and it would take a few minutes to calm down. During the week I’d spend all the energy I had just getting through the day, so that on evenings and weekends I’d be left with no reserve. I found it difficult to do normal things and the house was a mess. Small, everyday things felt too much.
Something tiny and insignificant would happen and it would tip me over the edge; my mood would instantly plummet and I didn’t know how to get back from wherever I had fallen to. Most days when this happened I’d just give up and go back to bed. One particular weekend I found myself arguing about a pond of all things. It sounds silly now but at the time I couldn’t even think ahead to tomorrow, let alone have the space in my head to plan something like a pond. It felt like a massive task. I locked myself in the toilet and just sat and cried. I don’t know how long I was in there for but it felt like hours.
After the pond crying incident I knew it was time to do something. I’d put on a lot of weight (I was the heaviest I’d ever been) and my periods had dropped to just a couple of days each month but I wasn’t pregnant – just fat and stressed. I messaged my friend to get some of the thoughts out of my head. Then I went back to bed.
Later that week I got a parcel through the post from my friend – it was like a ‘care package’ with relaxing lavender scent, glittery nail varnish, chocolate… It was such a thoughtful thing to do and it made me realise that I’d forgotten how to look after myself. How does that even happen? It really hit me. I sat down with the chocolate and thought about what to do. I started googling alternative natural remedies and after scrolling through a few websites I saw hypnotherapy being mentioned. I’d always been interested in hypnotherapy, and someone had commented about it on this blog but I’d never been brave enough to try it. That last week or so gave me the push I needed so I emailed a local lady from the Hypnotherapy Directory who didn’t look too scary.
Is it strange that I partly chose my hypnotherapist based on the fact that she put a photo of Glastonbury on her facebook page? I don’t know why but as we’d both been to the same place it kind of felt like we were similar. She had two arms and two legs too; were we practically twins.
After a few emails back and forth with her I booked my first hypnotherapy session. It was a bit petrifying going to that first session because even though I had researched, I still didn’t fully know what to expect. I thought I would be put to sleep then wake up at the end and I’d either be cured or it wouldn’t have made any difference at all.
Instead, it was more of a ‘getting to know me’ session. She asked questions about what I wanted to change and how I felt. We went through a list about myself and my life and I had to score myself on a scale of 1 to 10 on how fulfilled I felt in each area. My lowest score was in confidence – I said how it could go up and down as low as 3 or around 6 or 7. I was given ‘homework’ on that first session which was to listen daily to the recording she would send me, to start journalling daily and to answer a list of questions about myself. Coming out of the session I felt proud that I’d taken the step, but also a little wary about how much I had to do. I hadn’t realised it would be so involved – I thought I’d just have to sit in a chair and go to sleep!
That first evening after the session I downloaded the hypnotherapy recording I’d been sent. As the house was still a mess I had no idea where my earphones were so I was going to have to play the recording out loud. I felt a bit silly doing it so I sat out of the way on the step of our conservatory (the seats were still full with boxes and garage stuff). The floor was cold, hard and uncomfortable but I pressed play on the recording and closed my eyes. The calm, gentle voice of my hypnotist filled the air and I tried to relax. Behind me I could hear the patter of the cats wondering around. The next minute I had a cat climbing onto my lap doing its clawing thing on my leg. I shooed it off but then another cat came screeching past me. In the end I gave up – this would have to wait until I had earphones and a quieter place to sit.
That night I dreamt about the hypno recording. In my dream I was listening to the recording and the woman’s voice was saying how I wouldn’t wake up until 10am tomorrow morning. She was trying to be soothing but I instantly felt panicked; what if it worked and I missed the morning alarm and was late for work? The recording carried on talking faster and faster, and then the woman got louder and louder until she started screaming. That’s all I remember of the dream. It didn’t help me feel any better…
The following day I stopped off on my way home from work and bought some earphones. I listened to the recording laying in bed but this time I was able to relax, and could feel the tension drifting away as I listened to the calm voice and the words. I was surprised by how often I heard something different being said in the same recording which I would listen to each day. It’s like my brain picked up on the parts I really needed to hear on that particular day. Slowly I learnt how to relax; not only at home while listening to the recording but when I was out and about.
At first I felt guilty about having this alone time but it didn’t take long to get into the habit of it each evening, and it didn’t take long to see the results. One week into the hypnotherapy recordings I realised that my ‘panic mornings’ had stopped. A couple of weeks later I felt like I had more energy. I started doing more things; like going to aqua classes and talking more about how I was feeling instead of blocking everything away.
I discovered the positives of rambling on about things, even if it was only writing to myself in my journal. We found our wedding venue and booked it (we had been looking on and off for over 5 years!). I made time to do the things I wanted to do and started using the techniques I’d learnt in my sessions and in the recordings to stop my ‘worry spiral’ going out of control. I did things without panicking. As the anxiety slowly started to slow down, it felt like I had more room in my head to just ‘be’. I was learning how to be myself.
I don’t believe in miracles but hypnotherapy has helped me so much. A lot has happened since I finished the hypnotherapy sessions, it’s been a very up and down year, and I don’t know how I would have coped if I hadn’t have had the experience of hypnotherapy. I still use the recordings now and then when I feel the panic coming back, but now I’m able to recognise it and see it for what it is.
Anxiety is a part of normal life and everyone will experience it at some point, but now I feel like I know how to control it so that it doesn’t take over. I feel in control of my own life again.