Case Study – 2 Day Individual Program: Ann, 41, female, writer

Overview

1 Year After: “Before Anne, I had counselling with other practitioners. I found that it made me feel better for a short while, but that the improvement didn’t last.  Within a few weeks of finishing, I’d be right back where I started.  I was a bit apprehensive that the same thing might happen with the Garden Gate: that I would experience a temporary improvement, but that it wouldn’t endure.

Actually, the opposite has been true.  I’ve gained in confidence and strength over the year since my session.  It sounds strange, but it has taken quite some time to get used to being emotionally free of the thoughts and feelings of inadequacy and low self-worth that used to plague me.  It’s like learning to ice skate: at first I was very tentative and wobbly, and gradually I’ve learned to glide.  It’s not just how I feel inside, either.  In the year since I completely the intensive session, I’ve managed to publish my first piece of writing, and I have several more in the pipeline.  This was unthinkable for me previously.

I have also grown my own business and am starting to put together a five year plan that will hopefully allow me to achieve more of the things I want to do in life. I’m also living a much healthier lifestyle, and spending time with people who make me feel good about myself.  Even my relationships with my family, which were previously difficult, have improved. Anne didn’t just make me feel happier about myself: she gave me back my future.”

3 months after: I feel so much calmer and more ‘together’ across the board – and genuinely able to enjoy life and to look at the future and plan a way forward. I don’t think it’s very easy to explain what that is like for someone like me who has not been able to do it for over a decade.  It is just a colossal change – and I am very much at the beginning of finding out what it means and what I can now do.”

Before: Age 41-50

Anxiety

Psychological abuse

 

Eating disorder

 

Suicidal thoughts

Depression

Physical abuse

 

Self-harm

 

Suicidal acts

 

Loneliness

Sexual abuse

 

Addictions

 

Obsessive thoughts

 

Low mood

Emotional neglect

Disliking the body

Compulsive acts

 

Social withdrawal

Physical neglect

 

Perfectionism

Panic attacks

Not feeling good enough

Bullying

 

Alcohol over-use

Periods of physical illness

Not knowing what to feel

Caring for others

 

Drug over-use

 

Anger

Feeling afraid

Striving to please

 

Sport over-use

 

Disrupted sleep

 

 

3 months later

Anxiety

 

Psychological abuse

 

Eating disorder

 

Suicidal thoughts

 

Depression

 

Physical abuse

 

Self-harm

 

Suicidal acts

 

Loneliness

 

Sexual abuse

 

Addictions

 

Obsessive thoughts

 

Low mood

 

Emotional neglect

 

Disliking the body

 

Compulsive acts

 

Social withdrawal

 

Physical neglect

 

Perfectionism

 

Panic attacks

 

Not feeling good enough

 

Bullying

 

Alcohol over-use

Periods of physical illness

 

Not knowing what to feel

 

Caring for others

Drug over-use

 

Anger

 

Feeling afraid

 

Striving to please

Sport over-use

 

Disrupted sleep

 

1 year later

Anxiety

 

Psychological abuse

 

Eating disorder

 

Suicidal thoughts

 

Depression

 

Physical abuse

 

Self-harm

 

Suicidal acts

 

Loneliness

 

Sexual abuse

 

Addictions

 

Obsessive thoughts

 

Low mood

 

Emotional neglect

 

Disliking the body

 

Compulsive acts

 

Social withdrawal

 

Physical neglect

 

Perfectionism

 

Panic attacks

 

Not feeling good enough

 

Bullying

 

Alcohol over-use

 

Periods of physical illness

 

Not knowing what to feel

 

Caring for others

Drug over-use

 

Anger

 

Feeling afraid

 

Striving to please

Sport over-use

 

Disrupted sleep

 

Before

Ann is female, in her 40s, British, married and works as a writer. As a child she lived with her parents and younger sibling until leaving home to go to university. Ann’s father worked in a working class job and was a passive parent, her mother looked after the home and was dominant. Her home life was tightly controlled and abusive, with Ann’s mother displaying narcissistic traits and seeming to favour Ann’s sibling over Ann. Ann was put under a great deal of pressure to work hard at school and be very tidy. She achieved a great deal academically but her working life developed into one in which she took work which was beneath her capacity, was low paid and was undermined by senior colleagues who took advantage of her diligence and ability. Ann withdrew from work during her 30s and felt isolated. Ann says that “from the age of about 28 to starting counselling at 39, I was paralysed and in a state of torpor – really not functional as a person”. 

Measures taken to attend to well-being

Ann had counselling at university, which she felt didn’t help.  She saw a counsellor again in her early 30s via a work-related service, however she felt it didn’t help due to there not being enough sessions to “scratch the surface”. In her mid-30s she became physically ill and “had a nightmare getting treatment”.  After several rounds of surgery, she was offered CBT which she found to be “more or less useless”. She took anti-depressants for a time but found that they “didn’t make the slightest difference”. At 39, Ann began counselling in weekly sessions, which she attended for two years (31 sessions).  Almost immediately on starting the program, she felt relieved to find someone she could trust, and through therapy she gradually began to find new strength and confidence to challenge her existing ways of thinking and behaving, in ways that nurtured her. Her life went from one of frozen paralysis to one of increasingly richness.  However, there were still things holding her back, so at 41 Ann undertook the Garden Gate Intensive 2 Day Program and has not returned to counselling.

Well-being self-assessment

Anne completed this self-assessment, showing how she felt during each decade of her life.

Age 0-10

Anxiety

 

Psychological abuse

Eating disorder

 

Suicidal thoughts

Depression

 

Physical abuse

Self-harm

 

Suicidal acts

 

Loneliness

 

Sexual abuse

 

Addictions

 

Obsessive thoughts

 

Low mood

 

Emotional neglect

Disliking the body

 

Compulsive acts

 

Social withdrawal

 

Physical neglect

 

Perfectionism

Panic attacks

 

Not feeling good enough

Bullying

 

Alcohol over-use

 

Periods of physical illness

Not knowing what to feel

Caring for others

 

Drug over-use

 

Anger

 

Feeling afraid

 

Striving to please

Sport over-use

 

Disrupted sleep

 

Other:

Age 11-20

Anxiety

Psychological abuse

Eating disorder

 

Suicidal thoughts

Depression

Physical abuse

 

Self-harm

 

Suicidal acts

 

Loneliness

Sexual abuse

 

Addictions

 

Obsessive thoughts

Low mood

Emotional neglect

Disliking the body

Compulsive acts

 

Social withdrawal

Physical neglect

 

Perfectionism

 

Panic attacks

Not feeling good enough

Bullying

 

Alcohol over-use

 

Periods of physical illness

Not knowing what to feel

Caring for others

Drug over-use

 

Anger

Feeling afraid

Striving to please

Sport over-use

Disrupted sleep

Other:

Age 21-30

Anxiety

Psychological abuse

 

Eating disorder

 

Suicidal thoughts

Depression

Physical abuse

 

Self-harm

 

Suicidal acts

 

Loneliness

Sexual abuse

 

Addictions

 

Obsessive thoughts

 

Low mood

Emotional neglect

Disliking the body

Compulsive acts

 

Social withdrawal

Physical neglect

 

Perfectionism

Panic attacks

 

Not feeling good enough

Bullying

 

Alcohol over-use

 

Periods of physical illness

Not knowing what to feel

Caring for others

 

Drug over-use

 

Anger

Feeling afraid

Striving to please

Sport over-use

 

Disrupted sleep

 

Other:

Age 31-40

Anxiety

Psychological abuse

 

Eating disorder

 

Suicidal thoughts

Depression

Physical abuse

 

Self-harm

 

Suicidal acts

 

Loneliness

Sexual abuse

 

Addictions

 

Obsessive thoughts

 

Low mood

Emotional neglect

Disliking the body

Compulsive acts

 

Social withdrawal

Physical neglect

 

Perfectionism

Panic attacks

Not feeling good enough

Bullying

 

Alcohol over-use

Periods of physical illness

Not knowing what to feel

Caring for others

 

Drug over-use

 

Anger

Feeling afraid

Striving to please

 

Sport over-use

 

Disrupted sleep

 

Other:

During

Ann provided the following answers to questions about why she chose the Garden Gate Intensive Program, her experience of doing it and what she thought of it.

What aspect(s) of your life made you consider the Garden Gate Intensive Program and why did you decide to do it?

“When I began counselling, I was really struggling to function at the most basic of levels.  I felt paralysed, trapped in an endless, affectless fog where I was unable to take meaningful action, or escape from a general feeling of misery.  At times I wished that I simply didn’t exist – I used to fantasise about disappearing (not running away, actually dwindling into nothingness, literally vanishing).  I knew that my struggles were connected to a feeling of being unloved and unvalued by my parents from an early age: I was having to spend all of my energy grounding myself each day as someone who had a right to exist in the world.  However, I didn’t know how to break out of this situation – I was incapable of finding a route out of being frozen in time. 

After two years of counselling, it became clear to me that I still had a significant ‘blockage’ when it came to being able to reject my family’s opinion of me and see myself as someone with value.  I therefore thought that the intensive programme might be useful to me.  I knew the experience would be painful, but I figured that I had nothing to lose at this point.  I can’t explain how, but I also knew that it would be more difficult to achieve the same outcome in individual sessions.  There was something about the intensity of the programme that I needed.”

What were you hoping to get from it?

“Release – the ability to function as a ‘normal’ human being.  Confidence in my boundaries, such that I could strike out for myself in a way that felt potentially vulnerable to others without feeling like I was risking my whole sense of selfhood.”

How did you feel in the run-up to the 2 day program?

“I felt nervous.  I knew the programme would be really tough, and I wasn’t sure how I would react.  I think I had two contradictory anxious thoughts happening: firstly: what if this is too much and I can’t cope? Secondly: what if this doesn’t work at all?  Or worse, what if it puts me back to a place where I can’t cope?  However, both thoughts were fairly easy to deal with, because of the trust I had already built up in Anne, and the effectiveness of her counselling before this point.”

There are 10 components in the Garden Gate. Which were the most useful for you?

“Most useful: rule book for self (I read this every day), chapters, layers. Least useful: communication (simply because this is one area where I feel I was doing OK).  But even then, it was still useful.”

Did visualising your garden make a difference for you? If so, why? Did you expect this to happen?

“Yes.  When something negative happens now, I imagine the person dumping rubbish on my garden, and I see myself cleaning it up and depositing it back over the wall.  I can see it really clearly in my mind’s eye.  The act of visualisation helps me to stop going round in loops about things.  I also imagine sitting in my swing and centring myself if I feel out of joint with the world.  These are the two main ways I visualise my garden at present.”

What was the most memorable aspect of the Garden Gate for you?

“When I realised the shape it was taking and how Anne made me feel free to explore it and actually draw it out with all the detail that just kept pouring out of my thoughts, despite it taking ages before I could visualise anything at all!”

What were the most 3 most effective aspects of the Garden Gate for you? Please put them down in order of effectiveness.

“1-The garden itself: It’s my garden and I am safe. I control the gates. I can’t take care of other people’s gardens, no matter how much I want to. It still helps me think about where I put the things I don’t want in my life and how I “ burn” them away. It also helps me remembering that it’s ok to be alone, that I am safe. It helps me remember that I have a safe way of “visiting“ and “flying over” problematic situations without letting them “touch” me or affect me in ways I don’t want them to.

2- Realising objectively that some aspects of my life really, really sucked and that I actually did quite well in spite of them (using the Chapters and 4 Legged Chair). Learn to feel empathy and care towards my child self.”

Were there aspects of the Garden Gate which you found unhelpful, disappointing, ineffective or boring?

“No. I did struggle with the grading system, but I think this was because I wasn’t thinking very straight – once I understood, it made sense!”

Was there anything you hoped to gain from the Garden Gate which was not forthcoming?

“No.”

Would you recommend the Garden Gate Intensive 2 Day Program to others? If so, why? If not, why?

“Yes, absolutely.  Obviously, I have come to it via a more traditional route of counselling sessions – I think these were important for me to establish trust and for us both to have a sense of my narrative (and journey).  I am not sure I could have unpacked everything in the two days alone – I think I needed both.”

Is there anything else you would like to say?

“There is no language to express how differently I feel now, compared to how I felt at the start.”

After

What measures are you currently taking to attend to your well-being? Please include details of self-help, medication, counselling/therapy, intervention from health professionals, periods off school/work, time spent in hospital.

“None.”

Having completed the Garden Gate 2 Day Intensive Program please put a ✓ next to any of the elements that you experienced now and leave the others blank. Please add any aspects of your current experience which are not listed in the ‘Other’ column.

Anxiety

 

Psychological abuse

 

Eating disorder

 

Suicidal thoughts

 

Depression

 

Physical abuse

 

Self-harm

 

Suicidal acts

 

Loneliness

 

Sexual abuse

 

Addictions

 

Obsessive thoughts

 

Low mood

 

Emotional neglect

 

Disliking the body

 

Compulsive acts

 

Social withdrawal

 

Physical neglect

 

Perfectionism

 

Panic attacks

 

Not feeling good enough

 

Bullying

 

Alcohol over-use

Periods of physical illness

 

Not knowing what to feel

 

Caring for others

Drug over-use

 

Anger

 

Feeling afraid

 

Striving to please

Sport over-use

 

Disrupted sleep

 

Are there any other changes in your life, feelings, body, sleep which you have noticed since the program? If so, please use this space to explain what they are.

“I feel so much calmer and more ‘together’ across the board – and genuinely able to enjoy life and to look at the future and plan a way forward. I don’t think it’s very easy to explain what that is like for someone like me who has not been able to do it for over a decade.  It is just a colossal change – and I am very much at the beginning of finding out what it means and what I can now do. 

I sometimes have regrets about the time I have wasted, which can feel quite anxious – these often happen in the middle of the night.  But I think this is a natural part of ‘getting better’ and I’m not finding these are inhibiting me in any way: I’m not even losing more than a few minutes of sleep.”

Are there any aspects you would like to work on in the future that weren’t included in the program or were included but you felt did not work for you?

“No, I really feel that the programme covered everything that I needed to cover. I am now able to focus on the practical work of putting my life back together, rather than being submerged by the emotional labour of maintaining myself in stasis.”

Anne Lindley-French’s interpretation of Ann’s experience.

Ann grew up in an environment which appeared to be normal to the outside world, but was tightly controlled and abusive behind closed doors. Her parents did not socialise widely and her mother appears to have exerted her anxious control over the world by pushing Ann to succeed in education and controlling many fine details of her life and behaviour at home. Ann’s mother behaved differently to Ann’s younger sibling, setting up a dynamic whereby Ann was an outsider in her own home. Ann’s father kept quiet, meaning that there was no way in which her mother’s behaviour could be challenged. Ann realised that however hard she tried to please her mother it would never be enough. She gained very high grades at school, but her mother still behaved as though Ann was in the wrong if she disagreed with her in any way. The fact that her life had always been like this meant that even if she thought it was unfair at times (or all the time) she wasn’t able to feel deep down that she was valid – it developed into a pattern of living in which Ann could not assume to have value in her own right at home.

Ann had good friends at school and felt close to people she felt shared her understanding of the world. Although she wasn’t allowed to spend as much time with them as she would have liked, she developed a part of herself that was valued by them and her. She has maintained these friendships over time.

Ann left home as soon as she could and went to university. She was very successful in her studies, but had limited finances and had to work hard to manage. She says she took jobs which were beneath her level of educational attainment, but paid the rent and kept her head above water. In adulthood it appeared that however capable she was, she would tend to slip into situations which took advantage of her kindness and hard work but gave very little back. She became emotionally exhausted and found it difficult to value herself and her worth.

When Ann sought counselling at the age of 39 she was blocked in her writing, spent most of her time at home and felt isolated from friends and family. Over the course of a year Ann worked very hard on developing her sense of self and establishing the right to exist in her own right. She got her writing back on track, moved away from people who were used to taking from her rather than giving anything back, and put her energy into friendships which were built on equality and caring. Ann felt a lot better, however her core sense of self remained vulnerable in places, and she found this aspect very difficult to alter.

I advised Ann to think about the intensive program as I felt she would benefit from consolidated support in establishing a view of herself based on fact rather than views imposed during her upbringing. It was intense work and Ann’s physical reaction after the first day was pronounced, however it was clear by the afternoon of day 2 that it had passed completely. The intensive program is highly structured, it gave Ann the safety and space to let go of her pattern of restraints and develop a clear understanding of what defines her. She was able to free herself from the limitations and fear of her past and choose how to move her life forward in the belief that she has value and deserves to live well.

 

We would like to thank Ann for her feedback. Her name has been changed to protect her identity. None of her words or circumstances have been changed. Ann has participated in compiling this case study and has approved it to be shared with others.