by Penny Boreham, Intake Manager
Benjamin Fry’s new book, How I F***Ed Up My Life And Made It Mean Something, is to be published in March. It is a searingly honest and deeply personal account of Benjamin’s nervous breakdown and his journey to find a treatment that could help him. It took him across the Atlantic Ocean and taught him that there was a new paradigm of treatment emerging that would start to make sense of his situation.
In fact, Khiron House only exists today because of the journey Benjamin made and the transforming treatments he ultimately found in the United States. Those treatments are now part of a whole new approach to healing mind and body, and they are the treatments that are now practiced here in the United Kingdom at Khiron House.
This is the last of three extracts from the book. Benjamin has found his way to the the trauma clinic in Arizona, and there he finally finds the treatment his dysregulated nervous system needs :-
In this new, safe and secure environment, reconnecting with some of my own energy and desires, I was invited to start working on my over-coupled stack of trauma. With little time, no money and a conviction that this was the only possible treatment for me on the planet that had a hope in hell of working, I went at it with everything I had. We worked with two main trauma modalities, the EMDR and Somatic Experiencing (SE). What they seemed to have in common was that they would both allow the middle part of the brain (originally the mammal brain, now called the limbic system) to run the show and, in doing so, moved us on from our stuck places of looping in traumatic energy. Using these two methods, in conjunction, often had spectacular results since they would come at the problem in slightly different ways . The caveat with all this work was that this processing had to happen inside “something”, a biological container of some sort, a metaphorical bowl, say, in which I carried all my pain. I found that if that container was too small, weak or fragile, and I was to force it too full of my unprocessed traumatic energy, it could break or fracture and the result would be referred to as re-traumatisation. I came to understand that the entire set up of this trauma clinic.. acted as a bigger bowl.. a reinforcement for the busted personal container that I was trying to repair…
I emerged from my sojourn in the desert to some extent all shiny and new. I passed through the doors from customs into the arrivals hall at Heathrow on a sunny March morning. My wife and five beautiful children were there waiting for me. As I received their various hugs, I realised that I was ‘with’ them for the first time in well over a year and for the first time ever with my youngest. They were so bright, loving and full of life. It was the greatest of joys just to be able to sit still with them, to look at them while they were talking, to listen to them, to play with them …
I was no longer mentally ill, but I was far from recovered. It is fair to say that they saved my life with the medication at the hospital and the treatment at the trauma clinic but this only gave me a new problem to solve. There is a point in recovery which can be a difficult one, depending on an individual’s circumstances, which I began to cross. Instead of measuring each day by how far away I was from the bottom of my life – which in my case meant how suicidal I didn’t feel – I started to look at it in terms of how far away I was from the peak experiences of my life, which was pretty bloody far in my case! .. I had no work, no job and probably no career either. I also had numerous bridges to build at home, with an exhausted wife and pretty freaked out children. Slowly the stories of their winter began to be told and were in places extremely hard to hear. My wife had been called in to see the nursery teacher of our three year old daughter who had explained that she had been overhead telling other children that her daddy was dead. All the children seemed overjoyed to see me, but I could see in the shock on all their faces that it had been a long haul…
I was very lucky to find a practitioner of Somatic Experiencing who had just moved back to the UK from Canada and was one of the first people to train in the method…. From her perspective, I was highly agitated still and it took months to help bring me in to land following my inordinately intense ten weeks at the trauma clinic. …This process itself now needed some recovery, which was an interesting and slower process. Going at this steadier rate was like paying attention to a detailed repair job to a wall that had been blasted clean. I often used to think of EMDR as the sandblaster and SE as the delicate brush with which we would clean up the surface afterwards… Much of the emotion was yet to resolve itself. I would spend months grieving before moving on to a deeper resolution of the whole system.
One of the odder features of deep nervous system recovery is the twitching, shaking and trembling which all mammals appear to experience as the sympathetic nervous system discharges. One day I started twitching furiously in my session. As the session ended, I stopped. It did not happen again until I walked up the path to my therapist’s door when it would immediately start again! This happened for weeks. With every passing iteration, my nervous system was calming down and I was beginning to resemble nothing more uncommon than a rather stressed out normal person. I was able to come off my medication – a bit of a drama in its own right but I managed it – and survived the ups and downs and anxieties which this created. I ended up unmedicated, stable, sleeping, able to have fun, play with my children, relate to my wife and even begin to become productive again. Without this treatment, I could have been a burden to the state for ever, but I was getting ready to be able to work again. I could not let go of my interest in why the state could not provide such treatments more successfully and also my entrepreneurial instincts started to kick in, thinking that if these treatments really were so untried and untested in the UK that this represented an opportunity to bring something really valuable to the private sector too.
And Benjamin’s realisation of that ‘opportunity’ of course led to the birth of Khiron House and the work we are now doing here.
Benjamin’s new book tells the story of his nervous breakdown, treatment and recovery. It is the full story hinted at in various articles that he has published over the last few years.
You can read the articles and excerpts from the book on our blog.
If you would like a weekly email about new posts on our blog please sign up for our mailing list in the box above right.