Profession: Human Rights Lawyer
Main reason for seeking 1-2-1: PTSD
How did you discover Mel, and why you did you decide to invest in a 1-2-1?
I first met Mel at a restorative workshop she was holding called “find your breath”. I was finding life increasingly unbearable and I had resolved to throw myself at every kind of “healing”, however weird and wacky, as a last resort. My emotions were so unmanageable and pain so overwhelming, that I had given up on life. I thought I would have one last ditch attempt at finding an “answer” so that when I finally took my own life on my 30th birthday, it would be safe in the knowledge that I had tried everything and no, it wasn’t going to get any better. This was my “grand plan” to alleviate my guilt that I wasn’t trying hard enough, that I was being pathetic. I wonder if Mel had known this on the day I walked into her class, what she would have said.
I knew I was terrible at breathing into my tummy, often holding my breath or shallow breathing, consistently on edge, so when I saw the workshop on breathing advertised, I signed up. I am not a yogi, or at least what I thought a yogi was. I am not defined, or bendy, and my hair does not slick back into a pony tail. I rarely go into Sweaty Betty for fear they will laugh me out the shop and I hate kale. So walking into my first workshop, I was apprehensive to say the least. I gritted my teeth and expected to be judged and was excited to get the whole thing over with.
I will try not to turn this in to an “ode to Mel”, but it is an understatement to say that Mel carries with her a wisdom and authenticity I have rarely experienced before. Suddenly, I was in a room where it was ok to just… be. Something in the way Mel held the space gave me permission to exist, and to put down my load. Being around Mel gives me the same feeling I get when I walk into a beautiful forrest or see a beautiful landscape and I exhale, not realising I have been holding my breath. Permission to stop pretending, I suppose. I sidled up to her after the workshop, which I had wept and slept my way through, and asked about her 1:1 work.
How has 1-2-1s with Mel helped you, physically, mentally, emotionally and spirituality? How did you feel before and after your first session, and how you feel now?
Mel put together a little plan of how we might work together over six sessions. I showed it to a few people I knew, including a yoga teacher. “What do you think of this woman?” “do you think she is legitimate? Is yoga Nidra a thing? Is she just trying to take advantage of my desperation or my money?”. Eventually, I went with it.
When Mel first came to my house for a 1:1 visit, I could not close my eyes in front of her. Lying down in front of her was excruciating even with my eyes open. I was so exposed and what if she was looking at me, judging me, laughing at me. As you can imagine, Mel was beyond patient, creating extremely short Nidra’s that lasted only a few minutes with my eyes open, focusing on the surroundings of my own home. And from there, my exploration of Yoga Nidra grew.
Very shortly after starting 1:1 with Mel, my precarious world finally crashed and I had a huge breakdown. I was put under the care of a mental health crisis team for a month. I remember one appointment with the crisis psychologist extremely vividly. I was expecting him to tell me the magic cure, the miracle answer for the horrendous symptoms which had recently been explained to me as Complex PTSD. “There is no answer” he said. “There is no cure or ‘treatment’. You just have to work out, what makes you feel safe. Find what makes you feel safe, and keep doing that”.
It isn’t an exaggeration to say that at that point, in my memory there was only one time I had ever felt truly safe in my body in my life, and it was during a Yoga Nidra. I remember Mel saying to me during the Nidra, “is there anything you need to do at this moment, anywhere you need to be, any questions you need answered” and knowing in my whole body that there wasn’t. That at that moment, everything was ok. Mel often repeats to me during a Nidra the words “you cannot get this wrong”, words that are slowly becoming a mantra for my life. Through Nidra, I have been able to find a place where I can recognise that although my feelings and emotions may be in the middle of a huge storm, that it may hurt like hell and everything may feel so wrong, that underneath all of that pain and anguish and loss, all is well. I hesitate to use the word soul as I don’t want to alienate those who don’t believe in the concept – but I have learnt that whatever I am going through, my soul is well, I am well, and that it will pass.
Having had mental health problems for most of my life, I have always thought of myself as desperately deficient. I have sought answers and cures to try and “fix” myself. To be better, to be more normal, less… me. Make myself whole. Yoga Nidra is the first practice I have come across that starts off by saying - “no, no, you are whole already. You are perfect just as you are. You might not feel very perfect and there may be so many symptoms you want to change, but you aren’t broken, you are whole and all is ok”. This, combined with constant reassurance that there is no wrong way to do Yoga Nidra, has allowed me to access a place where I really do feel whole.
The other aspect of Yoga Nidra that I am so grateful for is that I finally have a self care tool that works for me. Many many mental health guides these days advocate self care and rightly so. They often come with a recommended list – bubble baths, chocolate, a manicure, shopping, a magazine. Treat yourself! Absolutely none of this would work for me. Shopping was a nightmare, a balance between my brain saying if you buy this you will look better and more people will like you and you will feel better, and worrying about money, and convincing myself I was too awful to wear whatever it is I was buying. Hot baths had a similar effect – I would lie there tense, thinking how awful I looked naked and wondering how long I had to stay in the bath for and why my muscles where still so tight. Finally, I have something that makes me truly feel rested, really, really rested, because I have a way to feel peaceful. It is the first time I have found a way to let my body let go and relax.
It has also been a way that I can access what I am feeling much more safely. The rising panic of “oh my god, I’m about to feel something and it is going to be awful and I will go crazy how can I stop this” that so often led to self harm, now has a new narrative. “My feelings cannot hurt me. Can I give it a name? Where in my body can I feel it? It can’t hurt you, just relax into it” has led me to such a greater understanding of my emotions, where they are coming from and where it hurts. When you know what you are feeling, and that it can’t hurt you, it is so much easier to figure out why you are feeling it, have a good cry for it, or rage, and let it go.
What would you say to anyone considering investing in 1-2-1s with Mel?
I don’t believe in miracle cures – and neither does Mel. Yoga Nidra forms part of my armoury now, along with psychotherapy, antidepressants, spending as much time as I can outdoors and being with friends. It won’t “fix” my c-PTSD. But it has allowed me to rest where I am, whole, which has given me the energy to keep going, given me the strength to get to psychotherapy in the first place, given me the comfort blanket to put on after psychotherapy when it leaves me in bits. It tells me I am worth it, that I deserve to be here and that I can always come back to this place of safety. Without that as a foundation, I truly believe that none of the other things would be possible.”