I’ve deliberated about writing this. I’ve started and stopped numerous times. When it comes to writing about my mental health and how I have previously dealt with my depression, it can leave me very antsy. It being the internet and all, I often worried that exposing myself to scrutiny will set in motion a spiral to a very negative place.
Thankfully, I have yet to receive anything other than kind comments and private messages with previous posts. With that in mind, I decided it was important to continue the conversation regarding mental health, even if it means risking the wrath of the dreaded internet troll.
After publishing my very smug post called: ‘Sertraline and Shame’, I was on a high about my new-found acceptance of the part antidepressants play in my day-to-day life. I felt that I could wear it like a badge of honour and have a ‘fuck you’ attitude towards anyone that thought less of me for needing them. That smugness lasted a week, tops. That’s when things started taking a turn for the worse.
I’m not going into details like I have done previously but basically things were bad. As in: threats-of-admission-to-hospital-for-my-safety bad; however, a compromise was made and Home Treatment was set up along with 24 hour supervision from my extended family.
Yet again I was at rock bottom, for the second time in four years. I went through the motions, I did as I was told (for fear of the hospital admission threat becoming a reality) and I waited for the fog to lift – but it didn’t. A week went by, then two and I was no nearer to getting back up off the floor. I’m not afraid to admit: I was scared. I was referred to the local resources centre who I had previously worked with on CBT but I found out they no longer offered it on a one-to-one basis. My options were limited and the thought of having to share what I was going through in a group session put the fear of God in me.
I spent a lot of time sitting in my mother’s giant chair in front of the fire pretending to sleep so I wouldn’t have to feel guilty about everyone sitting round making sure I was safe – I assume they were busy hiding the scissors when I actually was asleep (I joke). I was very much a passenger in this stage of the recovery. I had no enthusiasm or desire to get better, yes I felt guilty that everyone was taking time out of their lives to babysit a 32-year-old but even that didn’t shake me into grabbing the wheel and taking control of my own life again. The medication was upped, I slept days away, ignored my phone and the outside world altogether and waited to be told what I had to do next.
It didn’t take long for the real adults to come up with a solution: find private CBT sessions and hope that it worked as well as the last time. I was asked if I wanted to go ahead with this plan, I think I just about lifted my head from the chair and grunted then went back to faking sleep.
The appointment was made and I was taken to meet the newest person I had to spill my guts out to. It’s exhausting to do these initial meetings, at this stage I can just about rattle off my backstory to complete strangers and wait for them to write parts down while I wonder if they are going to have me sectioned (they can’t FYI). On this particular day I had decided that hostility was the way to go. I was so bored of the same questions and that concerned look on people’s faces that I was ready to scream and who better to take this out on than the woman who was trying to help me? Obviously.
She asked why I was there and despite my kneejerk reaction to say something incredibly sarcastic, I behaved and told her what had been going on. I told her about the previous success I had with CBT and I was basically looking for a refresher course, but she wasn’t sold on this plan of action.
Instead she wanted me to talk through my life from childhood up until now. This was by far the last thing I wanted to do but again, I did as I was told. When I finished she highlighted a total of five traumas that had happened in the past and she believed that CBT was only going to work as a ‘sticking plaster’ solution. She recommended Havening, to decode the trauma and take away the pain from it.
Now, at this point I need to stress I am a sceptic of holistic therapies. I believe there’s good in some practices such as: mindfulness, yoga, meditation and even Reiki but I don’t think they cure anything. I feel it’s more of a ‘help your mood’ solution more than anything else.
If you look up havening on the internet you get a lot of Daily Mail articles and videos featuring Paul McKenna who is a big advocate of this but it’s all very vague and it doesn’t really explain what happens. The best way I have been able to explain it is: decoding a specific traumatic incident. This is done by using simple methods to distract your brain – through things like: touch, visualisation, humming (or singing) and word association – in turn, it eases the pain associated with the memory.
I am forever grateful that I did not look up anything about Havening before this appointment because I would never have shown up. I was suicidal and this woman wanted me to hum? No thanks, whack-job.
I identified one trauma that was a 10/10 for pain and she told me she was going to take it away. I spent the next half hour with her doing as I was told and when she was finished she asked me how I felt – I said it was a 6/10 (I was trying to be nice, she had really spent a lot of time already with me but I knew this was never going to work). I straightened up and got ready to leave but she told me that we were going to work some more on it as that number was too high.
The whole appointment lasted 90 minutes and by the end of it the pain was gone. Nothing remained of it. When she told me to open my eyes I felt physically lighter, it felt as though all the cells in my body were vibrating violently in a way that made me feel utterly invincible. We had visualised an impenetrable bubble that was around me and nothing negative or harmful could get through. This was done at the start of December and now, in February, the vibrations may have stopped but the bubble remains.
Before I left, I asked if I would need to come back and deal with the other traumas we had highlighted but she assured me confidently that I wouldn’t need to. I believed her. I left her office feeling like a completely different person. In 90 minutes she had taken away pain I had carried with me daily for over ten years. My family were speechless.
This next part I don’t say lightly: havening has cured my depression.
I have waited until now to talk about it because I didn’t want to jump the gun and, honestly, I’ve been waiting for the effects to wear off so I can be proved right about holistic healing – but they haven’t. I suspect my family have also been waiting for the other shoe to drop but even they can’t deny the changed person that is in front of them.
I’ve worried that saying something like is irresponsible but because I have struggled with depression since I was 16 and have tried every avenue available to me in order to try and deal with it, I stand by that verdict. All I can say with complete certainty is: I did this, and now I’m free from depression for the first time in 16 years.
I’m currently in the process of weaning my body off Sertraline and I’m not remotely worried about it. The hideous disease that has plagued my life has finally gone. Sometimes I test it by going back to the trauma and see if the pain is reforming, but it’s not; not even a little. It’s a memory but it holds no power over me anymore.
I hope by my sharing this experience that even one person can see there is hope against the darkness within – even if the answer for them isn’t havening – because if I can permanently close the book on depression with certainty and without fear of it returning, than anyone can.