Anxiety is a normal reaction that happens to everyone at times of stress. Many of us have experienced anxiety before an exam, or before a job interview, or even before a potentially happy event such as a marriage or birth. The feelings of anxiety can range from a mild fluttering in the stomach to more physical symptoms, such as a jittery stomach, trouble concentrating and broken sleep. In most cases, once the stressor has been removed, and the event is over, the anxiety resolves itself.
However, anxiety can become entrenched and leave us unable to fully function. There are many causes of problematic anxiety: it can come from repressed anger that we buried long ago, or it can be a response to events in childhood or a traumatic situation. In my work, I find it is vital to listen to the message from the anxiety: I believe our pain can teach us. Together, we can work on uncovering the reasons for your anxiety, and normalise your response to historically frightening situations. We can also help you build up internal resources to find a sense of ease in life.
Would you like to have children but haven't met the right partner? Or have spent years focussing on building a career, and are just now realising you would like to have a baby and it is just not happening? If you are, you are not alone. One in five women in their 40s in this country are childless: and while, for some, this is a choice for many it is not. In my practice, I see women who are involuntarily childless – many of them due to the circumstances of their life.
I have worked with infertility of all types: and know the depth of anguish it can cause. Not having a longed-for child can bring up feelings of anger, envy, guilt, anxiety and isolation, and these feelings can radiate out into your relationships, work and life. Therapy can help you work through some of these feelings, and construct coping mechanisms. In my experience, there is a social taboo around the grief of being childless. As a psychotherapist, I work to help legitimise any grief that is felt, and to help process that grief so clients can either move on to have a child – or move beyond their loss.
I am aware, in particular, of the pressure on women to conform to a social ideal of motherhood: and the assumption when they don't that they have somehow chosen their childlessness, when often they have not. I work with clients to help assess in what areas of their life they do have choice to help client's become more empowered. For those who will not become mothers, we work together to explore their identity as a non-mother, and to think about the possibilities of a life beyond children.
My MA dissertation was an exploration of how involuntarily childless women experience psychotherapy. I concluded that the social taboo around involuntary childlessness has the effect of silencing women who are involuntarily childless, including in psychotherapy. I am committed to changing this situation through my practice.
Sadness, loneliness and emotional pain are an unavoidable part of living. So how do we know when we have tipped over into depression? And how do we know we need help? Depression, in the clinical sense, is when those feelings of sadness, anxiety, hopelessness, worthlessness and shame won't go away, and begin to impact on our lives, and those around us, including the people we love. In its mildest form, depression can mean just being in low spirits. It doesn’t stop you leading your normal life, but makes everything harder to do and seem less worthwhile. At its most severe, major depression can be life-threatening, because it can make you feel suicidal or simply give up the will to live.
Our depression can come from the events of our childhood -- neglect, mental abuse, and physical and sexual abuse -- or it can originate from a life event, such as childbirth, the loss of a loved one, social isolation, relationship troubles or job problems. For some the causes are more complex, and difficult to understand, and can come from an existential crisis.
Depression is often successfully treated by drugs, but it also responds well to therapy. Psychotherapy can help to address the underlying pain, by uncovering its causes. Perhaps you have been living a life that someone else constructed for you, or you fear failure. Perhaps you are caught up in unhealthy relationship patterns. Therapy can help by helping you construct the internal resources, and compassion towards yourself required to manage and overcome your depression, and lead you back to a life of spontaneity, curiosity and joy.
We often use the word “trauma” in everyday language to mean a highly stressful event. But the way in which psychotherapists use it is to refer to extreme stress that overwhelms a person's ability to cope. This can be after a horrific experience such as a burglary, terrorist attack, rape or natural disaster, but it can also be from repeated traumatic incidents during childhood. The symptoms of post traumatic stress are anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares or overwhelming emotional states.
I work with sufferers of post traumatic stress, using a controlled re-experiencing of the event or events, so that the trauma can be reprocessed by the body and brain. I use body and breath work to engage the pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain that processes emotions and language, so that as the experience is thought about it can be re-assimilated without triggering a state of hyper-arousal. In this way, we work together to desensitise the client, and return the body and brain, to a state of calm.