Of me and 2020.

So, I haven’t been here for a while. I hope you’re all okay and have endured the chaos of this year. It’s been challenging, hasn’t it?

I feel that this year has changed me… that’s a bold statement to make early in this piece, but let’s make that its focus. It was easy to change because I felt so lost. I was something easy to mould because my life and soul had lost its form. I think I became lost because I had lost sight of my purpose. It’s so easy to get caught up in life and see that goal and dream fade into the distance. But let’s look at this year in a different light. Let’s see through the darkness and see what it truly was.

The events of this year were time granted for myself to stop and reflect, to breathe and plan. I began to spiral at the beginning of this year… I was falling to a place so hollow and dark, cold and alone. I needed that pause of reality, to find who I was once again. I became lost in that chaos of me, but quickly found how to apply the pressures of my learning. I found love and lust, and quickly learned how to lose it. I discovered health and strength and wisdom. I found philosophy. I found purpose. I gained experience.

We are quick to dismiss the experiences that bring us down, aren’t we? I know I was. I spent years being low and self-hating. “I’ve wasted years of my life,” I told myself, repeatedly. It became a habit. A spiral. Then, I realised how much I had learned during those years. I realised how strong they made me. I realised how resilient I had become. I think I began to forget those things again before I was forced to pause and stop and look deep within myself. You see, experiences make us who we are. They are not moments to dwell upon, but ultimately to learn from. Know this. Remember it. In your darkest times, you will always find yourself. It’s inevitable… it can just take time.

But what has changed? What did I learn? How will I make sure that I am less likely to spiral?

I did find Philosophy.

After becoming thoroughly engrossed by the book Happy by Derren brown, I found within its contents something that called to me. This was a philosophy in the form of Stoicism. The Stoics focused on a life of virtue. Their teachings were that of wisdom, justice, courage, and temperance. They taught the mastery of the mind, and Amor Fati… the love and acceptance of fate. All of these elements spoke to me in a way that nothing has before, and it’s a philosophy of life that I have been falling into since going through therapy. I do wish to become more resilient to the chaos of life and learn to accept whatever falls to my path. The Stoics were masters of this. They believed in a focus of only that which is in our control; our mind and our actions. I am still learning, but I will learn. I will find my mastery.     

I became Vegan.

So, for the past two years, I have been mostly vegan. By that, I mean that only one meal a day (if that), wasn’t plant based. This was a diet that I followed in order to reach a higher fitness level and obtain a body that I was happy with. Then it occurred to me, that I may as well transition fully to a vegan diet. I’m not one to force views on anyone, and I never will, but I don’t agree with the way animals are treated for our benefit. I know that I can’t change the world by becoming vegan, but I would rather be part of the solution. Besides those views, I am finding it to be an exciting experience! I’m enjoying discovering new foods, new tastes, and new ways of cooking meals! I feel amazing, healthy and my conscience is a little less heavy. Most of all, I think, I feel that I have more control over what I am putting into my body.  

I found a new purpose and focus.

I am a writer, and I always will be… but this year has made me hungry for more. I want to make a difference. I want impact those around me. I want to be remembered (not that I’m going anywhere). I want to use everything that I have learned and experienced, the good and the bad, and turn it into something entirely positive. So, with that said, I am training to be a life coach and writing a self-help book. Along with this, I am studying introductory Philosophy and Psychology. It’s going to be a long and hard journey, I know, but I also know that it will be a rewarding one. I am hoping that, with my insight and learning, I will be able to help others out of their darkness, and aid in their discovery of purpose and meaning. I have always had a passion for people and connection… and this feels like a natural progression for myself. But do not fear, I have not stopped writing fiction! Fiction and poetry will be something that I will always write. It was my vent, and the light when everything seemed dark. You will still be getting more novels from me, they will just take slightly longer than anticipated, and I will always be posting here!    

And so, that’s me. I am a little different now… I can feel it. I feel it as I walk through crowds, with my head held high. I feel it before I sleep, with a mind that is content and at peace. I feel it when I awaken, energised and ready to face any challenge. I feel more me than I ever have, and I know that this is a new spiral… only this one isn’t a descent.

Walks and talks and photography.

Been doing a lot of walking and photography recently. It’s my happy place, to be surrounded by beauty and silence and nature. It helps me reflect on who I am, how far I have come and where I want to be. I feel that I am finally on the right path… the path of my own mastery.

“Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.” -Marcus Aurelius.

Took these recently during an amazing couple of days of walking, with an equally amazing someone. We hadn’t seen each other in a long time, but we connected like time had never passed. Fate has a funny way of connecting people, doesn’t it?

I hope that you are all doing well during these crazy times. It’s been an odd year, hasn’t it?
I shall be returning soon with more content and writing news. Take it easy and stay awesome. ❤

What I’m reading!

That’s my reading sorted for the next couple of months!


I’m beginning to write books reviews for here (and other platforms), first of which, as I have just finished it, is Happy by Derren Brown. Keep an eye out for the review on Sunday!


I plan on growing my collection of fiction by indie authors, check out the first of which here; we have SpaceEra 1 & 2 by Laura Hopegood (@nebowska_) and Hope Quest 1 & 2 by melanie ever moore (@realign.my.stars). Go show them some love on Instagram. Reviews will be coming soon!


Wish to recommend me a book? Have a self-published novel you’d like me to review? Drop me message or contact me on authorleea@outlook.com.

🖤🖤

#writerssupportingwriters #indieauthor #bookstagram #amreading #amwriting

My chaotic mind- Self-care and 2020.

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I speak a lot about how well and motivated I am at the moment, but I don’t think I’ve ever truly broken down the facts of how I got to this vastly improved state of mind and general being. I will do that right here, and hope you find it useful, but first let me take you back to where I was. I’ve always struggled with my mental health, depression and anxiety being the longest remaining difficulties that I’ve had to endure. Then just over eleven years ago, an incident triggered PTSD and OCD within me. I was on and off a number of medications and therapies to help cope, but nothing really stuck… that was until two years ago. Something in me ignited, and I pushed to better myself and get help. It was then, and only then, that the therapy stuck with me and worked. I think we all have those moments though, eventually. Those moments where the universe tells us to get the fuck up and do something. Along with therapy, and enforced by therapy, I took it upon myself to make improvements to my everyday life. These made a significant difference and got me to where I am today. Here is what I practised and dedicated myself to, in order to improve;

Exercise– I cannot stress how important exercise is to your state of mind. I think it’s a common misconception that the physical cannot help the mental, but from experience, I can confirm that it can. The body is a thing that needs to be trained and exercised just as much as the mind. I began training my body with a simple set of weights (that I picked up cheaply) and have used them for about six years. This was alongside a routine set of exercises (sit ups, press-ups, air boxing) and walking everywhere possible. Getting enough exercise is easy, and the costs some people relate to it are just an excuse. You need to push yourself sometimes, but it’s worth it. Do what you can. I have never been at the fitness level I’m at now, and it feels amazing.

Be around nature– Nature has always helped me in a way that I struggle to explain. I am always drawn to it when I feel lost or unhappy. It’s the air. The beauty. The colour. The life. The mystery. The absolute magic of this world, or the closest to it we will ever perceive. Maybe a part of it is the way that humanity has come to live. We aren’t supposed to be surrounded by all of this concrete and material possession. We are just creatures, after all. We are supposed to be around nature, and that is why it calls to us sometimes. Take a walk among the trees. Stare deeply into the ocean. Look up to the stars. This world is incredible and full of inspiration, you just need to start seeing it.

Meditation– Meditation was key to my recovery. It allowed me to search deep within myself and discover the issues with my thought processes. It allowed me to come to terms with the negative and enforce the positive. It gave me direction. Many people think that meditation is just about clearing the mind, but an empty mind is the result of practiced meditation. You must first let every thought in and focus on what you want to do with that thought. We are absolutely in control of our minds and what they do, we just need to keep them in check sometimes. It takes practice, but the effort can make a huge impact.

Writing– Writing has always helped me. I’ve written things down for as long as I can remember, from thoughts and feelings, to ideas and dreams. It helps me to visualise my thoughts and put them down in a way that I can return to them when I need to. A thought, especially a negative one, can initially be daunting. So daunting that we don’t know how to deal with it when it emerges. I think it’s these moments that writing has helped me the most. I often put these thoughts down in the form of fiction, but that is the way that I have trained myself to cope. My creativity has always been my solace and sanctuary.

Reading– Reading is the ultimate distraction for many of us. By focusing on words, we can lose ourselves from reality and exercise those brilliant minds of ours. My two main passions in life have always been fiction and knowledge… through countless books, I have my ultimate escape always at hand. Through books we can lose ourselves and what’s around us, even if it’s just for a moment, but sometimes a moment to escape is all we need.

Make time for yourself– Always make time for yourself when you need it. Life is busy and we are always on the move, but realistically, we can’t keep it up. We need time to recharge and re-energise. We are beings of limited fuel and energy, remember that. Take a walk among nature. See a friend. Talk to a family member. Be alone. Do something you absolutely love more than anything. Have all of the YOU time you need.

Learn to speak up and ask for help when you’re struggling– One of my biggest flaws in life has always been bottling up my thoughts and feelings. Even with a therapy that focused on this, I’m still guilty of it now… but I’m getting better at it. I think many of us need to learn that we are not as alone as we sometimes feel. We need to learn that it’s okay to show weakness, because in learning to show and target that vulnerability, we can learn to become stronger. We need to ultimately learn that it’s okay to not be okay. It’s modern society that is to blame for this imposed suppression of feeling and the ‘keep calm and carry on’ approach. Social media loaded with false smile and fake life. Emotion turned into emoji. We all have issues, we are just now more afraid than ever to expose them. This is something we need to break out of, and we can learn to… as with everything, it just takes practice.

So, there it is; things that I practised to learn more about myself and take a step closer to becoming a happier me. That would have been the end of this written form of thought, would it have been a week ago, but alas, fate would have it be more. The beginning of my year would have my heart unexpectedly broken. I feel that this is completely relevant to this piece, so will delve more into my thoughts to add a current state of mind.

I’m okay. It was cold and sudden, but I’m okay. It wasn’t the start to the year that I had expected, but I guess it was something that had to be. Everything happens for a reason, or so everybody keeps telling me… and perhaps they are right. I have been here before… more times than I’ll care to admit, but evidence of experience tells me that everything will be okay. Maybe I’m supposed to hurt, in order to learn. Maybe I’m supposed to be alone, in order to excel. It feels weird at the moment. Different. Not ultimately bad, just different. I’m keeping myself distracted with everything that I’ve mentioned here, and it is helping immensely. My practices have helped me through much worse, and for that, and the people that have helped enforce them, I am ever grateful. From evidence, I know that I am stronger and more resilient than I feel right now. I am okay, but will be better… perhaps better than ever before.

New year, new energy

“New year. New Energy. I have never felt like this. I have never felt such an abundance of determination. I have never felt so powerful. The creature within me stirs, my wolf spirit has returned. Last year I achieved everything that I needed to. I achieved focus. I achieved fitness. I defeated my demons. I am now ready for anything this universe can throw at me. This year I thrive and revel in the chaos.”

I posted that the day before it happened. I guess the universe was giving me what I needed to endure… and strangely, the idea for this article came at exactly the right moment too. This life really is strange. It works in ways that we cannot comprehend or fathom. Everything truly does happen for a reason. Life is an ebb and flow of the good and the bad, the dark and the light, we need only go with it… there is always a reason.

My Chaotic Mind- Back To My Old Self.

(Trigger Warning: This post contains mention of mental illness. If you think that you may be triggered by such topics, please do not read on. But, please know that, it’s okay to not be okay. I’m here if you need to talk. Contact me at Authorleea@outlook.com)

Something strange is happening with me recently.

I have lost, but I have gained.

I am busy, yet feel I have more time.

I feel like I stand taller, but haven’t grown.

I am far more active, yet feel I have more energy.

I feel stronger.

Faster.

Wiser.

I feel determined and capable.

It is strange, but it is much welcomed.

I think the these feelings are odd because I haven’t experienced them in a long time. They were hidden somewhere beneath thick skin and inside a hollowed chest. Somewhere dark and secure, but somewhere within, all the same. I feel different. I am me, but different. I am truer to both the person that I want to be and person that I feel I am supposed to be.

I guess I should tune out of my writer brain for a moment to say hey to you all, and maybe explain exactly what this is about. Those of you that have followed my blog for while know of my struggles with my mental wellbeing. In fact, I blogged about my experience with therapy right here. I like to be open about what I went through, in a hope to aid those going through the same thing. Well, this month marks a year of completing therapy. I guess this post is a follow up from that, to let you all know how I’m doing now. As you can probably tell, I’m doing great. As you can probably gather from the title, I feel back to my old self. But what exactly was my old self?

Before my struggles, I felt everything that I feel now. Confident. Strong. Happy. It’s freeing to be able to say that I feel those things again. Back then, around ten years ago, I could lead and inspire. I could speak without feeling self conscious. I could be among crowds of people without feeling the need to hide the true me. All these things were taken away from me after my PTSD, anxiety and depression was triggered. But that was then, it is the now that matters. They are gone. I labelled my struggles as demons and monsters, and like all demons and monsters in every good tale, they have been slain. Every moment was a battle. It was long and arduous, but in the end, I stand victorious. I won the war within my mind.

I’ve been busy recently. Really busy. In addition to working on numerous writing projects, I started a new job about six months ago. It was a job that I took in order to test and build upon my newly reformed confidence and ability. It was uncomfortable at first. It was a challenge to not crawl back into old coping mechanisms, but I didn’t. “You’ve faced worst. You’ve faced the edge of darkness and still came out victorious. You’ve got this.” I kept telling myself. I was right. I had faced worse. And you know what, only six months on into my new job, and I’m up for promotion. I am to lead and inspire as I did before. I am back to where I was before, but I am far more than I had ever anticipated. It took ten years to get here, but I’m finally here, and that’s what matters.

It’s crazy to think of how damaged I felt when I walked into the therapist’s office, in comparison to how I feel know. It’s crazy to think how far I’ve come and what I’ve had to endure, but I have come this far and I have endured. I guess the message that I want to convey here is, no matter how bad things seem, they can get better. No matter how scary the recovery process might seem, you can endure, and you can become everything that you want to be. Decide for yourself exactly who you want to be, and make that your goal. Fight for it… and don’t stop fighting until you have it in your grasp.

– Lee A. Vockins.

Relapse Prevention And Closing Thoughts. (Mental Health Awareness part- 4)

(Trigger warning and disclaimer: In the following blog post I will be discussing mental health in a variety of forms. If you feel like you may be triggered in any way, please do not read the article below. I understand completely. If you don’t wish to read on, but would like to talk to me about my experience with therapy or mental health in general, please do not hesitate to contact me at: Authorleea@outlook.com

Now for the disclaimer part. I am in no way a professional on the subject of mental health. The views expressed here are entirely from my own experience and my opinions based on those experiences. Mental illness manifests itself in many ways that can be different based on the individual. Do not take my experience as fact. If you are struggling, please seek help from a professional.)

*****

Previous: (Part-1)(Part-2)(Part-3)

With my cognitive behavioural therapy and post traumatic stress disorder therapy over, I was honestly in a great place. I felt better than I had in very long time. I felt confident in myself and my abilities. I felt happy and capable. I had clawed myself from that dark place in my mind. But there still two things that concerned me; Breaking from the routine of therapy and relapsing. I was worried that without the weekly therapy, I would forget everything that I had learned and begin to once again fall into that dark place. That place where I feel unhappy, unconfident and alone. And so, after a quick discussion about my concerns in one of my final sessions, myself and my therapist decided to spend the very last session going over relapse prevention.

The relapse prevention session began with the creation of a blueprint. This blueprint was not only to remind me of exactly what I had learned in therapy, but also to identify my personal signs of relapse. Through doing this, there would be a greater chance of me catching a problem early and give me a way to deal with it before it gets worse. You see, mental illness is a hard thing to see, even for the person experiencing. This is especially in the early phases. If we can identify the exact behaviours and feelings of when we are beginning to slide into that dark place, we can prevent it. The earlier we do this, the easier it is. For me personally, these behaviours and emotions were the following:

  • Avoiding people and social events entirely.
  • Isolating myself just to cry.
  • Being unusually irritable.
  • Feeling sad and useless for no obvious reason.
  • Feeling like there was no hope.

These, of course, aren’t easy things to feel, and they are far from healthy. But a combination of all these things is how I am when my mind is in that dark place. However, with these things identified, I can recognise them early and take steps to combat them. But this isn’t an easy fight. Luckily for me, I now have the tools and weapons that I need for an edge in this battle. (Metaphorical tools and weapons, of course. I’m rolling with the combat scenario.) These tools and weapons take the form of everything that I have learned from my therapy sessions. They are the following:

  • Live in the present and not ruminate on the past or worry about the future.
  • Question negative thoughts and their plausibility by searching for evidence of their truth.
  • Force myself into social situations and use my support network to voice my worries.
  • Stop over analysing and attempting to pre-script scenarios.
  • Remember that it is okay to be different because everyone is.

And so far, these things have worked. It’s been almost four weeks now since my last therapy session and I still feel great. I still look at my blueprint now and again, just to keep what I had learned fresh on my mind. I even add new beliefs and methods to my blueprint as I attempt the next chapter in my life. As far as relapse prevention goes, I believe that this is a great method. With everything written and organised in one place, I can go back to it and refresh my mind whenever I need to. I can remind my self of how possible it is for me to feel good. I can remind myself that I am capable of being in control of my mind and my life.

As for the breaking of the routine of therapy, I’m okay. The first week after was difficult. I felt somewhat lost without that sanctuary. Without that person to ramble my concerns to. But every week after gets easier. I have reminded myself that this is a new chapter and I now have what I need to succeed. Therapy was a difficult chapter, but it was a much needed one. This new chapter is going to be positive, as long as I remain positive and use everything that I learned through therapy about myself.

So, that brings my recollection of therapy to a close. I just wanted to finish this mental health awareness series with some final thoughts on my journey and tell you of some of my plans for my future.

I’m going to start this with probably the most important thought; I’m glad that I decided to get help. The support from my therapist had made a huge impact on my life. Therapy has helped me to see my world differently. I no longer feel the need to ruminate on the past, I look to the future and not worry about what it holds. My mind is no longer cluttered with negative thoughts about myself. I once again believe in myself. Before my first session of therapy, I never thought that this new state of mind was achievable. Even the concept of feeling happy for more than the odd one day a week, felt entirely out of my reach. I honestly almost didn’t go to my first session, but something within pushed me, and I’m grateful that it did. To anyone reading this that is struggling with their mental health and in doubt of therapy, please just push yourself to that first session. You won’t regret it.

I felt that there is one important thing that I forgot to mention about my PTSD therapy. I learned a very important lesson. That lesson is that I own my thoughts and memories and am free to change them at my will. Just because something traumatic happened, it doesn’t mean that I needed to remember it that way. And so, I practiced this. Now when I remember being attacked by that group, I am ten-foot-tall and indestructible. By changing the memory this way, I have become immune to the emotions attached. I remember the first time my therapist told my to do this. I probably looked at her like she was crazy. But I trusted her and did it anyway, and it honestly works for me.

Another interesting thing, that I left out, was when I told my therapist that I could still feel every punch when I listened back to the recording. I wasn’t exaggerating either. Every time that I listened to that thing, my stomach and chest would tighten, and my ribs would ache. To resolve this, my therapist asked me to go back to the worst moment in the trauma. I had to imagine those punches once more. But as I did, I was guided to feel them less and less, until they were no more. And while I was in that moment, we brought closure to the event. She asked me to imagine myself looking down upon the version of my that was being attacked.

“What would you say to the Lee that’s laying on the ground?” She asked.

“I would let him know that he survives this moment.” I said. “I would him know that it will soon be over and he will become stronger because of it.”

“And if the you now could intervene in that moment, what would you do?”

A flash of red appeared to overtake my vision as I briefly imagine tearing my opponents apart. But, after a moments thought, I realised the point of the whole thing. If I changed a thing about that moment, I might not be the person that I am today. And so, I replied. “I would do nothing. That event happened for a reason. That event crafted me into the person that I am today.”

*****

And that, brings my mental health awareness series to a close… for now. I will of course keep everyone updated if anything changes, but right now, I feel great. I have a new set of self-beliefs and feel that I have what it takes to get through. This of course wasn’t achieved with the use of some sorcery or magic. This was achieved with guidance, willing and determination. As I keep saying, it was hard work, but it was worth it. Now a bit about the future. I feel like I owe a lot to the health professionals that helped me through this and I feel the need to help others that are suffering like I did. In the very near future, I plan on raising money for various mental health charities through out the U.K. I plan on doing this through my writing and donating full royalties. I haven’t quite decided on what exactly I’m doing yet, but it will be a project that I will keep you updated on.

Thank you all so much for your support on this series, it really means the world to me. These posts have felt like closure on that chapter of my life, I’m now ready to move onto the next and show people what I can do with my new-found confidence. Be ready for lots more fiction news, videos and general updates.

Thank you again,

Lee A. Vockins.

My Experience With PTSD Therapy. (Mental Health Awareness part- 3)

(Trigger warning and disclaimer: In the following blog post I will be discussing mental health in a variety of forms. If you feel like you may be triggered in any way, please do not read the article below. I understand completely. If you don’t wish to read on, but would like to talk to me about my experience with therapy or mental health in general, please do not hesitate to contact me at: Authorleea@outlook.com

Now for the disclaimer part. I am in no way a professional on the subject of mental health. The views expressed here are entirely from my own experience and my opinions based on those experiences. Mental illness manifests itself in many ways that can be different based on the individual. Do not take my experience as fact. If you are struggling, please seek help from a professional.)

*****

Previous: (Part-1) (Part-2)

With the cognitive behavioural therapy finished, I was in a good place. I felt that my mood was better than it had been in a very long time. And with this, my anxieties dropped to almost none existent. (Which reminds me of something. When I first began therapy, I asked my therapist to make my anxiety go away. I now know that anxiety is a very natural and human thing. Anxiety is always there, in some shape or form. It’s something that is embedded into our system. What matters about anxiety is the level of it, and our ability to manage it.) From my CBT, I had learned many things and felt equipped to deal with my thoughts in a positive way. I felt different. I was me, but a different me. I felt confident in myself and my abilities. I felt happy. But despite this, something still lingered. There were still moments where my mood changed instantly. These moments wouldn’t last long, but they were intense and would often leave me feeling physically exhausted.

By this point, I was very comfortable talking with my therapist. The room in which we spoke had become somewhat of a sanctuary for me. It had become a place for me to vent and express concerns that I had with my own mind. I could never have imagined such a place at the beginning of my struggles. Such a place was out of my reach. But I got there in the end, and that’s what matters. In one of my final CBT sessions, I was asked if there was anything else bothering me. That was when my anxieties kicked in, for the first time in a little while. I realised, deep down, in the far corners of my mind, that something still lurked. I remained silent for a while, searching my mind for what was wrong. Through my CBT therapy, I had learned how to take my time with my thoughts and see them rationally, through questioning the negative. When I found the thought and the words to describe it, I explained what was bothering me.

After some positive analysis and discussion, we came to a conclusion. (I feel the need to note something here. One of my biggest fears about returning to therapy was that ideas and information were going to be forced on me. I was worried that my therapist would dictate what was wrong with me and how I should be feeling. Not once was this the case. Every conclusion that we reached was reached by me. Yes, my therapist would guide me through questions and agreed upon experiments, but every thought was my own, as was every conclusion.) We discovered that I was still having flash backs from a trauma that happened a while ago. These flash backs were triggered by a number of things. Perhaps I should tell you of the trauma, before anything else, so what follows makes sense. But I will make this brief and quite vague, for obvious reasons.

I was attacked by a large group of guys, on my way home from work one evening. I suffered multiple injuries to my face, arms and ribs. The attack was the result of mistaken identity. I tried to run but failed. I didn’t fight back.

(There was a time when that would have been impossible for me to write, or even think about writing. It is because of therapy that I received that I can access these thoughts without a negative emotional response. I will explain how this was achieved, I just needed to note this beforehand.)

After the conclusion was agreed upon, my therapist gave me the option of immediate PTSD therapy. I of course I accepted, but there was a risk of doing such a therapy immediately. Reopening metaphorical scars of the mind could have brought back the depression and anxiety that I had fought so hard to control through CBT. But I decided that the risk was worth taking. I wanted to fight all of my demons at once. I wanted to rid myself of the things that were holding me back.

The PTSD therapy began with a core method. This method was called reliving. I had to put myself back into that trauma. I had to feel everything again. I had to feel what the ground was like beneath my feet. I had to feel the temperature of the air around me. I had to hear their voices. I had to feel every punch and every hit. To do this, I had to talk in first person and not acknowledge my therapist, despite her guiding questions. I had to focus on an empty space in the room and clear my mind. I had to focus on recalling the memories that I had tried to erase. You see, the thing with the brain is… it doesn’t forget. Not a single event that happens in a lifetime is forgotten, it’s just put into storage. We can reclaim those events through extreme concentration.

The moments after reliving the trauma were… strange. I remembered parts of what I said, but only parts. It was like a dream, in a sense that the more I tried to remember about the recollection, the more I would forget. It felt like I had been talking for about fifteen minutes, but in reality, almost an hour and a half had passed. It was almost like I was in a trance. Which is interesting because I never thought that I would be susceptible to such a thing. (That’s not me be ignorant of hypnotherapy methods, I know they work… they just don’t work for everybody.) It took my eyes a while to adjust because the event happened in the dark. My body felt like it had been physically attacked once again. I felt dazed and confused. However, as part of the therapy, I had to bring an object to anchor me to reality. The object that I brought was a paperback version of my recently released book. This book was a reminder that I survived the attack and achieved something. It was a reminder of who I became after the attack. Holding my book in my hands brought me back to my reality.

Aside from letting my therapist know the details of the trauma, the main purpose of reliving was to record it (I used my phone, as that was the easiest option for me). As part of the therapy, I had to take that recording home and listen to it at least three times between sessions. Every time that I listened to it, I had to let my emotions flow naturally and try not to hold any back. Through doing this, I could highlight the key trigger points of the event. These trigger points were the moments that were stuck in my head. The parts that would force themselves forward during flashbacks.

When these trigger points were discovered, the following steps were to analyse them and break them down into the different emotions that I felt throughout. Through doing this, we could highlight the negative beliefs that I was clinging to. These were the things that were keeping the trauma active and making it surface in certain situations. For me, my negative beliefs were the following, and this is how I dealt with them.

  • I am weak- I believed that I was weak because I didn’t fight back. Through rationalising this with my therapist, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t weak. I was strong. I was the better person for not wanting to harm them. Not only this but despite not fighting back, I survived and became the person that I am today. In many ways I was victorious.
  • I am a coward- I believed that I was a coward because I attempted to run. Through rationalising this with my therapist, I realised that this simply wasn’t true. I ran because my survival instinct kicked in. It was a fight or flight situation, and in that moment of fear, my instinct chose for me. It wasn’t a choice, it was my body and mind protecting itself. We all have this built in. It’s how we survived and evolved as humans many years ago.

PTSD happens because the logical sides of our brain, the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex, aren’t communicating properly with our fear part of our brain, the amygdala. When we are reminded of the trauma, our amygdala activates, making us feel like we are back in that moment. And, because of the lack of communication from the other parts of the brain, there is no reasoning. For me, in these moments, I experienced a rush of adrenaline and anger. For example, upon seeing any group of guys that I would consider a threat, my body would automatically prepare itself for fight or flight. My muscles would tighten, and my heart would begin to pound in my chest, attempting to get blood to the most needed areas. This, of course, was quite exhausting for both my mind and body.

Through repetition of the trauma, I was able to become familiar with it, and through questioning it, I was able to understand it. And through this, my mind began to communicate more efficiently. By the fourth session of PTSD therapy, I had listened to that recording of myself reliving the trauma about ten times. Every time that I listened to it, the flashbacks lessened, and because of this, a lot of aches and pains stopped. I’m not going to pretend that this therapy was easy. It’s not. Just like CBT, it requires hard work and willing. But because I went through with it, I can now talk about the trauma without it affecting me. I can now walk past a reminder without my body tensing up. I feel like I have complete control once again. My mind feels clearer. In combination with the cognitive behaviour therapy, I was again feel like myself, but more than myself. I feel confident. I feel stronger. I feel capable. I feel like I can once again stand tall.

*****

Hey everyone. Well, that turned out a lot longer than I expected, I just wanted to put in as much information as possible. I want to say a quick thank you for the support that I have received on this series. It means a lot to me that people are reading it. Not only am I writing this to inform people, but also as a kind of closure for myself. The next part will be the final piece on this subject, and I will be telling you all about the relapse prevention side of the therapy, as well as my final thoughts.

Lee A. Vockins.

My Experience With Cognitive Therapy. (Mental Health Awareness part- 2)

(Trigger warning and disclaimer: In the following blog post I will be discussing mental health in a variety of forms. If you feel like you may be triggered in any way, please do not read the article below. I understand completely. If you don’t wish to read on, but would like to talk to me about my experience with therapy or mental health in general, please do not hesitate to contact me at: Authorleea@outlook.com

Now for the disclaimer part. I am in no way a professional on the subject of mental health. The views expressed here are entirely from my own experience and my opinions based on those experiences. Mental illness manifests itself in many ways that can be different based on the individual. Do not take my experience as fact. If you are struggling, please seek help from a professional.)

*****

Previous: (Part-1)

As I sat in the waiting room, my heart pounded in my chest as I focused on controlling my unsteady breathing. I’d had many panic attacks before, so controlling one wasn’t much of a concern. Not even in an unknown place surrounded by unknown people. Luckily, my therapy appointment was very early in the morning, so I had forgone the terrifying necessity of alerting the reception to my presence. Yes, such a thing is an easy task for the majority of people. But in my anxiety-wracked mind, uttering “Hello, I’m here to see blah blah at blah blah,” would have been quite the challenge. And it would have been for a lot of people. Especially anybody else suffering with an anxiety disorder.

I waited with thoughts racing through my head. How do I great my therapist? What are they going to look like? Do I go in for a handshake? Are they going to think I’m crazy? Each racing thought makes my hands tremble a little bit more. I could have brought someone with me, to help ease my anxieties, but I didn’t. I chose to do it alone, to prove to myself that I could. I may have regretted my decision while sitting there, but looking back, I did it. And I’m proud that I did it. (But this doesn’t mean that you have to do anything alone. This was my personal choice, and everyone suffering from mental illness is different. If you feel that you need someone, take someone. Chances are they won’t be allowed into therapy with you, but they can ease your mind during the wait.)

“Hello, are you Lee?” A female voice came from beside me. My heart felt like it was going to explode in my chest as the anxieties were becoming overbearing. But as I looked up to my apparent therapist, my anxieties eased a little. You see, anxiety is at it’s very worst while you are anticipating an event. During an event, it can either go one of two ways: 1. It remains until you can barely function. 2. It slowly dissipates. Luckily, in that moment, it did the latter. Maybe it was the welcoming demeanour of my therapist. Maybe it was my will to get better. I don’t know. All that I do know is that things were okay when they needed to be. (Later in therapy, I learned that this was an important lesson. Things can turn out to be okay, even if we think for certain that they won’t. Some events we have no control of and we cannot predict the future with any certainty.)

I took a moment to control my breathing before I answered. She waited patiently, still smiling. My hello and confirmation were probably slightly wobbly from breathlessness, but again, it was okay. She led me to the room in which I would go to once a week for almost eight months. As I sat down for the first time, I never knew how significant that room would become to my life. I never knew how important those therapy sessions would become. And, I certainly did not know how much it would change how I feel. Let me explain that further for a minute. I was always very sceptical of the therapy process. It wasn’t my first experience with therapy, but it was my first experience with Talking Therapies.

My very first experience with therapy was about nine years ago, and it was a very negative one. I pretended to feel better just to get out of it. It left me feeling that I could not be helped. I struggled to open up and connect with my first therapist. Maybe it just wasn’t the right time for me to heal, but regardless, it left me with a negative impression of therapy. But despite that, I was there with another therapist in a different room, trying again. My determination to get better overcame my doubt.

And so, I started my therapy. I began this process with a cognitive form of therapy (known as CBT), and this built the foundation of my path to recovery. Here’s a quote from mind.org.uk, so you have an exact idea of what it is: “Cognitive behavioural therapy is a type of talking treatment which focuses on how your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes affect your feelings and behaviour and teaches you coping skills for dealing with different problems. It combines cognitive therapy (examining the things you think) and behaviour therapy (examining the things you do).”

I will bullet point the main things that I learned from CBT:

  • I learned to challenge my negative thoughts- I did this by using a percentage system. I asked myself, how much do I really believe this thought, then gave it a percentage. After doing so, I looked for evidence to support the thought. With every doubt I found, I brought the percentage down. This was a lengthy process with some thoughts, because some were stronger than others. But not once did it fail. There is always some doubt in every negative thought, you just need to find it. The thing with negative thoughts are, they speak so much louder than the positive ones. Once you bring their volume down with disbelief, you begin to hear the positive. And I found this to be a snowball-like effect. Once I started to feel better by doing this, I started getting better every day. I started to feel happy about myself.
  • I learned that it’s okay to be different- This ties in with the first bullet point, but this one was very important to me. I have always felt very different to those around me, for a variety of reasons. And because of this, I have felt that I do not belong in this world. Through CBT, I learned to think of these things in a different way. I learned that everybody is different, in their own way, even if they choose not to show it. I learned that there are others that feel the same way that I do, and in that, I didn’t feel so different after all.
  • I learned that I’m not useless- Again, this ties in with the first bullet point, but it’s another very important one. The bottom line was, I felt useless. I felt that I couldn’t achieve the things that I wanted to and I felt that no one would ever be proud of me. I challenged this thought by remembering all of the things that I had achieved, no matter how great or small. I reminded myself how capable I was by putting myself into situations that I was not comfortable in. I believe the absolute opposite now. I believe that I am capable of doing anything that I set my mind to. It was in the early stages of challenge that I released my first book out into the world, just to prove to myself that I could.
  • To stop living in the past and future- I was living in my mind. I was scared of things that hadn’t happened, and I didn’t know for certain would happen. I was ruminating about past mistakes and things that had happened. I learned that there were certain things that I had no control over, and I couldn’t change things that had already happened. Through this, I learned to remain in the present. I learned to concentrate on the things around me. The things that I could control.

My cognitive behavioural therapy lasted for a while, but it seemed to go by really quickly. It became a weekly routine that I eventually began to enjoy. It was a place that I could vent and express myself in a way that I never had been able to. It was a place that I could practice speech, and through that, find the confidence to speak. As the sessions bled into one and I came to the end of that chapter, another problem surfaced. I discovered, through talking to my therapist, that I still had problems with PTSD, from a trauma that happened a long time ago. Where CBT had helped me control my anxiety and depression, it didn’t help certain moments of pure fear and anger that I was experiencing. Talking Therapies decided to help me immediately with this, despite already going overtime with sessions. So that was going to be my next chapter in therapy, it wasn’t over, but I was even more determined to finish my journey. I was on the path to being a better me, and nothing was going to stop that.

*****

Hey everyone. So that was my experience with cognitive therapy. I hope everyone found this useful in some shape or form. Therapy can be a scary thing, so I guess my main aim here was to give an insight into what exactly happens.

Its okay to be afraid, but don’t give up through fear. If you push through the fear, you’ll come out the other side so much stronger. As you can see, I learned an incredible amount about myself through the process.

In part 3 of this series, I will be going through my experience with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) therapy. Thank you for reading.

Lee A. Vockins.

My Experience With Cognitive Therapy. (Mental Health Awareness Part- 1)

(Trigger warning and disclaimer: In the following blog post I will be discussing mental health in a variety of forms. If you feel like you may be triggered in any way, please do not read the article below. I understand completely. If you don’t wish to read on, but would like to talk to me about my experience with therapy or mental health in general, please do not hesitate to contact me at: Authorleea@outlook.com

Now for the disclaimer part. I am in no way a professional on the subject of mental health. The views expressed here are entirely from my own experience and my opinions based on those experiences. Mental illness manifests itself in many ways that can be different based on the individual. Do not take my experience as fact. If you are struggling, please seek help from a professional.)

So, where do I start this? I guess the beginning would be a good start. But in truth, I don’t really know where it began. My problems happened so gradually that they seemed like a natural progression. Like they were just part of my growing up and part of me. And I guess in a way, they were. Mental illness is not something that we choose. It is something that builds. It builds ever so slightly until we begin to feel its weight. Then over time, that weight becomes almost unbearable. I think that this is something that most forms of mental illness have in common. But absolutely no form of the illness is our choice.

I could go on to speculate and guess at the causes, but that will come in time. I will get to the point of this article now, and that is my experience with cognitive therapy and how I got there. About a year ago, my struggles bore me down to a point where I simply could not function. I know that’s blunt and kind of general, but I don’t think that there’s any other way to describe it. I was at a point where I couldn’t eat or sleep properly. In fact, I barely did either of the two. I felt useless and alone. I felt like I did not belong. The only emotions that I felt during this time were sadness and anger. These things led me into a number of coping mechanisms and avoidance behaviours.

It took me a while to realise that I had a problem. It took a number of breakdowns and people trying to get through to me, but I’ve never been a big talker. I had become adept at hiding my emotions from others and keeping my thoughts inside. Now these things I know to be the result of being bullied throughout my school years, but I will go more into that later. There were a number of things that made me realise that I needed help, but one thing stood out like a beacon. I realised that I needed confidence in my self and my abilities to become a full-time writer. I clung on to my passion for writing, and it gave me hope. I realised the things that I needed to achieve my dreams, and in this, it gave me the strength that I needed to seek help.

So, I did just that. My first step was a call to my doctor to tell her about how I was feeling, both mentally and physically. (I don’t think many people realise this, but mental stress of any kind has a serious effect on the body. It’s exhausting. It makes muscles tighten, which in turn creates aches and pains. Our brains use up a lot of our energy, so if we’re overusing our brains, it leaves us fatigued and drained.) My doctor was extremely understanding and compassionate. This wasn’t the first time that I had been to her with these problems, however. This episode is part of a very long story of ups and downs, but I will stay on track with my purpose of getting to cognitive therapy. After my appointment, I was left equipped with a phone number and a prescription. These were the tools that I would use to sculpt my future and beat my demons. But they were only tools, I knew that a long fight was ahead. A fight that would require all of my strength and will.

The prescription was for anti-depressants. Now, please allow me to address the elephant in the room that just appeared after that sentence. It is okay to be on medication for mental illness. If you have a broken leg, you will likely need a cast and a crutch for it to be able to heal properly. Anti-depressant medications are the cast and the crutch for someone struggling with depression and/or anxiety. It’s an aid to get better. It is certainly not something that can be entirely replaced with a walk and fresh air. To recover fully and properly from any mental illness takes a combination of methods and hard work. With that rant over, I’ll continue. I got the medication that was recommended to me by I professional, and I took it. As you should with any illness.

The phone number was for a place/group called Talking Therapies. I’d not heard of them before, and they weren’t around when I first reached out for help with mental illness about ten years ago. I remember laying on my bed, terrified of calling this number. I could hear my heartbeat pounding in my ears and my chest tightening with anxiety. Thinking back, I was probably on the verge of a full-blown panic attack. But despite this, I pushed through. I broke the first barrier that was going to try and stop me from getting better. I dialled the number and held the phone to my ear. The break between each ring saw a breath catch in my throat until they answered.

“Hello, Talking Therapies. How can I help you today?” It was a woman’s voice; her tone was kind and reassuring.

“H-H-Hello.” I barely articulate. I pause for a moment and take a deep breath. “Hey, I was given this number by my doctor. She said that you can help me.” It was easier to speak once I had reminded myself how to breathe.

I was on the phone for about an hour after that. After answering a series of questions to determine the severity of how I was feeling and which sort of help I needed. It wasn’t an easy conversation, I’m not going to lie. It required me to be completely honest about how I was feeling and what I was thinking, and that wasn’t something that I was good at. But after that hour of talking through the tears, a conclusion was reached. My depression and anxiety were severe enough to need weekly face-to-face therapy. This conclusion was terrifying at first. Therapy was something that scared me, and my anxieties only pushed that fear even further. But with that thought in my mind of being able to become a better me and a full-time writer, I was determined to get better. I was willing to do what needed to be done.

*****

Hey everyone. That’s the end of part 1. In part 2 I will be going through the cognitive side of my therapy from start to finish. Just thought I’d put a slight explanation down here as to why I chose to write about this. It’s been three weeks now since I completely finished therapy. I feel great. Better than I have been in a long time and better than I thought I could ever feel. It’s because of this that I wanted to share my experience. I want to show people that it is possible for therapy to be an entirely positive thing. I’m not going to pretend that it’s easy. Like anything worth doing in life, it’s not easy.

If you are struggling with your mind, in any way, find your voice. Find that passion to hold on to. We all have the strength to do what we want in life, we just need to find it sometimes. Help is there if you need it, you just need to want it. Above all, you need to help yourself.

Lee A. Vockins.