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Lightning over torontoFor me, Friday 23rd August 2019 is a day to remember, as that was that day that I experienced my first (and I really hope my last) panic attack.

About me

As a psychotherapist using the human givens approach, I have helped hundreds of people with anxiety, phobias and panic attacks. I’ve worked both with individuals and groups and have even produced a resource to help people who suffer from anxiety.

The thing is - I don’t generally suffer from anxiety myself. In fact, people often tell me that I am always able to turn things around and to put a positive spin on them. I originally got into helping people with anxiety 20 years ago, because I wanted to help family, friends and the people I work with to cope with and overcome anxiety and depression.

Generally, I am quite laid back, and stay (apparently) calm in situations in which many would be anxious. For me, anxiety is usually a choice and one I simply don’t choose very often. I know that if I get anxious about simple things it doesn’t help me. When I start to stress about something I might have lost, I simply take a deep breath and get into my logical head to retrace steps and find the item. If I am worried about someone, I will check that worry and send them my love and care. This said, I do avoid things I KNOW will make me anxious, such as bungee jumping, skydiving, mountain climbing and wire walking. 

Let’s say that on a scale of 1-10 my anxiety levels sit happily within the 2-3 range most of the time. Occasional my stress level momentarily jumps to a 6-7, but I quickly calm back to 2-3 and I am happy to be completely chilled at a 1! I use 7-11 breathing if I find myself getting stressed in a queue or a traffic jam.

The only time I have ever felt close to a panic attack was at Paddington Station after an extremely stressful couple of days in London. I felt a tsunami of emotions which I quelled within 3 - 4 minutes by reciting girls names corresponding to the alphabet in my head! (A technique I highly recommend as it takes you into your rational mind and stops the emotional hijacking.) 

I have had some extremely trying and worrying times in my life - and I have not panicked. So here I will just explore what happened on this occasion and put it into a context that makes sense to me, and hopefully to you too. 

What led up to the panic attack.

I work from ‘The Needs Model’ of wellbeing and my experience shows that Anxiety is caused when emotional needs are not met and/or our innate resources are not used well. 

Let’s look at what happened on that fateful Friday, by examining which of my innate needs were (not) met and the specific events that led up to the panic attack and what it felt like at the time. 

We had been in Canada for three days and had adjusted fairly well to the climate, the dollars and the really big buildings in Toronto.

We were in town for a three-day conference.

For me, just like an accident, this panic attack was not caused by one big thing happening - but a set of unfortunate incidents that lead up to the event.

I will outline the events and then share my ‘emotional needs audit’ for the day - as you will see, individually, none of them was a big deal.

  1. Our hotel neighbour’s alarm was exactly the same as ours and woke us at 5:00am - starting the day with 2 hours less sleep than usual.
  2. Meeting new people - finding places and not being entirely sure what the day would hold.
  3. The music and the conference speakers were so loud I had to buy earplugs. 
  4. Navigating a large hotel, finding a shop (for earplugs), coffee, toilets and WiFi in a short time frame.
  5. Having two lunch dates, made a wrong first decision and then was late for the second option. Missed part of the talk, part of lunch and any networking opportunity.
  6. Being given (and expected to wear) tee shirts and a baseball cap. Attire that is WAY out of my comfort zone!!
  7. I’m still finding the auditorium speakers very loud even though we have moved to the back and I’m wearing earplugs.
  8. End of day - but only a very short turn around before heading out for the evening 'jolly' on a boat.
  9. I need to pick up supplies, meet up with husband, go to the hotel room, change clothes, ‘powder my nose’ and find a boat before it leaves in 15 minutes.

I am aware that my experience of these events was very different from the experience of many others. I also know that we are all capable of experiencing anxiety and panic but looking back at how my own emotional needs were being met the first 14 hours of that day I can see that I was heading for the panic that happened. Party people who are used to working in a busy environment with long and busy days may well thrive on this, but I didn't!

An Emotional Needs Audit

Innate need How am I doing?  Scale out of 10
(higher = more stressed)
Food and Drink Ok, but I am hungry now. 8
Movement Ok, but I was either sitting, standing in crowds (which gives me backache) or rushing. By the time I panic I have been unable to move for 30 minutes. 10
Sleep  I have been awake for 14 busy hours. 7
Security Out of my comfort zone on several occasions. 7
Control Not knowing what was happening for much of the day. I don’t know where we are going or when we will get off the boat. 9
Attention Unable to talk to others due to not being able to hear above the noise. 10
Emotional Connection Not being in the right place at the right time to meet and chat throughout the day. My husband is around but we ‘lose each other’ several times in the crowd. 10
Community  Feeling like an outsider as unable to talk to others. 10
Achievement Feeling a ‘failure’ late, disorganised and not having had any good conversations. 9
Respect I’m really not feeling ‘seen’ and not proud of the way I am feeling right now. 10
Meaning and Purpose I love sharing ideas and want to connect but cannot. 9
Privacy I cannot hear myself think - There is nowhere to go to ‘get away’ 10

Even though I have been feeling at a stress level well above my normal for 14 hours now I do get to the boat, in time, with my (lovely and very understanding) husband.

This next part of the story tells of my experience of a panic attack. 

The music is louder than a live band in a small space.

The boat does not leave for around 30 minutes after we get on.

I sit near my husband - we both try to have conversations with people close. Everyone is shouting. I cannot hear above the music. - (I didn’t think to bring earplugs and my ears are hurting) I soon see no point trying to talk to anyone so I look out of the window and take a few photos and distract myself by playing mindless games on my phone.

Our boat arrives at the destination. With everyone else, I stand up and walk towards the exit. However, we are  having trouble docking. I look out at everyone looking frantically happy on the quayside. I cannot engage conversation with anyone here though as I cannot talk loud enough or hear them. I am slow to realise that I have moved even closer to the speakers. I stand by the window. My husband is in the line a few feet behind. I watch people having fun on the shore. I hear people chatting and laughing behind me. I feel really, really stuck, and isolated. I don’t want to be here. I cannot hear myself think…. I want to scream. I want to hide…. My internal narrative says: “What if I curl up in the corner?” “I could crawl under the table” “No that would just be silly” "Come on - just look out of the window, it won't be long and you can get away from the noise”…. Boat is still docking. It feels like about 20 minutes have gone by, I have no idea of time. Then I start to cry. I’m facing the window and the shuddering starts, “Why doesn’t anyone reach out?" “I hope no-one sees me”. Luckily I am not by an open window at this point as I consider jumping the 12 feet onto the dock…. None of these thoughts are working for me I know... I cannot hear anything except the noise that hurts my ears. As I shudder and cry - I step away from the window and catch the eye of my husband - he raises his eyebrows and I shake my head - then it starts, without warning I shout - it is totally involuntary, just a shout - then another shout bubbles up - I slap my hands to my face to try to stop the shouts escaping but they just keep coming, and I keep hitting my face. I knock my glasses off as Alec and others guide me to the outside of the boat. There are people around - they look at me as if I am mad - they try to move away. The shouting starts to form words “I can’t bear it, I can't bear it, make it stop, please make it stop” It is as if I am watching myself totally dissociated from the noise that fills me and the words that erupt from me. Alec, my husband is behind me - strong. Two women start talking to me, as they ask what they can do for me (I have no idea or words that would make sense anyway) but they form that amazing human connection and bring me back into connection with myself. I know this is a panic attack. I know that I will be ok, I know I am not "broken" and that I will recover from this, I just need to be free of the loud noise in a confined space. 

Until the panic started  I had been able to use my innate resources to meet my needs and be OK with the situation. 

This table shows how I was able and then unable to use these resources.

Resource When it works  When it doesn’t
Rational Thinking Use phone for photos and games. Can’t concentrate now.
Imagination “It’ll be fine as soon as we are off the boat and have food”. “We are never getting off this boat”.
Emotions Feel “it’ll be ok soon”. Fight/Flight/Freeze/Dissociate.
Pattern Matching I’ve been at loud gigs and busy meetings before and been fine. This feels like the worst nightmare ever.
Memory People are friendly when we get a chance to speak. I’ve never been anywhere this scary before.
Rapport Smile and move to the side where others are looking out of the window. Just manage to shake my head at my husband ...
Dreaming Brain Not asleep - hope it works later. Not asleep - hope it works later.
Observing self It’s ok, just act normally Bindi! Later I will be OK and able to see the bigger picture. I am observing my body from a completely detached position. It is shouting and sobbing and not under my control.

Once connected with other humans and away from the direct fire of the speakers, I can think more clearly. I am hungry and exhausted - I know that other people will judge me for the actions of this shouting, out of control woman. Yet I know that I have been to a place that so many people live on the edge of. I am grateful that I know that this does not have to happen to me again. I have not ‘blown a fuse’ I was nowhere close to death or madness. I do not blame myself or feel shame at finding the limits of my own stress tolerance. I know that there are always more people who will help and care for me than there are who would judge me and consider me ‘less than’.

Within minutes I am off the boat, sitting quietly on the edge of the party, I have food and drink and can even join some conversation above the noise. 

An hour later - I board the boat for the return journey, I check with the captain where the noise will be least and enjoy watching the night time sky from the top deck - Sitting with Alec I don’t even consider engaging in conversation!

The next day - many of the same challenges are repeated, but I stay calm and easy and make the most of the experience of learning together with a great bunch of people. 

When I reflect on what happened, I felt more and more alienated from others, my partner and eventually myself. The real help I got was from the people around me that were prepared to be ‘there for me’ both at that moment and the next day. I have always hoped I would be able to be there for someone in extreme distress, I now know that that simple human connection really does work wonders. The only way I could see myself as a human being was in the reflection of others who showed me their true humanity. 

I share my experience in the hope that it might help others. If you have had panic attacks It might help you to know that you are not alone in having these experiences. If you know someone that sufferes from panic attacks this might help you to see how it can happen and what you might be able to do to help them.

If you want to know more about anxiety and your innate needs and resources do look at Anxiety Freedom Cards. 

Bindi Gauntlett F.HGI. Hg.Dip.P. Co-Founder of Anxiety Freedom Cards

 

I sometimes come up with a big idea and very often because it has been bubbling for a long time. This is my response to a post in a facebook group discussing the perils of climate change. I want to thank my grandmothers for their part in this. “I feel very strongly that mothers have a vital role to play. We are the people who understand on a very deep level what nature and creation are about. We are the people who have direct experience of the interconnectedness and non-duality. A part of us walks the earth without a physical connection to us. If we can connect as a web of mothers we just might have a chance to exude kindness, nurturing and care. This may just change the many systems on the planet that need changing. Imagine if all our governments were run by mothers - if countries were run like families. If our health and education systems were based on love, not fear. This surely is our message and our contribution, let us stand on the shoulders of the mothers who came before us.” This is for my children and grandchildren- and yours 💕

Motherhood is the state of being that begins after a woman carries a baby long enough for the physical and mental processes of change to become manifest within her.

The Journey

Just as adulthood is heralded by the changes to both body and mind that result in the first menstruation, motherhood is heralded by a changing body and mind that results in the birth of a baby.

We totally accept that an adult brain is very different from a child’s brain. An adult’s thinking is different and patterns are set more clearly. Simply put, an adult brain can learn to drive on busy roads safely. They can judge speed, assess theoretical risk, and continue prioritising responsibility throughout the journey. A child cannot do this. Puberty is not the same as adulthood.

In the same way, childbirth is not the same as motherhood. A mother's brain can see the bigger picture more clearly, can put herself in another person's shoes more easily, can gather and link seemingly unconnected objects and experiences and has the ability to 'know' more about her surroundings and those of the people she cares for. A woman needs time and support as she learns to drive her new way of being after becoming a mother just as a teenager needs to practice the skills to drive a car.

The routes...

All this talk about driving is a prelude to opening a conversation about what motherhood is, how it affects us personally and how it affects those around us and the world we live in.

We know what an adolescent brain is like in the full swing of hormonal changes because we have all been there. The classic “I dunno” response of a teenager is because they are rewiring their brain and the old pathways that used to take them to a clear answer to the question is simply no longer there.

Asking a teenager “Would you like burger or sausage for tea?” becomes complicated. Now, there is much more for her to consider in regard to this question. Until this is done and the new pathway is wired in, a young person really doesn't know. It takes some years for this process of change and often a turbulent sea of anxieties, risk-taking and mood swings has to be crossed in this time. But we never expect an adolescent to return to the ‘normal’ body shape, size and thinking style of their 10-year-old self. Yet how often do we find ourselves expecting women to revert to their pre-pregnancy physique, capabilities and ‘knowing’?

We (mothers) know that the simple pre-pregnancy question to a rewiring matrescent brain of “would you like to leave the baby with granny overnight?” is a far more complicated question than it was pre-pregnancy. The mother's brain is rewiring and needs time to do this.

Adolescence and Matrescence

Pregnancy and mothering can be thought of as two parts of the journey to motherhood. Motherhood, like childhood and adulthood, is a distinct state. Both puberty and pregnancy are driven by bodily changes that inform and precipitate the emotional and mental changes. These periods of change are termed adolescence and matrescence. The practice of ‘adulting’ or ‘mothering’ over weeks, months and years is what forms us as the adults and mothers we become.

Checking the distance...

As adults we can define times in our lives where we recognise that we have ‘grown up’. We have gone through another stage of adulthood. These are both physical and emotional experiences. Such stages can be: leaving home; having our first adult to adult relationship; getting a job; losing a parent; travelling alone; the list goes on.

As mothers we also go through many stages in our motherhood: becoming pregnant; having a baby; feeding the baby; leaving the baby with others; becoming a working mum; a single mum; a student mum; a disabled mum; a grieving mum; a step mum; a mum with an empty nest; a grand-mum. With each of these experiences, we grow as a mother and our mother brains and minds learn and adapt and support us and those around us.

A mother brain is never ‘alone’ physically and emotionally. It is connected to other brains. Did you know that a child’s DNA can be found within a mother’s brain tens of years after carrying the child? If you get the chance to, do watch a mother with a two-year-old, observe how far she will allow her child to stray or explore before she cannot stop herself going to their aid. She knows exactly when to step in, you can almost see the cord between them. But you also know she is letting out that cord little by little as she grows as a mother.

The guides...

When I say that I work with Mothers people inevitably assume that I mean new mothers. However, my work is more often with mothers who find themselves unable to be the mothers they want to be. These mothers feel their motherhood is being challenged by loss or change and are needing support to change gear in order to protect themselves and those they love.

If I said that I work with adults you would not think that I was working with adolescent girls. At this point, they most need their family, friends, teachers and other communities around them. This is the same for Mothers, matrescence is a time to explore what motherhood means to them personally. They need support from those around them who know them well as they metamorphosise from woman to mother.

My passion

My passion is to support and recognise mothers as they come into, exercise and develop their powers and skills as the mothers they truly want to be in their own lives, their family’s lives and their communities.

My mission

My mission is to get a million western women involved in redefining what ‘motherhood’ means to us, taking our messy, big picture thinking into building loving resilient families and connecting communities.

Fatherhood and Parenthood

P.S. Fatherhood and motherhood are different. Many of the skills learned are similar and can be covered by the term ‘parenthood’. However, the body changes, hormonal effects and the brain changes are different. I fully acknowledge that we need both mothers and fathers in our families in order for us all to thrive. I also recognise that some parents do not define themselves as ‘mother’ or ‘father’ but I hope that if this is you, you will be able to hear what I say and test it in the light of your own experience and use what is useful to you and discard that which is not.

8

When you work in a field, any field, you can find yourself watching the news and see something published that you have known about FOR... EVER !!!

This is how it was for me today when I heard Anna Simpsons story on BBC News. Anna had been hoping for a normal birth but describes having an emergency c-section as the most frightening experience of her life. She went on to have treatment for PTSD and described her journey.

It is no surprise to me that Dr Rebecca Moore, from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, went on camera to say that many women who experienced PTSD were being "failed by the current provision".

Anna is not alone. In my 30 years of working with women and families I have met countless women whose experiences around childbirth have left them with the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I even worked with a midwife who felt unable to have a second baby due to undiagnosed perinatal PTSD which was still affecting her 25 years later.

And it is not just the women. Partners and Maternity staff have often come to me for help dealing with the symptoms of PTSD. Childbirth can be the most wonderful experience a human can go through but very occasionally it can also be the most terrifying time of your life.

If you are concerned that you or someone close to you has PTSD read on and I will summarise the symptoms and experiences that can occur.

You might have PTSD (relating to childbirth) if you were exposed to a traumatic event around childbirth in which both of the following were present:

  1. You experienced, an event where there was actual or threatened death or serious injury to Mum and/or Baby.

  2. You felt intense fear helplessness or horror.

Do you experience (one or more of) the following?

    • Uncontrollable memories of the trauma.
    • Recurrent distressing dreams of the event.
    • Flashbacks to the event.
    • Overwhelming emotional reactions to associated people/places/things.
    • Physical symptoms (sweating, racing heart, abdominal symptoms) when encountering people/places/things that remind you of the event.

Do you try to avoid things or feel ‘numb’ especially (three or more of the following)?

    • When people talk about childbirth.
    • When you come across activities, places or people that remind you of the trauma.
    • You find you cannot remember an important aspect of the trauma.
    • You don’t want to do things that you used to enjoy.
    • You feel isolated and detached from others.
    • You feel unable to have loving feelings, or to laugh and cry as before.
    • You have an overwhelming sense of vulnerability and feel scared that there is no future.

Do you have (two or more of the following)?

    • Difficulty falling or staying asleep (even when the baby allows it).
    • Irritability or outbursts of anger.
    • Difficulty in concentrating.
    • Hyper-vigilance - looking out for danger everywhere.
    • An exaggerated startle response - jumping to the slightest sound/movement.

Has this gone on for more than one month?

Do you have significant difficulty in work and/or social situations because of this?

If you have read through this and have been answering “yes” to lots of the questions it might not mean that you ‘have PTSD’ but it does mean that you are struggling with life and are not able to enjoy it as much as you would like to. Maybe it is time to find a way to let go of the overwhelm and anxiety and to start feeling more like the ‘you’ you used to be and the ‘you’ you want to be for yourself and your family.

So please, If you are concerned that you may have PTSD and want help please talk to your health professional or get in touch with me. There are fast and effective ways of overcoming this debilitating condition.

Perinatal PTSD does not only affect Mothers but it can go on to affect the whole family. If you are still experiencing the above symptoms more than 3 months after the birth it is time to talk.

Some questions:

Q: If I say I am not coping will ‘they’ take my baby away?

A: NO! You are asking for help and you may well be surprised by how much help will be offered. 

Q: I don’t think I could talk to anyone about the birth - can you still help?

A: Fortunately (with many therapies including human givens therapy) you do not have to talk about the events that caused the trauma (as this reliving can further embed the trauma).

Q: People will think me weak - I should be happy that I have a family, I have no reason to feel like this do I?

A: Why some people get PTSD while others don’t is not fully understood but may occur because some people ‘freeze’ at the moment of trauma. This freezing is a normal human response to extreme danger.

Q: I think I have had PTSD for 20-30 years is it too late for help?

A: No, it is never too late. I have helped people many, many years after trauma.

Q: If I have another baby will the PTSD come back?

A: If you have treatment for PTSD and can talk about the birth and go back to the hospital without feeling the symptoms then there is no reason that the PTSD symptoms will  return with a subsequent birth.

Q: Can you definitely diagnose whether I have PTSD or not?

A: I am a fully qualified psychotherapist, but I am not  Doctor or a Psychologist so I am unable to give you a diagnosis. I am however experienced in helping people overcome the symptoms that I have described above. I spend my time and yours helping you to feel better rather than examining the detail of each of the symptoms in order to give you a label.

If you have any other questions at all don’t hesitate to get in touch.  

This is me sitting on my great grandmother’s knee in 1958

Today, on Remembrance day, I choose to remember May, my great grandmother, I do remember her as a little round lady who wound her plaits around her head, had a whiskery chin and a tin full of sweeties on her table.

I didn’t know her as a young woman growing up as daughter to the village butcher, nor as the girl who rode her horse too fast. I didn’t know her as she married Norman, the son of the village brewer. I didn’t know her as she gave birth to six children in the first 15 years of the 1900s. I didn’t know her as Norman left for France, nor did I know her when the letter came that he was missing in action. I didn’t know her as she held her family together or how she felt about her sons joining up. I didn’t know her when a year later the letter came that Norman was alive but had been injured, I didn’t know her when her disabled husband returned, nor when she had 2 more children. I didn’t know her as every day for more than 40 more years she looked at her husband knowing he had survived where many hadn’t, yet had injuries that changed his mind and body perhaps beyond recognition.

I know little of my other three great grandmothers or eight great grandmothers. All I know is that I, just like you come from a long line of strong women who gave birth to a daughter who became a mother, and did the best they could with what they had.

This story was left untold for 50 years, we did not know it to remember it. Now I can share it with you, and your story will have a mother who saw her husband, brothers or sons changed by war. On remembrance day or any day take a moment to remember her.

Do you want to be the mother your grandmother would be proud of?

I am taking a look at the story of Christmas. Please note this is a humorous exploration of how and why Mary might have suffered from postnatal illness. The sole purpose is to raise awareness of postnatal illness and how it can affect anyone. Hopefully it will shed some light and raise a smile. There is no intention to offend.

The ‘Needs Perspective’ says that if our emotional needs are met in balance we thrive. When we cannot meet those needs we struggle with anxiety, depression and other stress related illnesses.

If we look at Mary’s life from a ‘Needs’ perspective, it is very likely she had postnatal depression.

What do we know about Mary? She had been travelling for days, to register in a city many miles from home. She seemed to have been travelling alone with Joseph, who was not best pleased that she was having a baby by someone else. At the end of all this she gave birth in a stable with only Joseph and the animals for company.

Let’s just check through the physical and emotional needs and see how they might have been met.

It is unlikely that she had easy access to Food and Drink, They would have been relying on ‘takeaways’ and snack food

Mary didn't know the area and was probably not feeling at her most comfortable after a long journey and a long labour so Movement would have been quite limited.

Sleep would have been hard to come by, lying on straw and surrounded by large animals and intruded on by endless visitors - shepherds, wise men and the like.

Security, Mary must have been feeling very insecure, a long way from her home, keeping away from the hooves of the Ox and the Ass and then hearing that Herod planned to kill all the babies in his kingdom.

Control, if a new mum ever felt that she had no control, then Mary was that Mum, she was far from home, and had no control over what she ate, when she slept, and who might visit.

Attention ALL the attention was going on Jesus, Yes he was cute, and had come to redeem the earth, but no-one seemed to bring Mary any presents, or even take much notice of her.

Emotional Connection Mary and Joseph’s relationship had been rocky beforehand, and now he seemed just to want to hang out with the shepherds.

Mary was many miles away from her Community, she must have felt as if she had been cast out from her tribe, they had been acting a bit ‘off’ with her before she left home..

You might think that giving birth to the son of God was quite an Achievement, and maybe it was, let’s hope Mary was proud of herself, and could say at the end of the day “I’m glad I did that”. But maybe it all felt far bigger than she could cope with.

I don’t remember hearing much about Respect for Mary in the early weeks, and she wasn't to know then that she would have millions of artists sculpt and draw impressions of her for more than 2000 years to come. Maybe the angels showed respect, hopefully they smiled encouragingly at Mary and sang quietly.

Whatever Mary had believed in before having Jesus there must have been a huge shift in how she met her need for Meaning and Purpose, It is hard enough for any first time Mum to make the change, but Wow - what a responsibility she was going to have to bring up this child to be near perfect, and she of all Mums knew that God would be watching her to make sure she got it right!

The moment that Mary gave birth to Jesus must have been the last moment that she had any Privacy at all. Just imagine the moment she held her tiny babe for the first time the angelic hosts proclaiming all around the world.  Soon everyone felt that they had some right to visit when they like, bringing inappropriate gifts and expecting to watch her baby’s every move.

Of course this is written with a degree of poetic licence and with my tongue firmly in my cheek as I do not know what Mary’s experience truly was. However in this story we find that Mary had difficulty in getting many of her needs met at all and Achievement and Meaning and Purpose  were met far too well! This would have caused a lack of balance, and as I said at the top when needs are not met, we become stressed, anxious and depressed. Add to this surging hormones and traumatic labour and post natal illness can quickly ensue. Hopefully Mary, like most new mothers found a way to meet her needs and didn't suffer too long with postnatal depression or anxiety.

It can take days, weeks, months and even years to regain balance after a significant life change like childbirth. As humans we always seek to regain equilibrium and to meet our needs but often we need help from friends, relations and professionals.

If Mary could have suffered from perinatal illness so could we all. If this story helps one woman to start talking about her feelings and getting the help she needs, this blog has played it’s part.

If you want to know more about the ‘Needs Model’ look at in8 Cards Resource pack, or contact me

Merry Christmas

Bindi

 

Holding on

After a recent attack in London by three young men on innocent passers-by, today of all days seems to me to be the day to at last write my story. This is the story of how I became the mother I am today.

It has been more than 10 years now since my 25-year-old daughter left her flat, she kissed her flatmate goodbye and headed off out into London. She loved life and loved the city. Having grown up in a village she treated London like a village, she always expected to meet friends and because this was the way she thought then this is what she found. She didn't know that very soon many people who she didnt even know would have her best interests at heart.

Within half an hour my daughter was lying unconscious and bleeding at the side of the road. She had been attacked and robbed of her bag. A dentist stopped to do CPR and a taxi driver gave chase to the three men who sped off on their mopeds carrying my daughter's bag and with it, her identity.

An ambulance arrived and resuscitated my daughter, the police took charge at the scene. On arrival at A&E they resuscitated her again, she was transferred to the neurological hospital where a long operation helped to lessen the effects of the bleeds on her brain. She had the best of care. She was transferred to intensive care and in all this time no-one at all who knew her knew she was there.

I was among those phoned that evening by one of the men wanting to know her address as they had ‘found her phone at the bus stop'. None of us gave away her address but tried to contact her. That evening I and several of her friends rang and rang her flat. None of us saw the 10 pm news describing the young woman found unconscious, or that three men were wanted for attempted murder.

The next morning I started ringing the hospitals asking if anyone had been admitted either with her name or not knowing her name. Her friend rang the police. More than 24 hours after she had been attacked her boyfriend and a best friend identified the jewellery that she had been wearing and the police were able to tell us that she was in a critical state having had a bleed on the brain.

I went into a kind of autopilot. It was as if the umbilical cord that had joined us so firmly together all those years before was now relentlessly pulling me the 100 miles towards my daughter's bedside. My focus was totally on getting to see her and hoping I would not be too late. As I walked up the hospital stairs I knew that either I would get to know these stairs well or this might be the one and only time I traveled them. Either way, all our lives had changed forever. Family and friends were already gathered, fear on all our faces.

I recognised my daughter by the curve of her nose, her fingers, and toes. She was bruised and swollen. Her eye was blackened, she had skull fractures, eye socket fractures, and a fractured clavicle. She also had a suspected fractured spine, but her head injury was so serious that they couldn't investigate her spine for fear of causing more trauma to her brain.

The Police were kind. The Doctors and Nurses were kind. Family and friends were kind. News spread. Newspapers took the story, Crimewatch showed the story and people who knew us and people who didn't were praying and hoping and sending support and good wishes to us all. It was as if we were all just waiting as my daughter rode the scariest roller-coaster of her life - for 4 (very long) weeks. There were many times when we watched squeezed into a corner while the medical staff checked and tweaked and monitored the machines as my daughter, my first born child clung tenuously to life. More than once we were told to call the whole family to be by her bedside.

As those closest to her kept vigil by her bedside, friends brought food and love. It felt as if we had set up a camp where love and connection and laughter held us close, and still, we waited. We survived on laughter and hope and gave no time or space to fear anger and hate.

Initially, we had little information and we were scared that whoever had attacked my daughter would try to come into the hospital. Many people were interviewed by police, many people rang the police with information. My daughter had not been singled out by anyone who knew her, she had been attacked for the contents of her handbag.

We waited, we hoped, we prayed. There was nothing definite, in those weeks, she could die, she could be paralysed by stroke or spinal fracture, she might never regain consciousness she might lose her speech, her personality, control over her bodily functions. All that I knew as I stood and sat and watched and waited and talked to doctors, nurses and police was that although I was a guardian of her body, she was not ‘there'. I hoped and hoped for a full recovery but had no idea if she would ever ‘come back' I told her stories and sang the songs of her childhood. I planned a house move to a wheelchair safe environment to have her home, I planned her funeral.

And then 4 weeks on she started to wake up, and no it was not like the films, no flutter of eyelids, no smile of recognition. I remember meeting her grandfather at the top of the stairs - (the ones that I now knew well) saying - "she is breathing on her own". As a Mum I had NEVER felt prouder, I was rocketed back to the moment she had been born, the first time she breathed on her own, the way that she had stretched out like a kitten before growing into the beautiful sleek tigress she was to become.

The waking up took many days while her eyes rolled and she smiled a vacant smile, we watched as she waved her arms and legs just as she had when she was a baby trying to make sense of how to control them, She ripped out the tubes that had been taking stuff in and out of her body for the last few weeks. We were told we had to make plans for longer-term care, but Jane had other plans. Within a week her friend met her walking down the street ‘looking just like Bambi' and walked back into the hospital with her.

Five weeks after she had been admitted to hospital I took Jane downstairs to the intensive care unit for her to see where she had ‘slept away' the month of February. The slow dawning of recognition on the faces of the staff to see this beautiful upright young woman who had been so ill, so dependent on them brought tears to my eyes and theirs.

A week later Jane went home, she returned to her flat and returned to University. Life was not and still is not easy, ask anyone who lives with or loves someone with an acquired brain injury or epilepsy they will know. Memory loss, fatigue, and headaches are relentless reminders. My brave and astonishing daughter still treats London as a village, she has had her phone and her purse snatched several times more, but many more times than that she has been picked up and comforted by strangers, helped by police, medical staff, paramedics, shopkeepers, firemen and taxi drivers she wears a bracelet to say who to contact if she is lost or unconscious. As she says "There are far more people who have helped me than have ever caused me harm". *

Our family was changed by the events that occurred one day in February 2007. Each of us carries emotional or even physical ‘scars' from that time, however, we are all grateful for each and every day that we are all ‘here'.

As a mother, I feel that I had two baby daughters. The first one I planned, carried for 9 months and helped to grow over many years. The second one I found in a hospital bed - as helpless as she had been before birth, I thought for her as I did for my newborn daughter, vigilant for her safety and fearful that she would not survive the night. But this time instead of taking ten months to learn to walk she took ten days, she let go of my guiding hand and ran towards her future whatever that may be. As a mother, I have given my heart and a part of me to my children yet I keep on my body the signs that they were once inside me, my brain is still affected by the hormones of pregnancy and motherhood I forged new neural circuits and integrated the DNA of my babies. Meanwhile, my mind as a mother is out there travelling, wondering, hoping and dreaming that all will be well for those that I love. I am a mother, I will always be a mother, I cannot not be a mother. I am proud of this. My experiences have ensured that I put aside any guilt shame and blame for being a mother. My task in this life is to use all that I have learned to continue to grow. I did and do my best, it is by no means perfect, but I no longer judge myself harshly and neither do I judge others. As a mother, I am accountable to myself in this - not anyone else - not even my children.

Two nights ago in London, three young men in a van set out to take from others that which was not theirs to take. There are many families now who are keeping vigil. I wish them the strength, the courage and the sense of humour to get through, whatever that is and however long the rollercoaster ride may be. Nothing is ever the same for anyone affected by acts of violence.

*I no longer tell this story often, but when I do the first question that is nearly always asked is "Did they get them?" The answer is that the police did an amazing job, but through all their great endeavours only one 17-year-old was brought to trial. He served 2 years of a 4 year prison sentence. His twin daughters will be eleven this year. I wish them well.

Many thanks go to the emergency services and the Metropolitan police. To the NHS in hospitals and the community. To the taxi drivers, jurors, shopkeepers, to friends, family, and passers-by who did and will offer kindness and support in difficult times. We are held together as individuals and communities by everyone who cares. Thank you.

There are times in life that mothers need another mother to walk beside them to support them through the tough times and to hold their motherhood vision  with them. If you need this kind of support now then this is the time to call a friend or call me to see how I can help.

This week is infant mental health week.

So the big question is "How do we make sure our babies have the best chance of being emotionally healthy and growing into happy and resilient toddlers, children and adults?"

The answer is "to meet our own emotional needs in a balanced way". We can only give babies something which we have ourselves. If we are eating, drinking, exercising, sleeping, feeling safe, being noticed or listened to, have someone we can totally be ourselves with, feel we have choices or influence over our daily lives, have a sense of achievement, be part of a wider group of people, believe in something bigger than ourselves and have space to think our own thoughts we will thrive.

When we can do this for ourselves we will be able to do this for our children. Our children, in turn, will be able to do it for themselves as they grow.

However - sometimes when you become a parent life changes so dramatically that it is really hard to meet some or all of these needs for yourself but we do need to put ourselves first so that we are able to help our children (Just like putting on an oxygen mask on a plane before you put your child's on).

As the old African saying goes "It takes a village to raise a child" and we all have some responsibility for the well-being of the next generation. As families, friends, neighbours, colleagues, professionals, we can help families with babies to meet their emotional needs, they are part of our community and building happy healthy families helps us all.

If the idea of meeting our (innate) emotional needs is new to you, you might like to see the in8 Cards resource pack  Let's all help families in infant mental health week.

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Or get in touch with me to find out more?

 

 

 

 

Are you concerned about the possibility of infertility? Are you hoping to be pregnant for the first time or have you been pregnant before and it is just not happening this time? Would you like to explore whether hypnosis might help?

Women have been coming to me with stress, anxiety and fears around pregnancy and childbirth for many years. I have helped them to connect their mind and body so that they are both "on the same side" and they have gone on to conceive, and to have a baby of their own.

'Nicola' came to see me in her early forties, she was fit and well but longed to conceive her own child. She was however giving up hope, she had undergone 2 courses of IVF and was planning a third. She and her husband were finding that this hopelessness was impacting on their marriage. Nicola also resented the drugs and interventions that conventional assisted conception offered. Yet working together Nicola started to view everything more positively and Nicola stayed calm and strong  as she went on to conceive and deliver a beautiful baby boy.

If you feel that you need ways to cope with your feelings around conception, if you want to unlock some limiting beliefs in a safe environment, if you want to let go of some guilt, shame or sadness, or if you just want to increase your odds of having a baby with the help of both medical intervention and hypnosis then let's have a conversation about how I can help.

If you are curious about how I could help you using hypnotherapy then please do get in touch.

email me at bindi@bindigauntlett.uk

Bindi Gauntlett