Simon P – How AP cured my depression and anxiety when all else failed

‘Even now I am taken aback by the speed at which my mood and outlook changed upon putting myself fully into AP’ – by Simon P.

‘My name is Simon and I am a 40-year old commercial director, working in the UK finance industry.

Despite very fortunate life circumstances – a loving family, an excellent education, and a seemingly successful career in financial services – I have suffered from chronic anxiety, interspersed with deep bouts of severe depression, for most of my adult life. Since the age of 25 I have endured 8 such episodes, and until very recently was convinced that this “illness” – as I used to think of it – would not only ruin my life but would ultimately kill me.

From quite an early stage it became clear to me that my anxiety and depression were closely linked to my attitude to work – in which I vested my total sense of self-worth and self-identity. A talented and highly thought-of employee, I progressed quite rapidly in the early stages of my career, working at a number of major financial institutions, but was constantly dogged by profound self-doubt and fear of failure.

When my first depressive episode took place, I had no idea what was happening to me. The pain and the fear were so overwhelming that I made a serious suicide attempt, driving my car at very high speed into a concrete wall off a country road. I broke both my arms and a leg, along with almost all my ribs and my jaw, ending up in intensive care for 3 weeks and in hospital for a further 4 months, and only survived by a miracle.

It was during my time in hospital that I was diagnosed as depressive, and prescribed antidepressants and sleeping tablets.

Over the ensuing years, I seemed to relapse into depression every 2 years or so – always at a time of job change or pressure at work. Each time I turned to antidepressants and other drugs for relief, and although these seemed to help pull me back from complete breakdown, they never brought any permanent change to my constant anxiety and stress.

The deep depressive episodes kept returning, accompanied with terrible thoughts of suicide and despair. Somehow I managed to keep functioning through the episodes, concealing my condition from colleagues at work, but the toll on my family was dreadful.

Outside of my depressive periods, I was a hard-working and energetic manager, capable of delivering good results and earning the respect of those around me. At the age of 38 I was promoted to a very senior role, managing a large team of people and involving significant responsibility. Almost immediately I became convinced that I could not succeed in this new position and had made a terrible mistake in accepting it.

I rapidly collapsed into a state of profound despair and had to be admitted for the first time to a private clinic, where I spent a month, under very heavy medication and sedation. My private insurance cover ran out and I had to return home, but continued to be treated as an out-patient, taking a mixture of antidepressants, antipsychotics and tranquillisers.

My mood had lifted somewhat, to the extent that I was able to force myself back to work. To my huge relief (and surprise) my employers were extremely helpful and accommodating, and I was given a new, less demanding role with no loss of pay.

However, life continued to be a grim struggle, waiting for the drugs I had come to rely on to give me some lift of mood or energy. I would pay fortnightly visits to a consultant psychiatrist to talk about my mood, my feelings, my physical and emotional state – to try to think about new ways of thinking about my thoughts – and to have my drug dosage adjusted slightly in one way or another in the hope of creating some change.

At each of these sessions, my psychiatrist would ask me whether life was worth living; my honest answer was always: barely. Nothing afforded me any pleasure or sense of hope; I was just about managing to drag myself from day-to-day and was simply waiting in silent, grim terror for the next collapse that would finally put an end to my career, my family, and possibly (or, as I often thought, hopefully) my life.

It was at this time that my parents, who, along with my wife, had been desperately looking for other avenues to explore in search of some hope, came across the website for Adaptation Practice by Clive Sherlock. Encouraged by the reports of successful treatment of severe cases of depression – and in particular by a feature article in The Times detailing the case of how a man with severe depression recovered – they urged me to contact Clive and find out more.

During my time in the private clinic I had attended a few “mindfulness” classes and dismissed them as a waste of time. Mindfulness had been presented to me as simply “a way to relax” and “focusing on positive thoughts”. I assumed that AP would simply be more of the same, empty waffle.

Nevertheless, at my wife’s insistence, I picked up the phone and called Clive. I was reassured a little at his invitation to attend a group session in London to find out what AP was about, before committing to any longer term involvement. At about the same time, I had contacted a very well-respected psychotherapist, as another route to explore, and one in which I placed a lot more hope. He too offered an introductory session before deciding on any longer term commitment.

I attended my first AP session, and my two introductory psychotherapy sessions, all within the first two weeks of January 2011. Having had both approaches explained to me, I was more convinced than ever that the best hope lay with the traditional psychotherapy. I was encouraged to think, discuss and analyse my feelings and emotions. I was told to express the emotions fully, to cry, to shout, to openly live them out. I was told that I would, over time, learn to suppress the bad emotions, that when I understood why the terror and the self-loathing were happening, I would be able to “work through” them and ultimately let go of them.

This felt good. It was what I had expected psychiatry to be. By contrast, AP seemed unattractive and rather bewildering. Here, I was being told not to try to get rid of the emotion, but to accept it and learn to live with it. I was being directed, not to think about or analyse the thoughts that were torturing me, but to ignore them – and to focus on putting myself willingly and wholeheartedly!! into what felt like irrelevant, menial day-to-day tasks. How on earth was ignoring my problems supposed to solve them?

However, my psychotherapist was heavily booked up and unable to commence longer term sessions with me for a couple of months. Furthermore I was still intrigued by the reports of AP’s success where traditional approaches had failed. I therefore decided to sign up for a course of one-to-one sessions with Clive, and to at least give AP an honest try, before taking up my longer term psychotherapy treatment.

I know now that I am one of the lucky students who enjoy very rapid results with AP. Even now I am taken aback by the speed at which my mood and outlook changed upon putting myself fully into AP. After a week of practice, I could definitely feel a sense of energy stirring again within me; after 3 weeks I was free of the deep anxiety which by then had been dogging me for the best part of a year. I suddenly seemed able to look at issues and situations with a newly found sense of calm and proper perspective. 6 weeks in and I was feeling upbeat and enthusiastic about life. I had gained the confidence to look at my work and family life and realised that I was able take back the control of myself and my own destiny that I had lost for so long.

By this time I had spent a few weeks attending regular AP training sessions – which I was surprised to find were nothing remotely like psychotherapy or group therapy. My psychotherapist had told me that I should expect to attend one session a week for at least two years before being able to expect to be free of my “illness” as he called it. The way forward was not a difficult decision.

At the time of writing I have now been free of any significant anxiety and depression for eighteen months. I continue to apply myself to the best of my ability to daily practice and to 30 minutes of daily meditation – longer if time permits. With guidance from Clive, in liaison with my GP and a local NHS psychiatrist I had seen, I have gradually phased out the medication which I was previously told would probably be necessary for the rest of my life.

It is important to continue to build and sustain daily practice, even when you are feeling great, in order to maintain and continue to grow the inner strength it brings. I am already aware of how this gradually becomes second nature and so comes naturally.

Although it is still early days for my experience with AP, the effects have been rapid, profound and life-saving. I could not recommend it highly enough to anyone suffering from emotional issues such as anxiety, stress and depression. If you are willing to trust it and persevere in practising it, it will improve your life dramatically – without drugs or psychological therapies.’

Simon P – October 11