Saturday, 16 June 2007

2007 - NLP - Neuro Linguistic Programming

Maria is an OK magazine reader. Celebrities influence her.

In previous careers, I mixed with celebrities. Mostly celebrities in the music business, but some actors too. They're just people like you and me. They've got hang-ups, fears and worries just like we have, even if they've got pots of money. Celebrity status does NOT impress me - almost the opposite, in fact. When YOU do a good job, carry out a task well, operate YOU need lots of applause to carry on? Most celebs do. They've got huge inferiority complexes or self-confidence issues or similar and that's why they need constant adulation. Ooops, I've gone off on one...

Marie's first encounter with NLP was unsatisfactory,
but it wasn't with the celebrity practitioner - Paul McKenna. That's what Marie wanted. However, that's not what Paul McKenna wanted, but his organisation has a select list of associates whom he recommends. Marie reckoned that the closer an associate was to Paul, the closer she was getting to him.

And, of course, Marie believed that the more you pay, the more you get...

The 2 Pauls, Wright (left) and McKenna
Paul Wright is close to Paul McKenna, is a trainer in the P McK organisation, is a recommended associate; and is very expensive. £300 for a session. In advance. Marie wanted him. He's got a couple of websites, one of which is called

So I took a day off work and we drove about 150 miles to his house near Windsor. We were expecting a large detached residence in well-manicured grounds, possibly a miniature Windsor castle, but his house turned out to be a small (but very well presented) semi-detached house with an aging sports car outside. He made Marie feel comfortable with his jovial attitude and I read a book for longer than I expected - 2 hours, 20minutes, to be precise - while Marie and Paul were in a different room.

A happy Marie with Paul Wright
Marie was on a high after this session and we went to Windsor town centre (full of expensive, trendy shops) where I found a parking space in the main street. Marie eagerly got out of the car to test the efficacy of her NLP session...but was disappointed to find out that her agoraphobia hadn't been "turned off". But she did do better than usual and was able to explore several small shops and buy some unnecessary, overpriced gifts.

A few days later, Marie received a CD-Rom containing her whole NLP session. She watches parts of it occasionally, and Paul rings her from time to time. But really, nothing has changed.

2006 - Jenna's Wedding

Jenna wanted to get married. Luckily, her fiancé did, too! But she had no money... So I gave her a budget and told her to get on with it. Her mother contributed a little, too, as did her fiancé's family.

Jenna lives near me, but all of her mother's side of her family and her fiancé's family live in Ireland...and most of them refused to come to England for her wedding. So Jenna and Colin (her fiancé) decided to have their wedding in Ireland. This was an additional expense for me and her siblings, all of whom live near me; but we all went to her wedding anyway. She's worth it!

On top of this, Jenna's mother and her family didn't like Colin (still don't!) and there was the real possibility of trouble at the wedding.

Joseph & Orla dressed up for Jenna's Wedding
Marie, who had been to Ireland twice, couldn't face going this time AND was so anxious about the whole affair that she didn't want me to go either. Sometimes I have to be firm and do the right thing, even if it causes Marie anxiety. So I put up with her bad mood and tantrums right up to the day I was leaving. Marie had to go to her parents' house while I was away. The children went with me.

Jenna & Colin (right) tie the knot
Since Marie wasn't accompanying me, we were able to fly to Ireland and hire a car, thus saving a couple of days' travel. I took the kids to visit my last surviving Aunt, pleasing her a great deal. We had booked into a really great hotel where the children were made to feel welcome. The staff couldn't have been nicer. Marie and I kept in constant touch with each other by mobile phone (creating a HUGE bill!) and she seemed to be coping with life without me in the same building quite well.

In the event, all passed off well. There was no trouble, although not everybody mixed with everybody else, and some guests couldn't even manage a smile during the entire proceedings! Funny thing about the Irish - they're the friendliest people on the planet...EXCEPT TO EACH OTHER

Friday, 15 June 2007

2006 - The Sharon Osbourne Show and EFTS

Marie rushed into my office in an ecstasy of excitement. It was late summer, and she had been a little down due to the failure of her NLP therapy.

"I'm going to be on the Sharon Osbourne Show!"

Sharon Osbourne
This I just couldn't imagine. Why would Sharon Osbourne, famous TV personality and rock star's wife, want Marie on her show? And how would Marie, who at this moment in time had difficulty getting into a public toilet without panicking, get into the TV studio?

(You can click on this link for info on Mrs Osbourne

When she calmed down, she explained it to me. While surfing the 'net one day, Marie had stumbled across The Sharon Osbourne Show (British version) and on their site, they mentioned that they were looking for people to help with specific
problems - part of their feel-good, public spirit agenda (yes, I'm a cynic when it comes to the media). Marie emailed the show, and after a while, they came back to her with a proposition - they would feature her on a programme in her current agoraphobic condition, and then, after some Emotional Freedom Techniques therapy (EFT), which Marie and I had never heard of, they would feature the new improved, panic-free, anxiety-free, agoraphobia-free Marie on another show. Marie would get free therapy, get "cured" in a couple of weeks, and Sharon Osbourne would look a kind and caring miracle-worker on her show.

It sounded too good to be true.

Emma Roberts
However, within a couple of days, The S. O. Show had arranged to visit us for a day of on-location film shooting complete with the leading EFT therapist in London - Emma Roberts - a lady who charges £80 for an hour-long therapy phone-call. The therapist had called to get Marie's background and explain EFT to Marie. She told Marie that she wasn't charging the S. O. Show for the therapy - she would get lots of publicity instead.

The day of shooting arrived soon and the camera crew spent a whole day filming Marie with and without the therapist, the therapist with and without Marie, and me taking the kids to the local playground without their mother. Joseph got interviewed. Did he wish his Mum could come to the playground too? -Yes. Did Mummy go out anywhere with him? -Just to see Grandma and Granddad. Would he like Mum to get better? -Yes. ....and more such intelligent questions in between shots of him and Orla going on the swings and slide etc. Emma the therapist was a very pleasant 40-something well-spoken lady who seemed very genuine and confident of her therapy. She told Marie that even after The S. O. Show finished, she would keep in touch with Marie and, if necessary, give her more telephone therapy at no cost. "I'll never abandon you" she said. And Marie really liked her, too. Who could ask for more?

The next day, for the first time ever, Marie went out in her car alone. Over the following days, she drove to local shops, took Joseph to school (but didn't go into the building) and drove to friends' houses. None of these trips were more than a mile in distance, but it was still a big breakthrough. The EFT lady and The S. O. Show team were delighted and set a date for Marie's appearance in the studio for a live interview with Sharon Osbourne. It was to be the last show of the series.

Alas, that was the only noticeable progress which EFT brought Marie. By the week of the proposed appearance on The Sharon Osbourne Show, it was obvious that Marie wasn't going to be able to make it into the studio, and there was nothing of interest to film. The crew said that they might come back to us for an appearance in the next series, but due to falling viewing numbers (same as in Sharon's USA chat show a couple of years earlier), a next series was never commissioned.

True to her word, the EFT lady, Emma, phoned Marie at least once a week for some months until Marie suggested that she should take a break. Even now, she rings occasionally to see how Marie is doing. Nice lady. It's a pity things didn't work out better.

Friday, 8 June 2007

2006 - Our Medieval Wedding

It was inevitable that we would, at some time, get married. Marie being Marie, the usual questions arose -
"Where can I go that I'll be able to get into?"
"What happens if I panic on my wedding day?"
"Where can I have my wedding reception and feel comfortable?"

Marie with bridesmaid & best friend Clare,
flower girl Georgina and our own Orla

We decided to get married in our local parish church (begun in the 12th century, it's a wonderful building with many fine medieval features) and booked the date, 29th April. We toured the wedding dress stores - especially the expensive ones! - and possible venues for the wedding reception. We were looking for inspiration for our wedding celebrations. Having attended more than 100 weddings either as church organist or as a performer in a band, I knew that most weddings pretty boring affairs and seldom enjoyed by the guests, and we were determined not to have that! We hadn't any clear idea what we were going to do until we visited a new venue - Blackmoor Farm Manor. This 14th century manor house could have been custom built for a medieval-style wedding. It was also the perfect size for the number of guests we expected to attend (we had decided only to invite those family and friends whom we see on a regular basis) and perfectly located within a short car ride from the church and set in beautiful Somerset countryside. So we decided on a medieval themed wedding.

Our town still has a Town Crier, and he surprised us
by coming to our wedding in his official capacity
to pass on the best wishes of the town's inhabitants!
Once we had set our sights on that, the rest followed - Marie got herself a bespoke wedding dress in the medieval style, I got my outfit. We researched what went on at weddings in medieval times and adapted the findings to our wedding. We organised the menu for the medieval banquet, purchased copious amounts of locally produced mead, hired the period wooden platters and pewter goblets, arranged with the florist the flower arrangements popular in medieval times (only seasonal flowers), and designed and produced the parchment wedding-invitation scrolls complete with the authentic coats of arms of the two families.

Marie with her two sisters, Karen (L) & Kim (R).
Sorry, girls, I think I got the best-looking sister!
Our vicar threw himself into the spirit of the occasion and looked up the earliest written English language version of the wedding ceremony. This had, among other peculiarities, the following lines in the bride's vows, "...I vow to be bonny and buxom in bed and at board...". Marie wasn't sure how her parents would view this section of the medieval wedding ceremony, but she decided to go along with it anyway. On the day, the vicar turned up in the dress of a medieval priest. We were well impressed! He even managed to find a church organist who could play medieval pipe organ music.

Unfortunately, Marie didn't feel that she could cope with horse and carriage transport, so our biggest compromise was the 21st century transport.

Some of the guests pose outside the church.
Marie's anxiety rose as the big day approached - typical, I'm sure, of all brides - but in her case, we had to take exceptional measures to reduce her perceived risk of panicking on the day, and perhaps not being able to make it into the church. We even had a plan B in the event that she couldn't make into to the church - we would go ahead with the reception and get married "officially" at a later date.

The vicar, on the extreme right, threw himself into
the spirit of the event and dressed in authentic
medieval style.

However, to minimise the risk of panic at the church, Marie had her father get a motor-bike and position it just outside the church boundary wall, at Marie's request I hired a disabled person's electric scooter and hid it near the church, and we placed the large pram close by, but out of sight of the photographer.

Elfic the Jester
On the day, a beautiful, calm, warm, sunny, spring day, Marie coped well, and even walked up the aisle of the church without her shoulder-bag (which would definitely not have fitted in with the medieval theme). The banquet had enough choice to satisfy the appetite of all our guests and the fare was exquisite and enjoyed by all. As a token to my Irish heritage, I had booked a troupe of Irish dancers and their performances, on the lawn of the manor house to a backdrop of miles of rolling Somerset countryside bathed in spring sunlight, was superb - almost to a surrealistic extent. None of our guests had been to a live Irish dancing event before, although many had seen televised Riverdance performances. This was followed with much mirth-making from a local professional Jester (we still have them in this part of England). He managed to entertain all from the smallest children to the oldest guests. Quite incredible! Finally, I managed to locate a local band who played medieval dance music and a caller, who would instruct us (in the barn-dance style) what moves to make. Again, I had unwittingly made an inspired choice.

Most of our guests pose for a picture outside the manor house.
The rest are in the bar!
Our wedding night was spent in a huge oak-beamed bedroom complete with giant four-poster bed. The perfect end to what for us had been the perfect day!

Many of our guests had stayed in other rooms at the manor house and the morning we had a sumptuous breakfast together. Then Marie and I put our children in the care of their grandparents and left for our honeymoon. Marie's agoraphobia meant that we couldn't travel to any exotic locations, but we had an enjoyable week touring southern England, having romantic dinners and spending time with just each other - not something we get to do often.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

2006 - Acupuncture, and The Priory Hospital

Marie and I know a chap who has had anxiety problems. One somewhat uncommon manifestation of this was his fear of using any toilet except his own. Made going out for anything more than a short space of time somewhat difficult, although if he could find a place in the open air, hidden from common view of course, he could urinate/defecate there. It was just toilets (bathrooms, restrooms, loos, etc. - pick your euphemism) he had problems with.

He told us that he had been cured - well mostly - by an acupuncturist. What's more, Sally, the acupuncturist, lives near us and practices from her home. Marie made an appointment.

Initially, I had to stay in Sally's house while Marie was having acupuncture in another room. I had Joseph with me and we played with toys and read books. After a couple of weeks, Marie felt comfortable enough for Joseph and me to leave and go to the nearby shops or children's playground.

As well as performing acupuncture, Sally was a dietary expert. In some sort of Chinese health improving diets. For the next weeks, we had lots of yellow vegetables, strange fruits and herbal additives. I was hoping that it might make me lose some weight, but alas! that didn't happen (perhaps I should leave the biscuit tin alone!); however, Marie forsook her normal diet of cakes, cheese, pizza, fried foods and fizzy drinks for an altogether healthier diet and soon looked healthier and gained energy.

But the agoraphobia didn't change. Just before we got married (more about that in a different post), Marie stopped going to Sally's...and we went back to our normal food.

The Priory Hospital, Roehampton
In the UK, all the rich and famous people who have psychological and/or drug abuse problems go to The Priory Hospital. Well, perhaps not all, but lots of them - particularly the famous ones. The Priory Hospital at Roehampton in London is the best known hospital in the group (and internationally known too), but there are lots more dotted around the UK.

The Priory Hospital group is also famous
for its high fees! When Marie, a great believer in the myth that cost indicates quality, found out that there was a Priory Hospital in Bristol, she was determined to seek treatment there. We now had a new family doctor (see previous post for 2005 "Family Doctor Has His Say") who wrote off to get Marie an appointment. Within a week (you can see the benefit of private treatment), Marie was notified of an appointment in August.

The Priory Hospital, Bristol
When we arrived at the hospital, we found that the car park was too far away from the entrance for Marie to gain entry, but a sympathetic receptionist told us just to park in front of the main entrance and she would contact me if it was causing a problem. The next problem was that the psychiatrist's office was on the first floor. Luckily, there was a lift. Marie (with me, of course) went up and down in the lift, trying to settle herself to see the psychiatrist, and while doing this, the psychiatrist came out of her room to look for Marie. She took the brusque, forceful, no-nonsense approach with Marie, and it worked enough to get her into the psychiatrist's room. The consultation, which mainly dealt with historical facts, lasted about 45 minutes and at the end, the psychiatrists told Marie that she was going to refer her to a cognitive behavioural therapist at the hospital. The first session would be an assessment, and weekly CBT sessions would follow.

Marie outside The Priory Hospital, Bristol.
I got permission to park right outside the entrance.
A couple of days later, an appointment with a CBT practitioner arrived. We arrived early, as usual, so that Marie had time to feel comfortable with her surroundings. On this day, however, it wasn't working. Marie could only get about 2 metres inside the building. I went to the receptionist (about 7 metres inside the building) to tell her the situation. A couple of minutes later, she called me. Wilma, the CBT practitioner wanted Marie to go to her office upstairs. I told her that this was impossible. Five minutes passed and then Wilma arrived. She tried to persuade Marie to go to her office upstairs - without result, of course. Then she found a downstairs room which she could use, but Marie - now totally spooked by the proceedings - didn't feel comfortable there. Marie had to get outside. For a while we stood just outside the entrance door, obstructing ingoing and outgoing patients and staff, while Wilma kept trying to coax Marie inside. Marie suggested that we all go to a patch of grass outside the building (it was a sunny, warm afternoon), but Wilma said that this would compromise the confidentiality of the information that Marie was going to give her. Marie said that she didn't mind; she had nothing to hide. Wilma said that she couldn't talk there anyway. Marie said, what about the car - that would sort out the confidentiality problem. Wilma didn't want to have the assessment in the car, either. Marie suggested that we come back another day and she would probably be able to get inside the building. Wilma then told her that her office was upstairs, through a large open-plan lobby and towards the rear of the building. Marie said that she definitely wouldn't be able to make it there. That's what she wanted therapy to help her with! Wilma told her that no other room was available. What about the downstairs room we had just been in? Marie asked. That's not always available. What if we made appointments for days and times when the room was available? Marie asked. Wilma was having none of it. But that's why I'm here, Marie cried, it's because I have agoraphobia and can't get to certain places. That's what I need help with. Wilma was unmoved. If you can't get to my consulting room, I can't give you treatment, she told Marie. What you need, she continued, is a therapist who will come to your house. I don't do that, she said, and as well, you can save money because you won't have to pay expensive Priory fees. But I don't need a home-visiting therapist, replied Marie, I can get into most downstairs rooms as long as they're not far from the front door, and the cost isn't my primary concern. Wilma insisted that she knew better.

Eventually I persuaded Marie to leave. Her belief in The Priory Hospital, with its expensive but best-available treatment for the famous (and thus her) was now a shattered illusion. It was a tearful, depressed Marie that I took home that afternoon.

Soon afterwards the psychiatrist sent us a bill for her 45 minute consultation - £145. Good work if you can get it...

Sunday, 3 June 2007

2005 - NLP

In the autumn of 2005, England's most famous hypnotist, Paul McKenna, appeared on TV to demonstrate how he cured a selection of people with phobias. One was an agoraphobic and she was mostly cured by the end of the course. Marie decided that she wanted treated by him. But there was a problem - he lived in an apartment on one of the upper floors of a block in London. Marie wanted to contact him to see if he would accommodate her by meeting her somewhere she could get to, so she looked him up on the internet. No contact phone number, but lots of sales copy about NLP - neuro linguistic programming. Paul doesn't do much hypnosis nowadays because he has found a much, much more lucrative career - training therapists in the art of neuro linguistic programming. If you can't get Paul McKenna, the next best thing is a Paul McKenna trained therapist - right? That's what we looked for on the internet. But how do you know who's good and who's bad, who's genuine and who's a con-artist? Suddenly we found a bloke who advertised no-risk therapy. If it doesn't work, you don't pay. Couldn't be fairer than that, could it? Even better, this chap lived in Bristol (about 90 minutes drive). He said that 2 or 3 one hour sessions would be all that was required and there was parking outside his house.

His website is here...

When we met him, he turned out to be a young man in his early twenties and he didn't look very well-off. You don't want your therapist to be ripping you off with his/her fees, but you do like that the appearance of success, don't you? It was absent in our man, but Marie decided to give it a go. It turned out that he lived in a first floor apartment, but that was in a normal non-intimidating house and Marie felt comfortable there. Prominently displayed on the wall was a photograph of our man posing with Paul McKenna and a comforting array of certificates. After a while, I was able to leave Marie in the apartment and read a book in the car.

The first session lasted over 3 hours! Susequent sessions lasted almost as long. I got to finish 2 novels! However, after 5 sessions, he admitted defeat. He admitted that he didn't know how to help Marie. True to his word, he didn't ask for any payment, even though he had spent almost 15 hours trying to help Marie. He may not have been the world's best therapist, but at least he was a man of integrity, so I gave him some money anyway.