What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
So, there’s a long list of things I don’t believe in, in life, and they include, but are not limited to:
Crystal healing Any form of organized religion Life after death Therapy Auras Fate Anything that can’t be explained with a pie chart and a physics equation Nicolas Cage
You get the idea. I’m a common-or-garden, bog-standard cynic.
This general attitude extends to anything that might loosely be referred to as "hippy shit," or "talking about myself for no good reason to a total stranger."
It’s probably worth pointing out here that I absolutely understand the benefit of therapy for working through one’s problems, and can see how it can be an invaluable tool for other people. However, not for me, thank you very much.
A few years ago, my middle-class, middle-aged, middle-England dentist of 25 years took an X-ray of my jaw. He made me sit up straight and stare directly at the windowsill in front of me.
For the first time ever, I noticed that he had a selection of crystals on display. In his nasal monotone he told me to "sit very still and look into the eye of the crystal."
"Erm, sorry what?"
"I said, look into the eye of the crystal."
"Yep, I thought that’s what you said."
Clearly I’m missing a trick –- even Dr Raeburn’s embraced the power of crystal healing. And my cynical approach to life hasn't been working lately.
For the past six weeks or so -– pretty much since I got back from my holiday, I’ve been in a total fug.
One of my frequent bouts of insomnia has reared its head. I stopped doing the regular Pilates before my trip, so my back is now constantly sore and stiff, which is stopping me sleeping. Which is making me tense. Which is making my back hurt. And so on, and so forth.
When I’m tense and can’t sleep, I grind my teeth, which make my neck and head hurt, and sometimes makes my jaw lock when I get up in the mornings. I’ve also had a spate of migraines that have totally knocked me out –- doing nothing for my mood or stress levels.
I feel a bit ridiculous, because the physical response I’ve been having to stress is completely disproportionate to the amount I’ve actually had to deal with -– not really that much.
However, it’s that age-old problem -- I feel like I’m not on top of things, which is making me more stressed, but I can’t do anything about it, because I’m so tired and full of fug that I can’t get my brain to click into gear.
So, last Sunday afternoon, I threw my cynicism in the bin and shuffled across London to Primrose Hill (the nice bit), to meet the lovely Louise Androlia, get some reiki and sort my shit out.
I heard about Louise from Olivia Singer, who suggested her as someone to write about. She also mentioned that Louise specialises in treating people with stress or anxiety.
When Olivia emailed me this, I was in a B&B about to go to a friend’s wedding. I was hopping about the room, trying to squeeze myself into a too-tight dress while also reading work emails and trying to finish a post. I was also FREAKING THE HELL OUT, as per.
So, I took this as some sort of sign.
I felt instantly better after I emailed Louise and arranged to meet up with her –- just doing something tangible cheered me up, as did the rather beautiful walk across Regent’s Park on a sunny autumn afternoon to meet her.
Louise and her bright red hair were easy to spot. She was reassuringly chic (what? I definitely would have judged if she had kaftan or a whiff of patchouli about her), and just very cool.
She had suggested that we chatted for a couple of hours before heading over to the studio. I had lots of questions that I wanted to ask her for this story, but I didn’t really see how it was going to take two hours. As it happens, once Louise had answered my questions and I’d gone on about my FEELINGS for ages, we’d actually run over.
Ten years ago, at art college, Louise was struck with Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition, that also affects the nervous system, as well as having some links to the symptoms of ME.
The disease left her in constant pain, and her GP’s response, after she had repeatedly collapsed in pain was, "Have you just had an argument with your boyfriend?" Luckily, her parents were able to send her to private doctors for diagnosis and then treatment.
Because there are so many separate symptoms of Fibromyalgia, Louise discovered that she’d have to take a whole host of different tablets to treat each one, and so began to investigate how she could treat her disease holistically.
Changing her diet played a massive part in her recovery, as did a whole selection of natural therapies, including reiki and osteopathy. It took five years for Louise to go from being virtually bed bound to being well again, but she was inspired enough by her own experience to train as a massage and reiki therapist herself.
Louise has also trained in Psychic Development at Chelsea Psychic School, and offers tarot readings.
Normally, this particular combination of Things I Don’t Really Believe In would have sent me running for the hills. However, Louise was so normal, and so sure of what she was doing, that I began to feel like it would work. My inner cynic had been locked in the downstairs loo and wasn’t allowed out for the rest of the afternoon.
I was also really inspired by Louise’s fairly simplistic ethos to the whole thing, which can be pretty much summed up as "just being nice to yourself."
"You might not believe in reiki, or think its benefits are just psychosomatic, and that’s fine," she explained. "The point is, it absolutely works, so what does it matter why?"
Louise was more than happy for me to put her theory to the test.
For my particular combination of ailments and complaints, she suggested a massage, combined with reiki, with a spot of life coaching thrown in for good measure.
When we arrived at the therapy room, Louise became surprisingly business-like as she went through my consultation form.
I told her that I need glasses, but haven’t got round to picking any, which is one of the reasons why I’ve been getting so many headaches and feeling tired.
"So, when are you going to go and pick your glasses then?" she asked.
"Erm -- this week?" I said uncertainly, while vowing to make some time the following week to go and sort it (spoiler alert: I went last Friday afternoon, just within my self-imposed deadline. Said glasses make me look like a deranged, early Su Pollard).
Louise also suggested that I get a memory foam pillow and that I consider visiting a cranial osteopath to try and sort my back out. As life coaching goes, it was more practical, solid advice than I was expecting, and was very welcome.
She also pointed out the pointlessness of my tendency to play out conversations and scenarios that haven’t actually happened yet in my head. I’ve got no way of knowing how myself, or anyone else is actually going to respond or react in any given situation.
"The only thing you really know for certain is what’s happening right now in this moment."
Quite right too, Louise.
Once we’d done this, I was already feeling better -– there’s definitely more merit in blurting all your woes out to someone ostensibly objective in one go than I would have admitted.
Then it was time for a massage. I’ve had a lot of massages (mainly because I just really like them) and this was definitely a good one. I was so blissfully zoned out, that I barely noticed when Louise moved onto the reiki (which she did periodically throughout the massage, and again at the end).
However, when she put her hands on my back and they became hot –- really hot –- I took note. At the very end, she put her hands on my chest, and I found myself feeling strangely out of breath. When she finished off by putting her hands on my head, I found myself involuntarily breathing out.
And afterward? I felt a million times better -- although an hour’s massage would have done that without the reiki. My head definitely felt clearer and I had a proper night’s sleep for the first time in ages.
In fact, I’ve slept brilliantly ever since, my concentration levels have been better, and I’ve generally felt much more productive. My migraines haven’t gone away, but it’s less important, as I’m being more productive the rest of the time.
Maybe this is because Louise reiki’d my demons away (is that right? I’m still not really sure how reiki works), or maybe it’s because the amazing massage relaxed me enough to actually getting some sleep, or maybe it’s because someone allowed me to self-indulgently whine about my middle-class problems and my FEELINGS for a couple of hours and that was all I needed.
Whatever the case, this hardened cynic has emerged from her reiki experience unscathed, and definitely feeling better.
It's also really converted me to is the possibly that having someone to talk to, and whose job, if only for an hour, is to focus on you, might not be A Bad Thing. (Although it isn't a very British thing.)
Find out more about the amazing Louise Androlia (that should definitely be her magician name) at her website. She comes highly recommended. By me.
For more updates on my mission to find glasses that don’t make me look like Su Pollard, the Hi-de-Hi! years hit me up on Twitter @rebecca_hol. So far, it’s going badly.