Male Rape – A Problem That Persists

 

This post is inspired by the very emotional programme about male rape shown on the BBC in December 2017.  It covers the stories of a number of victims of male rape and how it affected them and continues to do so.  The programme included the estimates that one in six men will be the victims of rape or sexual abuse, and that approximately eight men are sexually abused every hour.

eight men are sexually abused every hour.

It’s difficult not to be shocked by those figures but, as a therapist, I found myself angry and frustrated at the fact that so few of them had been able to connect to services that would allow them to recover.  The programme ended with the statistic that ‘On average, it takes a man 26 years to speak out.’  That means there’s lots of people that take substantially longer than 26 years, to finally open up.  How are we failing these people so badly that they either don’t know where to get help or feel too ashamed to ask?  This seems to be much worse for men, the macho attitude of ‘just getting on with it’ and not wanting to be seen as a victim.  The fact is that for far too long, many of the services offered have not met the grade, whether NHS, charitable or private, and I hate to say it but the support groups on in the programme left me with the same depressing feeling, let me explain why.

Here, it’s important to make the clear distinction between ‘care and support’ (typically counselling) and ‘treatment’.  In the case of an assault, the proper approach is care and support where the person is able to be open emotionally in a safe environment that supports their return to normal emotional balance.  But all of the ‘victims’ and I’m trying so hard not to use that term in this article, showed all the signs of still be traumatised by the event many years later.  It is normal to be impacted by these events, you are supposed to lose sleep, your mood be effected, the constant re-living of events, to be hyper-vigilant following an event …. and then you are supposed to return to normal.  That’s the healing process.  The diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is not that they have these symptoms but that they are not getting better after three to six months – that is the ‘disorder’.  And in each case on the BBC programme, I saw people that remained traumatised years after the event.  Each re-telling came with stuttering, tears and a wealth of other tells that showed they hadn’t escaped from the pain yet.

It’s difficult to know why some people spontaneiously recover from trauma and some don’t (about a third don’t).  Often there’s an unconscious strategy to try and go back and change what they did “If only I’d taken a taxi” or they feel they need to explain what happened, or to find some reason that will satisfy them as to why they didn’t report it or why they didn’t scream for help….   None of these approaches work in healing the trauma.

When the problem has persisted over years, a proper treatment is required, not care and support.

More often with men, they are so devastated by the attack that they can’t tell anybody at the time, they feel ashamed they couldn’t/didn’t fight off the abuser, the trauma leaves them unable to deal with life’s struggles, they are emotionally erratic, they drink, take drugs, relationships fail, life seems on hold.   A little care and support (counselling) might have prevented them from becoming traumatised (PTSD) at the beginning.  The problem is that ‘care and support’ is not treatment for PTSD.  Care and support, which often involves the re-telling and re-experiencing of the event, over and over, often in a support group, only keeps the trauma alive.  When the problem has persisted over years, a proper treatment is required, not care and support.  Thankfully there are many treatments available which effectively go in and recode the memory so that it’s no longer frightening and over-whelming.  As a therapist, in most instances, I don’t want the story, I don’t encourage the re-telling of the circumstances, it’s not needed for therapy; if it is needed we can retrieve the information in a way that is safe for the client.

I wish I could give my full support to ‘Stay Brave UK‘ and similar services because I know they are well meaning, their heart is certainly in the right place and I know they do good work.  But people that need to go to such support groups over and over and feel the need to tell their story, are still crying, are showing all the signs that they are still traumatised.  Their lives are still highjacked by it, even if the support helps them to cope better.  I’d love to see them continue to educate the community that help is available and to offer timely care and support for those able to seek it.  But they also need to understand when care and support must give way to proper treatment so they can regain control of their lives and refocus on their own values and goals make that the most important thing in their lives.

 

Eye Movement Treatments For Depression Are Here To Stay

There are a number of effective treatments for depression. As a Cognitive Hypnotherapist I know that there is no single treatment that works for everybody which is why I have many treatment options for my clients with depression (and anxiety). I trained in IEMT over five years ago and nothing in my arsenal has been more useful in helping clients quickly and easily recover from this debilitating condition.

By treatment, I do mean treatment. I don’t consider anti-depressants to be a treatment. When they work, all they they tend to do is allow a little comfort within the shrunken world of the depressive. Anti-depressants temporarily cover the symptoms, they don’t address the causes of the depression, they don’t teach the client to make the necessary adjustments to their lives to make a full recovery.

How Does Depression Start?

Before discussing the Eye Movement treatments, it’s worth asking the question, “How does depression start?” We aren’t born depressed, we’re born inquisitive, excited and energetic. Life and parenting teaches us where to set boundaries on our behaviour by teaching us what behaviour is likely to be painful, unproductive or outside of our skill set. Sometimes the boundaries are appropriate (not touching a hot stove) sometimes they are over-cautious, such as “dogs are dangerous!”  One of the problems is that, for many people, they often fail to update as our age and competences increase.  Martin Seligman coined the phrase ‘learned helplessness’ to individual tasks, that after a period of no improvement easily becomes a chronic ‘hopelessness’ that is central to depression.

As an example, the guilt that we felt about the way we broke-up with out first love, can generalise to the idea of relationships generally, making them something to avoid.  After that turbulent flight, the panic that we feel about flying makes the idea of a foreign holiday too painful to consider. Being bullied at school filled us with rage when we couldn’t prevent the unfairness, the same uncontrollable rage that now emerges at the bullying behaviour when somebody cuts us off whilst driving. At each stage some behaviour which could add to the quality of our life becomes a cause of pain.  It also affects our self-esteem through our assessment of our own competence (I failed at this before) and worth (I’m ashamed at how I behaved before).  Self-esteem is an unconscious assessment of our ability to thrive as well as an assessment of whether we deserve to thrive.  When our self-esteem is challenged we no longer feel capable of meeting the regular challenges of life.  The usual motivation we feel from the anticipation of engaging with life’s activities are replaced by hopelessness and fear.

Eye Movement Therapy (IEMT/EMI/EMDR)

Eye Movement Therapy works by removing the support structures of depression, by undoing the hold of these poorly learnt life lessons. There are several similar ‘Eye Movement’ therapies, such as IEMT, EMI and EMDR which are becoming common in therapeutic circles. Each therapy fits well within the Cognitive Hypnotherapy treatment methodology and IEMT, in particular, which was developed by Andrew Austin, incorporates the ‘Three Pillars of Depression’.

In terms of treatment, each method essentially acts in the same way.  The therapist elicits the problem state and associated memories and then gets the client to deliberately move their eyes in a pattern, whilst they try to maintain the memory.  It doesn’t sound much but the results are often astounding.  The memory of the break-up, the plane journey, or barking dog doesn’t go away, but the emotion does!  In most cases. In five years, I’ve never had the same painful experience come back once successfully treated.

How Does Eye Movement Therapy Work?

With my background in Cognitive Science I’d like to say that I have the answer to this question.  I don’t, but what’s been clear for several decades is that when the eyes move to the periphery, the brain tends to switch to a different conscious experience.  When you ask a person ‘what colour is your front door’ – typically their eyes go up and to your right.  Now, that’s not where the door is but it does allow the client’s eyes to stop looking and go and grab an image of the door from memory, put that into consciousness, so the question can be answered.  When a therapist moves the client’s eyes through a sequence, the client will struggle to maintain his problematic memory, as the brain is taken through a number of shifts in consciousness (auditory, visual and kinaesthetic).  This has the effect of desensitising the memory.  Cognitive Hypnotherapists often deliberately interrupt problem patterns but this intervention seems much more useful, often leaving the client with a very different and relaxed attitude to the event that a minute ago was problematic.

I don’t typically say much about this intervention to a client.  When they call, I don’t tell them, ‘well for £90 I can move your eyes around a bit.’ because I’d certainly have no clients.  When I do explain it to clients, it’s usually afterwards, it bypasses any natural scepticism because they’ve just had a very clear experience of a painful difficult memory one moment, followed a few minutes later by a client who’s only frustration is to not be able to get that feeling back.  It’s usually at that point that the client completely relaxes, a new trust is established and they feel able to take on other areas that need a quick detox.

 

The Three Pillar Model of Depression

The Three Pillar Model (specific to IEMT) separates emotions into PAST, PRESENT and FUTURE. Painful memories from the past (Guilt, Shame, Regret, etc) makes us worry about how we will respond to events in the future (Panic, Anxiety, Worry, etc.) which tends to create distress in the moment which can lead to loss of control in the present moment (Rage, Anger, etc), which leads to incidents that make us feel Guilt, Shame, Remorse – and so the vicious cycle continues. Depression and anxiety are often diagnosed separately by doctors and, on the face of it, they seem at opposite ends of the diagnostic spectrum but in my experience, they nearly always appear together in my clients. They are two sides of the same coin.

The good news is that by treating the Guilt, Shame, Regret, etc. or the Rage, Anger, etc. we remove that pillar from the cycle and start to restore freedom of movement for the client.  They are no longer crippled by their past, or scared of their future.  This new freedom restores behaviours they can enjoy and builds their self-esteem. In most cases the client won’t know about the old emotional conditioning until it is brought out in the therapy session. Whilst some memories are fresh, clients are often surprised about how some earlier and often long-forgotten memories have created a wave of havoc throughout their lives.

IEMT is a great way of treating these learnt emotional responses. We look for an emotional memory associated with one of the stand out emotions (e.g. Guilt) and by holding that memory in mind whilst the eyes are moved in certain precise ways, it quickly disrupts the memory. Within a few minutes a very painful memory can be reduced to something my client is totally indifferent about. It doesn’t always work but nearly always!

This might not be the only treatment offered but as each painful emotional experience is treated, the freedom is restored, the anticipation of the future becomes brighter and more engaging. The depression and the anxiety just don’t work the way they used to.

Objectively Measured Improvement

I use IAPT questionnaires which are widely used to assess levels of depression and anxiety. By talking with the client and using these measures in every session it becomes clear how effective the treatment has been and typically a three-four week treatment is enough to restore the client to where they are no longer clinically depressed or anxious. After each treatment, the client will know that something is different, they don’t need to worry that ‘something will shift after eight weeks’ their internal experience is different from the start. Some clients need more help or a different treatment and that’s easily established from early on.

Many people that struggle with depression and anxiety for years or decades feel their condition is hopeless. Unfortunately NHS mental health treatment are very hit and miss and the standard treatment of using medication won’t change the behaviours or emotional conditioning that lies at the heart of these conditions.

If you have any questions about eye movement treatments, please get in touch at simon@freedomhypnosis.co.uk.

Simon Bates.
MNCH(Acc)  BSc Cog. Sci.  MNLP

Abuse Stays Fresh Until It’s Treated – PTSD, Football, Rape

Nobody could have been left unmoved by the revelations of retired football players this month.  First a lone footballer speaks out about the sexual abuse he suffered as a child from a coach, then the floodgates opened up as we realise the extent of the abuse for the first time.

BBC Victoria Derbyshire – Footballers Speak Out

The numbers don’t surprise me, that culture was toxic in many ways, it still is.  What surprises me is that so many adults including those in the know actually think those men should just get over it, put it in the past, bury it, ignore it, take one for the team (again). It was clear that hadn’t, they couldn’t, they didn’t know how. The memories were as vivid, painful and frightening today as they were 30 years earlier. Several of the victims said that not a day had gone past when it hadn’t affected them. Many suffered from anxiety, many would drink too much, undoubtedly there was shame, anger, guilt, difficulty in moving on to the next phase of their lives.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is characterised by intrusive stressful thoughts, hyper-vigilance, anxiety, anger, loss of sleep, irritation, shame, depression, suicidal. This mental health condition is notorious for it longevity. Even depression, left untreated, has a tendency to go away on its own for many suffers. Not so much for PTSD.

It’s worth remembering that it’s not a disorder to be upset, to ruminate over the incident, to lose sleep, to be on alert when we go through something over-whelmingly negative, such as loss, injury, abuse, tragedy. The disorder is to not to return to normal emotional comfort within a month or two. I’m not sure why but about 70% of the population that goes through trauma spontaneoiusly get better. The remaining 30% struggle to recover and can stay in that emotionally wounded state for decades. Typically they resort to coping strategies, repression, anger, drink, drugs, sex, becoming an abuser, isolation, just surviving.

Thankfully, over the last few decades psychological research has identified methods to quickly and painlessly deal with memories that are too painful to process normally. Now, treatments for PTSD are typically just a handful of sessions from a qualified therapist – sometimes just one! (It’s important to make the point that counselling does not qualify as a ‘treatment’. Counselling is care and support which is quite different and may be appropriate immediately after the trauma but it is not a treatment for PTSD and can, in fact, make things worse.)

There are many reasons why people don’t seek treatment:

  • fear of the pain of reliving it
  • failure of previous treatments or distrust of therapists
  • loss of faith in NHS/state provision of care
  • concern over lengthy or costly treatment
  • shame/guit (ironically)

Thankfully modern therapy such as Cognitive Hypnotherapy is able to work without you needing to discuss any details of the trauma and a good therapist will ensure the session is an entirely positive experience. Private treatments can be arranged at short notice with a therapist of your choice and therapy should give you improvements from the first session and rarely last more than four or five sessions. Ask a friend for a recommendation or look for a Cognitive Hypnotherapist near you for a fast and effective treatment so that you can take control back of your life.

End the suffering.

Simon.

Anxiety

Firstly, a simple reminder that anxiety is not a disorder.  Anxiety is a normal feeling, rather uncomfortable, but one that we need to be able to experience in order to stay healthy.  Without anxiety, blowing the rent money on restocking your fish tank becomes really easy.  We need to be able to anticipate feeling really bad or injured when assessing certain future scenarios so we can take steps to avoid them.  Anxiety is, after all, entirely future focused.  (If we are anxious about having cheated, it’s really an anxiety about what happens in the future as a natural result.)

So why do we often refer to feelings of anxiety as being bad for us?  Why do we go out of our way to stop those feeling, to repress them, avoid them, drink or drug them out of existence?

In most cases, this comes about when our brains mistakenly learn to treat more and more non-threatening situations as threatening, or to over-emphasise the danger.  This is further exaggerated in people of low self-esteem since their assessment is ‘I don’t have the ability to deal with this situation or these feelings’.  Under these circumstances anxiety becomes a chronic (persistent over time) condition and is worsened by simple day-to-day challenges.  This is when anxiety becomes a disorder, or Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) to give it its proper name.

Common experiences that can lead to GAD are earlier traumatic experiences where the person was unable to deal with the situation and became highly emotional and unresourceful.  For instance, being embarrassed in front of a classroom at age 8 can lead to severe anxiety in the office whenever called-upon to present material.  This creates avoidance behaviour, such as calling in sick or not taking promotions which might require speaking to groups.

In this instance the exaggerated response is irrational.  The adult knows the material, knows how to stand and talk at the same time and knows that with a little good humour mistakes are easily tolerated.  The exaggerated emotional response, however, is not governed by logic, the response is triggered automatically when a certain environmental pattern or stimulus is present or anticipated.  Rationally, the adult knows he has the information and skills required and that he knows that no physical injury will result from his failure to recall last quarters sales figures.  Unfortunately, the Limbic system, which manages emotional responses to threats, literally doesn’t listen to reason, it’s not part of the same brain structure and nor does it use the same methods of internal communication.  It’s like two computers with no connection between them, each coming up with a different assessment.  Logical new brain: fine, whatever.  Emotional old brain: you’ll be humiliated again like before, stay home.  The result is always the same, a win for the emotional brain, since this is the part evolved to protect us from urgent threats (spears, tigers, fire).  The logical brain doesn’t even get the information once the fight, flight and flee mechanism is triggered.  It’s left to assess things only after the immediate threat has past.  Evolutionarily, it’s better to over-react to a threat than to not react, certainly when spears, tigers and fire were more of a problem…. it’s less well suited to the Facebook generation who only have to worry about being de-friended.

Catastrophisation is a feature of GAD.  Small problems become huge in the mind of the GAD sufferer.  There also tends to be over-generalisation, so from a small car accident, the GAD sufferer might believe all transport is dangerous and become home-bound.  Or the one-time threat from a large aggressive dog becomes an anxiety towards all animals all of the time.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is one system of treatment that helps sufferers to understand how they mis-assess their surroundings and try to gradually train their emotional mechanism to be more ‘reasonable’.  This process works for most but can be a slow process.

Cognitive Hypnotherapy uses a number of different methods to treat anxiety sufferers, primarily looking to remove the damage done by the initial traumatic memory so that it no longer serves as a base to launch negative emotional assessments.  We also work to reset the brain’s natural filters to ensure that attention is used productively; focusing more on positive environmental activity and less on counter-factual scenarios that can cause irrational fear.

Recent research indicates that Cognitive Hypnotherapy achieves as good or better results than CBT and does it in fewer treatment sessions.

If anxiety is ruining your life and you’re ready to tackle it, book a session with me so we can put it behind you.

 

Addiction: Johann Hari’s Seminal Ted Talk

Johann Hari asks the question, what if everything you think you know about addiction is wrong. Hari takes a similar position to the Human Givens style of treatment. We don’t need to focus on the addiction, if we restore the things that everybody needs to thrive, especially socially, the need for drugs will go away. Drugs use is seen as a failed attempt to address a person’s genuine needs but failing in their method.

Based on his book ‘Chasing the Scream’.

Latest Research

There are many complimentary therapies available for most mental health issues. There are even many different types of hypnosis. The difficulty is often choosing a suitable, effective and value for money treatment. Until recently Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) was one of the only treatment types to have been subject to clinical study and been found effective. In June 2015, Quest Cognitive Hypnotherapy (a style of hypnosis developed and taught by the Quest Institute) joined the ranks of evidence based therapies after a pilot paper was published in the Mental Health Review Journal (Vol 20 No. 3 2015 pp 199-210).

Quest trained hypnotherapists routinely use the standard IAPT measures in assessing Depression (PHQ-9) and Anxiety (GAD-7); this is the same assessment that your doctor is likely to use. During the Pilot study, clients were measured at the beginning of the treatment and then once treatment was completed. The study concluded that 86 clients (73 percent) improved reliably (i.e. clinically, they were deemed to no longer be in need of treatment). This compares favourably with CBT (the only treatment currently approved by NICE for these issues) which scores around 70%.

A further issue brought to light by the study which bears repeating is that the average number of sessions needed to create the improvement was between three and four, a substantially shorter duration that the typical CBT programme.

This was a pilot study, however, a further study is being compiled currently which consists of a great around 500 cases and this will be published shortly.

Simon Bates
Cognitive Hypnotherapist, Freedom Hypnosis.

Drugs are not the answer….

The government continues to stymie research which could reduce symptoms for people with depression because of their prejudices against certain types of drug.

Psilocybin research may help relieve depression

Psychiatrists, doctors and researches continue to put their faith in some magic bullet drug even though they understand how complex and unique each human brain is and how its structure and function is built by experience that no drug can understand.

Both sides ignore the obvious.  From all my experiance, 99% of moderate depression and anxiety is not caused by chemical imbalances, mostly it’s caused by unresolved trauma (that may lead to ‘chemical imbalances’…).  Resolving trauma and related emotional problems is the only rational way to treat such disorders and give people their lives back.  Since this type of treatment can be completed in less than a month in most cases, why are we still wasting time feeding seriously ill people through such trials?  And whilst on the subject, how does it remain ethical for the other 50% – the placebo group – to get no treatment at all?  We already know the spontaneous remission rates don’t we?  It might suit the researchers but it’s not in the patients’ interest.

Imagine going to your doctor because you’ve been depressed for ages and have a poor quality of life.  You get two choices:

(1)  Enter a six month drug trial, which probably takes many months to begin and it’s probably taken a number of interviews and delays to get to this point.  There’s a 50% chance you will be given a placebo.  The drug is know to have serious side effects which are unpredictable.  It’s unknown what the long term consequences to the person’s mental health will be.  or,

(2)  Book an appointment with a psychologist for proven, effective treatments of depression, say with a Cognitive Hypnotherapist (1 months) or CBT (2-3 months).  No drug side-effects, you can start immediately.

I find it difficult to understand how fully informed people go for choice (1) so I have to question just how vigorously the doctors and researches explain these options to these vulnerable people.  People in fiduciary roles have a higher standard of care than the person on the street, so I struggle to understand how these trials get filled.  It’s clear what’s in it for the doctors and researchers; it’s clearly in their interests to keep you attached to the ‘chemical imbalance’ explanation of depression and anxiety.

At best anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication cover-up unwanted emotions.  In principle it’s no different to getting drunk or stoned to avoid unwanted pain; this is typically where people end-up after years of needing a treatment and not getting one.  Apparently these prescription drugs ‘help some patients cope’.  Frankly, I don’t think this this qualifies as a ‘treatment’ but I know there are far more qualified, better respected and better paid people out there still in bed with the medical/chemical model of depression.  And look where that’s got us.

Fear of HIV Disclosure Following Clinic Data Breach

This week the prestigious Dean Street sexual health clinic mistakenly released the names and email addresses of nearly 800 of its HIV clients.

Guardian – London Clinic Mistakenly Releases HIV Email List

Whilst there are a number of fearless individuals who are very open about their HIV status, the fact is that most HIV+ people only discuss their status with very close friends and their partners.

As a therapist, I’m not a fan of secret-keeping, especially when the emotions associated with this disclosure are a constant fear, guilt, shame, remorse or regret.  These are the emotions of depression.  I work within the HIV+ community as a volunteer hypnotist and I’m acutely aware of how much trauma and shame there still is and how this impacts upon mental health.  (Suicide rates for young gay men are insane: Suicide Rates In Young Gay Men.)

Disclosure of HIV status is an incredibly complicated issue.  Information, once out, cannot be controlled.  Do you tell  close friends, work colleagues, brothers and sisters, parents?  Many people that would be prepared to be more open about their status are often held back by the thought of disappointing or scaring their parents (a generation more used to seeing HIV+ people die of AIDS in the 1990’s).  Their parents would be unreasonably worried irrespective of the very positive current medical outcomes due to drugs such as Atripla and Eviplera.  So parents are usually the last to know.

I know that today there will be a lot of very angry, scared, shocked and exposed HIV+ patients.  I know Dean Street well, it’s an excellent clinic and their staff will be utterly devastated by this accident.  Any of us could have been the member of staff that pressed ‘Send’ without checking if you used the BCC box or the CC box.  It’s something that most people wouldn’t get over easily.  People don’t work in this field unless they really care about people.  This person will also need support today.  Whilst the consequences of the data breach will continue to violently crash through the personal and professional lives of many, it’s worth remembering that life goes on, we’re all human, and things will get better.

Whether a person is assaulted, injured, HIV diagnosed or just makes a serious mistake, it’s normal to be upset by matters such as these. We are suppose to be impacted by them.  We’re supposed to lose sleep, be agitated, relive events over and over – and then things should begin to get better.  That’s the normal path of any trauma.  When those thoughts and emotions don’t go away on their own, then it’s time to talk to a professional.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recent Testimonials

I’m always grateful to my clients for their spontaneous feedback:

“I think you listen very well, your understanding of the concerns and how you addressed them.  […] I’ve been seeing the psychologists over a year, I feel I’ve benefited more over the last 3 weeks seeing you.  [And Negative feedback?]    You make me laugh to much 😂”

DG – Trauma and Panic Attacks

“Without sounding mushy, today I felt as though I was walking on a rainbow all day and felt so free and all without having to rehash the gory details to you during the session…. I think I will put on hold my proposed ‘talking therapies’ [NHS prescribed].   I truly believe I can learn more from you than from the generic NHS pillar to post routine. …. The decision is made.  My priority is to complete the sessions with you.”

EK – PTSD/Abusive Relationships

“Thank you so much for the guided meditation/hypnotherapy. I’ve been listening to it every day and loving it. It’s filled with such simple but beautiful intention and possibility. It’s colouring my life and really seems to be working to reboot my tired old brain…  Thank you so much Simon, it’s a beautiful thing and I really appreciate your kind help.”

MW – PTSD/Depression & Anxiety

 

“… just to let you know I have been listening to the cd and it is working, I got through my first year with a high 2.1 with your help so thanks for that.”

LW – Performance Anxiety/Stress

Naturally, results vary from client to client, so please call me to discuss your situation.

HIV Diagnosis and The Process of Adjustment

This incredible story of Luke Alexander, who’s been HIV positive for just a year, shows us all how brave and well adjusted a person can be when responding to such devastating news.

BBC Newsbeat: Luke has been HIV+ for a yearThere are so many layers and levels to deal with.  There’s the initial ‘oh shit’ to deal with, there’s the ‘am I going to die’ and there’s the ‘who do I tell?’.  There’s guilt, remorse, regret, anger towards the self and the other person involved, it goes on.  These are not simple points to deal with and require an emotional maturity that you don’t often see in an 19 year old.

In some ways Luke is lucky to be young, there’s a big difference between Luke’s generation, my generation, and my parents’ generation – each of which has its own stereotypes about HIV and AIDS.  Luke lives at a time when HIV is a manageable disease akin to diabetes which can be managed by regular medication.  Nonetheless, it can be truly isolating for some.  Luke’s decision to be public and fearless about his condition means that the people he meets will ‘self-sort’ into those that can see past the disease and those that can’t.  There are enough HIV dating sites and social and support groups to ensure that he’ll be able to find loving, caring HIV+ people to surround himself with, even if he can’t find it in the general population.  His attitude is truly heroic.  His attitude is rare.  Even in gay circles, it’s rare for people to be so open about their HIV status.  There’s still a stigma attached.   There’s still fear about ‘people at work’ finding out, losing friends, or parents that might be devastated. And if you’re heterosexual or black the stigma can be much worse and much more isolating.

I don’t know how Luke managed in the period immediately following his diagnosis but, for most people, there is a lot of adjustments to make.  There is a process to go through.  It can be similar to what goes on when a person grieves: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally Acceptance.  There are similar processes for people who go through other traumas, such as assault.  There is no time limit for the brain to make these adjustments but in my experience most can do it within a year.  It depends on the person, it depends upon their belief system and resilience and there are other factors we don’t understand yet.  And, there are some people who can’t.

Some people get lost.  Actually, some people get stuck.  I don’t know if there is a technical name for a person that can’t get over a bad diagnosis but for regular trauma cases, the analogue is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), for grief, it’s ‘Prolonged Grief Disorder’!  Just to set the context, in the case of PTSD, it is not a disorder to have nightmares, insomnia, hyper-vigilance, anxiety, etc.  It only becomes a ‘disorder’ when we don’t return to normal after a reasonable time.  We are supposed to be impacted, shocked, stressed, vigilant, etc. we are supposed to learn lessons, and then we are supposed to move on, that’s how it works.  And, some people can’t because they don’t know how.

This is when it becomes an issue for therapy.  Thankfully chronic trauma, in its many forms, is a treatable condition.  The symptoms are many, isolation, anger, guilt, addiction, etc.  If this applies to you or somebody you care about then it may be time to talk.

Author: Simon Bates, Freedom Hypnosis
Cognitive Hypnotherapist working with London’s YMCA Positve Health Programme.