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Review - Complete Self-help for your Nerves

Review of Dr Claire Weekes' 'Complete self-help for your nerves'

By Cherie – ADAVIC volunteer 2007
Dr Weekes sets out to explain how a nervous breakdown begins and develops and how it can be cured. She states simply that a cure can be achieved if we use our innate courage and perseverance and emphasizes that the power is within us to achieve the goal of recovery from a ‘nervous breakdown’, no matter how difficult our plight is. Dr Weekes states –

“Each of us has unsuspected power to accomplish what we demand of ourselves, if we care to search for it. You are no exception. You can find it if you make up your mind to, however great a coward you may think of yourself at this moment. I have no illusions about you.”

An important element in the key to our recovery is understanding t he notion of nervous fatigue which can manifest as muscular, mental, emotional and spiritual fatigue. Apparently any individual can suffer from any one or all of these fatigues and not be deemed as nervously ill when one fears the effects of nervous fatigue and this fear interferes with one’s life thus creating an anxiety state. The phrase ‘fear of fear’ comes to mind. The anxiety sufferer becomes fearful of the symptoms of anxiety thus perpetuating a ‘web of fear’.

Dr Weekes explains the four types of nervous fatigue as follows:

  • Muscular fatigue relates to the physical aches that are experienced when muscles are subjected to constant and severe tension resulting in physical symptoms such as blurred vision and headaches.
  • Emotional fatigue occurs when our nerves are subjected to strong emotions over a prolonged period of time and become sensitised to the slighted provocation. Dr Weekes describes how a ‘fear-adrenaline-fear cycle’ can set in thus perpetuating anxiety. Fear can activate the hormone adrenaline which in turn intensifies and creates more fear and then more adrenaline results thus creating a debilitating cycle.
  • Mental fatigue can result from constantly thinking about and being pre-occupied with the concerns of being an anxiety state.
  • Fatigue of the spirit can be experienced when the constant struggle and battle with anxiety wear us out and flatten out hope and courage.

Dr Weekes alludes to ‘that persistent inner voice’ that seems to urge the anxiety sufferer to not have faith in themselves. The inner voice may say “Others can do it, others can recover, but not you!” Dr Weekes advises that in a sensitised person this voice is only natural, however don’t be fooled by it. You have the capacity to move forward.

Dr Weekes treatment for anxiety and a cure is based on four concepts:

1. Facing 2. Accepting 3. Floating 4. Letting time pass

  1. FACING requires the individual to acknowledge and understand that the cure comes from within. It means facing the things and situations that make us fearful as well as facing the nervous symptoms than many of us would rather avoid. According to Dr Weekes the notion of facing fearful situations but having the option of retreating if we panic or go beyond our ‘comfort zone’ does not facilitate a long-term cure. Instead, it is necessary to face fear and panic symptoms and to learn to deal with them. The long term goal is for the individual to learn to cope with panic so that it no longer matters if it does happen. An old Chinese proverb ‘Go straight to the heart of danger, for there you will find safety’ reflects this concept.
  2. ACCEPTING involves learning to co-exist in a kind of truce with the physical symptoms of anxiety and panic no matter how uncomfortable they can get. Fighting fear and its often terrible physical symptoms can spark more fear and thus perpetuate anxiety and panic. De-sensitisation to fear lies in acknowledging the physical symptoms and discomfort and to trying to flow with it. The aim of acceptance is to try not to fuel existing fear with more fear. Obviously this isn’t easy and requires practice. Dr Weekes states that by practicing accepting, “…you earn the little voice that says, ‘It doesn’t matter anymore if panic comes!’ this is the only voice to listen to. It is your staff, and will always come to help you in setbacks, even if you find yourself almost helpless on the floor”.
  3. FLOATING encapsulates the idea that instead of fighting and forcing our way past anxiety and fear it is more effective to physically and mentally take the path of least resistance and float towards, through and past the anxiety. Dr Weekes likens the sensation to floating on a cloud or water. The aim of floating appears to be to remove the rigid and exhausting physical and mental fight that panic and anxiety sufferers find themselves involved in when confronting fear thus removing another source of fear. Indeed, floating can be a very pleasant antidote to fear and panic.
  4. LETTING TIME PASS asks from us an understanding that recovery can take time. It takes time for a nervously sensitised physical body to heal and for the heightened memory of fear and panic to gradually extinguish. We live in a society that fosters an expectation that life can be instant and fast, and these concepts can be counterproductive to a recovery that requires time. Dr Weekes counsels that setbacks on the road to recovery should not create dismay, but instead be expected and accepted. Setbacks provide us with an opportunity to build and forge our recovery on repeated practice and experience so that the techniques become truly ingrained in us.

“Complete Self-Help for Your Nerves” provides a wealth of practical information in addition to the practical techniques discussed in this review. The familiar physical aspects of anxiety such as churning stomach, sweating hands, racing heart, trembling and inability to take a deep breath, amongst many others are examined. The ‘all too familiar’ problems such as sorrow, guilt, obsession, sleeplessness, depression and loss of confidence are discussed, thereby providing useful information that the anxiety sufferer can tap into. The use of anxiety sufferer’s experiences to illustrate discussion helps this text to ‘come alive’ and provides practical examples that enhance understanding of the concepts discussed.

An aspect of Dr Weekes’ attempt to facilitate the reader’s understanding and recovery from anxiety is the role and power of our thoughts in creating and perpetuating anxiety. The saying ‘Your thoughts are your reality’ comes to mind. I gleaned an impression from this book that Dr Weekes has great faith in our ability to heal our nerves. The practical advice and strategies contained in this book as well as its optimistic tone and faith provide the reader with access to the skills and courage to help themselves onto the path to recovery. An unsolicited piece of advice from this reviewer to the anxiety sufferer would be “Just read it!”

Dr. Weekes books are available from major book retailers, the Open Leaves Bookshop and may be available in your local public library.

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