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How hypnotherapy helped Hendra

Published Dec 9, 2014

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Durban - The Ironman competition is the ultimate test of endurance. It’s a 3.8km ocean swim, a 180km cycle and 42.2km run, demanding a rigorous training schedule and mental strength.

But Hendra Bezuidenhout, 57, who represented South Africa in the World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, in 2012, never dreamed that when she came back, her physical and mental health would suffer a blow and she would need as much endurance and focus to get well again.

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“I had a great event in Kona,” she said. “I came 23rd in my age group and was chuffed at being able to finish in the extreme heat and wind.

“We came back on the Friday and I was back at work on the Monday. My workload increased significantly and I worked long hours with very little sleep – but, strangely enough, I never felt tired.”

A month later, she fell ill, experiencing internal tremors and uncontrollable jerking of limbs, eyes and facial muscles.

“I had a feeling of ‘fullness’ on the one side of my head and a feeling of liquid moving from one side of my brain to the other when I turned my head,” she says. “Occasionally I was seeing the world frame-by-frame. MRI scans and blood tests were all negative and showed nothing. My condition was impossible to diagnose and seemingly could not be treated.

“I tried to live a normal life as best as I could, but my symptoms worsened. I was sleep-deprived and so weak that I could hardly walk. I was admitted to hospital twice for tests and scans, but once again, doctors and specialists couldn’t find any physiological explanation.”

A psychiatrist diagnosed anxiety disorder, saying Hendra was on the verge of a breakdown due to her nervous system being stuck in “fight-flight mode”.

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She was put on medication, saw a psychologist and tried to get through each day as best she could, with tremors and sleep deprivation increasing her anxiety.

“I refused to accept that there was no cure. Over two years, medical practitioners and specialists had given different prognoses which included, in the extreme case, having to stay on the medication for the rest of my life and that my nerve endings had been permanently damaged – a bleak outlook indeed.”

Then she read an article about hypnotherapy, written by Andrea Kellerman, a Durban psychologist and hypnotherapist.

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The key message was that the therapy could be used to gain more control over the mind to change unwanted behaviours and achieve goals.

“I had preconceived and ill-informed ideas about hypnotherapy and was sceptical. Since I had exhausted all other options, I decided to give it a try.”

Andrea explained that Hendra’s body was stuck in fight-flight mode. The treatment focus was off anxiety – and on to a physical condition that impacts on emotions and a host of other health concerns.

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“When you engage in stressful activities, your body enters into the fight-or-flight mode, where it believes that you need a surge of energy in order to survive. Over a long time, imbalances in stress hormones can affect energy levels, emotions, and lead to many other health concerns, such as anxiety, allergies, chronic fatigue, insomnia, depression, migraines, recurrent infections and more.

“Anxiety changes the way you think, and that often means that your thoughts are your worst enemy and this can change your pathways in the brain. However, for neurons to form beneficial connections, they must be correctly stimulated. This is where hypnotherapy comes into play as it is the easiest way to get through to the subconscious mind.”

Hendra says the sessions targeted the underlying cause of her chemical imbalance, stress and anxiety, and her brain started to change over time and through positive reinforcement.

“I have been undergoing hypnotherapy since September. I am learning to think and talk positively and not accept negativity into my life – learning to elevate my thoughts, words and emotions from negative to positive, breaking a habit that almost destroyed my life.

“I have quit corporate life and started my own business, where I control the amount of work I take on. I am learning to accept and love myself for who God intended me to be, standing up for what I believe in, in a calm and assertive way. This hard-wire reversal of my thought patterns will take time and effort to fix, much like the months and probably years it took to develop my current condition.

“I weaned myself off my Schedule 5 medication, under medical supervision, replacing it with natural homeopathic supplements.

“My life has changed significantly for the better, both physiologically and psychologically. I am more energetic, my tremors have diminished and my sleeping pattern has improved.

“I used to eat on the go while driving to work or training. Now I eat regularly, following a Mediterranean diet and ensuring an adequate intake of protein, mostly fish.

“I am physically active and work hard at changing my thoughts, words and emotions from negative to positive. I can live again, sleep again and feel hopeful that I will have a healthy future.

“The best of it all is that this was possible by being trained to control my mind.”

 

The Skype is the limit!

Andrea is based in Durban and Hendra in Johannesburg, so treatment and therapy has been conducted with the aid of Skype, e-mail and Dropbox.

Treating a patient via Skype is similar to face-to-face consultations, says Andrea.

“In my office, I ask them detailed questions, write everything down and formulate hypnotherapy sessions, which I did with Hendra via Skype. I didn’t hypnotise her, which I would do with people in my office.

“I recorded an audio with all the information that she had given me – which I also do for my clients in my office – and sent it to her via Dropbox.

“It is important to listen to that every day to enhance what we are working on and get a long-lasting, positive effect. People don’t really have to see me directly to get the same effects and positive changes.

“I gather new information at every session, see what has worked well, hear what hasn’t worked yet and create a new session/audio for the client. This works a lot better than generic hypnotherapy CDs as I can individualise them to work on the actual goals for the client.

“I am thrilled with Hendra’s progress. She used to rate her tremors 8-9/10 and now they are a 1/10 mostly, with some days and nights where she doesn’t have any.”

Hendra loved the convenience of an e-therapist and still has weekly sessions with Andrea.

“I use my iPad for Skype consultations as it is convenient and portable and I can find a spot where I can engage with Andrea for an hour without any interruptions,” she says. “The audio tracks are copied to Dropbox. I copy them on to my iPod and listen to them at night when I go to sleep. I often doze off while listening to them.

“However, I am in control of my body and mind at all times. Even if I fall asleep, my subconscious mind hears the reaffirmations, as I find myself repeating these statements to myself and others. I experience the audio sessions as meditation and relaxation.

“At the weekly follow-up sessions, we discuss what worked and what didn’t and which areas we need to focus on more. If I need to share something with Andrea before my next appointment, I drop her an e-mail.”

Durban homeopath Dr Natasha Louw also came on board, making treatment recommendations based on laboratory results and Hendra’s progress, using e-mail.

Hendra says the e-consultations suited her perfectly.

“I love technology and I didn’t have to make time to get to and from appointments. Skype call rates are fairly cheap and you can choose whether the call should be video or voice only. I would like to meet Andrea and Natasha in person one day.”

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