Dr Claire Weekes ‘Self-Help For Your Nerves’ Cracking the Anxiety Code

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Face, Accept, Float, Let time pass.

In other words, face your reactions, accept them, do not fight them, float with your feelings, and gradually let time pass.  If you are having a panic attack, your body throws up danger signals while your mind goes into worse case scenario.  I know, I’ve been there.  Dr Claire Weekes advice is simple and it worked for me.

My older family members also recall being helped by Dr Claire Weekes’ publications, including my mother who purchased one of her books in early 1970s.  My mother often used to quote a paragraph here or there for the benefit of others with ‘nervous tension’.  Gradually the name ‘Dr Claire Weekes’ became synonymous with staying calm (not controlling or fighting the anxiety) and floating through it.

Dr Claire Weekes Self Help For Your Nerves Book

My aunt took Valium (Diazepam) to control her panic attacks, masking the cause, and no guidance was offered to help her understand what was happening to her body.  Stress, palpitations, pins and needles, shortness of breath, fear of collapse.  She read ‘Self-Help For Your Nerves’ and was able to recognise what was happening and float through it without medication.

This may not work for everyone, especially if there are other symptoms involved.

Dr Claire Weekes wrote five books during her lifetime

  1.     Self Help for Your Nerves (1962)
  2.     Peace from Nervous Suffering (1972)
  3.     Simple Effective Treatment of Agoraphobia (1976)
  4.     More Help for Your Nerves (1984)
  5.     The Latest Help for Your Nerves (1989)

Now a book has been written about her life

‘The Woman Who Cracked the Anxiety Code: The Extraordinary Life of Dr Claire Weekes’
Judith Hoare author (2019) non-fiction, Melbourne Scribe Publications.

This book is the first to tell that story, and to tell Weekes’ own remarkable tale, of how a mistaken diagnosis of tuberculosis led to heart palpitations, beginning her fascinating journey to a practical treatment for anxiety that put power back in the hands of the individual.”  https://scribepublications.com.au/books-authors/books/the-woman-who-cracked-the-anxiety-code

Dr Claire Weekes Book by Judith Hoare

A book review and a quotation offering insight…

MY COMMENT After pointing out the non-scientific nature of Dr Claire Weekes work, and skirting round the fact that she was up against privileged white males who ignored women’s problems (like my mother) Professor of Psychology at University of Melbourne, Nick Haslam writes the following:

“Ages of Anxiety” by Nick Haslam
QUOTE “…Weekes deserves our recognition not for making grand discoveries about the nature of anxiety.  She deserves it for recognising the vast but often hidden suffering caused by “nerves”, for developing an accessible method for reducing it on a grand scale at a time when most treatment was one-to-one and ineffective, and for having the energy and determination to promote that method around the world.

“It is impossible to quantify the human suffering that Weekes’s work has alleviated, but major awards and honours are routinely given for scientific discoveries that have surely had far less benefit.  Contributions of this kind — high in influence but low in prestige, because ‘popular’ — are often overlooked.  In this fine book, Judith Hoare has rescued the legacy of a great Australian from that fate.”
https://insidestory.org.au/ages-of-anxiety/

“The Claire Weekes Approach to Anxiety” by Calm Clinic
QUOTE “Dr Claire Weekes, an Australian psychiatrist who lived between 1903 and 1990, had some revolutionary ideas about anxiety that are still noted today for being ahead of their time.  The books she wrote on the nature of anxiety, which also included the details of the simple exercises she used to treat both her patients’ anxiety and her own, are still sold today”.
https://www.calmclinic.com/treatmentclaire-weekes

Poetry Clipart 13This blog post started off as a way to express my family’s gratitude for the work of Dr Claire Weekes and it may have ended up seeming like a product endorsement.  Let me state that I am only commenting and not endorsing the books, the benefits or the quotations.  YOU HAVE TO MAKE UP YOUR OWN MIND AND SEEK HELP IF YOU NEED IT.  LIKEWISE, OFFER HELP IF YOU SEE ANOTHER PERSON SUFFERING MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Good health and happiness!

Review ‘The Dreamers’ by Karen Thompson Walker

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The pretty embossed bookcover hides a dark and disturbing story and I would not recommend it to immature readers, or people I know with sleep disorders.

I think the apocalyptic nature of the book could have a tendency to induce fear and possibly depression in anyone sensitive to a crisis situation with unstoppable consequences.

If I was watching this as a disaster movie about a virus starting in a school dormitory, causing people to fall asleep and may never wake up, I bet most of the theatre-goers around me would be shallow breathing, wondering if it were true.

Lesser books have been known to cause restless sleep, or bad dreams.

Of course, the virulent virus comes from the fertile imagination of Karen Thompson Walker who said in a BWF 2019 panel discussion “Why we dream is unknown” although she puts forward some interesting theories in this story.

‘The Dreamers’ could just as easily die from any airborne disease and here lies the crux of the matter.

The author does an excellent job in researching and creating botched medical care, civil unrest, mass panic, and then bringing it right back down to the most helpless, two young girls and their kittens, alone in an old house.

In a clipped journalistic writing style, there are heroes, references to new life, new love and parental devotion striving against all odds yet feeling strangely hollow and disjointed.  For me, the ending is unresolved.

This type of plotting is not my preferred reading, however, I respect the level of apprehension Karen Thompson Walker has created even while I think ‘The Dreamers’ could unsettle vulnerable readers.  Or create mass panic similar to Corona Virus.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

AUTHOR PROFILE—Karen Thompson Walker was born and raised in San Diego, California, where her first book ‘The Age of Miracles’ is set.  She studied English and creative writing at UCLA, where she wrote for the UCLA Daily Bruin.  An assistant professor of creative writing at the University of Oregon, she lives in Portland with her husband, the novelist Casey Walker, and their two daughters.
http://karenthompsonwalker.com/

The distinction is…?

Berneray Beach Scotland UK 02
“Dune grass blows in the wind as a storm brews over Sound of Harris, Berneray beach, Outer Hebrides, Scotland” Image by Cody Duncan 2010.

Quotation from Ivan Illich (1926-2002) who was a Croatian-Austrian philosopher, one of the world’s great thinkers, a polymath whose output covered vast subjects. He was a critic of modern Western culture and addressed contemporary practices in education, medicine, work, energy usage, transportation and economic development.
https://www.theguardian.com/news/2002/dec/09/guardianobituaries.highereducation

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Audition Time

Pandanus Palms Psychiatric Clinic 01
Luxury

“It’s like a luxury hotel in here,” said Penny to Cleo, who was draped across a chair in the lounge room of Pandanus Palms psychiatric hospital, a pink hibiscus tucked behind her ear.  They were discussing the merits of combining tropical plants and plush furniture with the plastic chandelier.
“It’s done on movie sets to create an illusion of opulence,” said Cleo.  She sat up and stretched her arms.  She gave a yelp.  “That new guy Tom grabbed me too hard in the final scene last night.”
Penny knew Tom.  “I’m sure he didn’t mean to,” she said.
Cleo surveyed the bruises on her arms.  She noticed marks on her wrists.  “The make-up people forgot to remove my scars.”
Penny was going to change the subject but fortunately Cleo yawned.
“You’re getting tired, dear.” Penny began to gather her things. “I’d better go.”
Cleo rubbed her eyes and blinked rapidly.  “Did you see him?”
Penny spun around but there was no-one else in the room.  The air was still and heavy with the perfume from a flowering orchid.  “Who?”
“The producer.  He looked in the window.” Cleo sat stiffly in the chair, staring at the window like an unblinking cat.
Penny readied herself for an outburst.  “I’ll buzz for the––” she began.
Suddenly Cleo jumped up and ran to the window.
“I won’t go back into his hell-hole of a studio.”  She tugged frantically at the heavy, brocade curtains.  Once closed, the dimness appeared to satisfy her but she paced up and down with clenched fists.  “He was checking the spot where the stunt man fell.  They don’t know why he toppled out the window.  It wasn’t in the rehearsal script.”
She went to the curtains and peeked out.  “Thank God, he’s gone.”
Penny leaned over and pushed the nurse’s call buzzer.
     “You can buzz all you want, the waiter service is atrocious,” said Cleo.  “When they do come, they hold you down and force you to eat.”
She started to twirl around the room, knocking into furniture.
Her medication is wearing off fast, thought Penny.  She felt unsafe.  “Stop it!” she shouted.
Cleo sat down on the floor, a dazed look on her face.  “It’s dark in here,” she said, wrapping her arms around her ribcage.  “This is what that lady in the buckled up jacket does.”
Penny went to the window and opened the curtains.  Summer sunlight flooded back into the room.  Cleo winced.  “That spotlight is too bright.”
“I’ll tell the lighting technician,” Penny said.  She hurried from the room and saw that the long white hallway was empty.  The staff must be at the press conference, she thought.
After straightening a painting with shaking fingers, Penny had an idea and returned to the lounge room.
“The director says the cast can take a break,” she told Cleo.
“About time.  Scene after scene and none of them mine.  I’m freezing my butt off waiting for my audition cue and it never comes.  Boredom and suicide are the same thing.”  Cleo again paced the floor.
Penny recognised the first signs of her hourly ritual. Cleo went through the motions of taking an imaginary cigarette from its packet, putting it in her mouth and lighting it. With a noise of disgust, she tossed the cigarette on the carpet.  Quickly, she stamped it out. “Have to save oxygen,” she said. “The door shouldn’t be closed.  It’s the stunt man’s idea. ‘Get off me,’ I tell him. He knows I don’t like small spaces.  The door is made of steel. Hey, HEY, can anyone hear me? This isn’t funny, guys. The sound of nothing is pressing into my ear drums. The silence will squash my head. Let me OUT!”
Penny made cutting actions with her finger across her throat.  “The cameras have stopped rolling.”
“I need warm soup,” said Cleo, her teeth chattering.  “Where’s the c-catering van?”
“Think about something else, dear,” Penny said, hoping a nurse was on the way.
“Remember when you were little?  You said if something went wrong, you’d make-believe.  It’s fun to pretend you’re another person.  You can be anything you set your mind to.”
“That box room was too strong, it over-powered my mind.”  Tears started to form in Cleo’s eyes.  “I didn’t want to play a dead person.  The box was trying to kill off my character––it wanted to be my coffin.”
“You lasted a lot longer than most people would, given the circumstances.”  Penny lead Cleo to a couch and sat with her, gently smoothing her hair.  After awhile, two people entered the room, Cleo’s doctor and a new clinical nurse.  Penny surreptitiously made the sign of the cross.
The nurse checked Cleo’s pulse then injected her in the middle of a bruise on her upper arm.  Cleo pulled back, slowly rubbing her skin.  “More pain.”
The nurse pointed to a bluish lesion and said, “I hope you gave as good as you got.”
“One of my better performances,” said Cleo, tossing her head.
With a weak smile, the doctor said, “Ready to meet your fans, Cleo?”
“No.”  Cleo turned her back and toyed with a palm frond.
They coaxed her into leaving the room and walked down several corridors until they reached an unmarked door.  When it was opened, Penny hugged Cleo and left.  She hated to watch that door close and wanted to be out of earshot before it slammed.
In the foyer of the hospital, Penny wondered how far she should carry Cleo’s delusion.  The hospital portico was swarming with staff and media representatives.
With one hand on her heart and the other on the door handle, Penny opened the front door.
A reporter pounced.
“What happened on the set of Cleo’s new movie?”
Before Penny could reply, Tom, the psychiatric nurse, ran over and grabbed her arm.
“Come with me, Penelope,” he said.  “It’s time for your medication.”

Gretchen Bernet-Ward
 

AUTHOR NOTES:

  1.  Cleo is a mentally disturbed woman. She talks in riddles and,
     due to an apparently traumatic event on a movie set, she cannot
    separate fact from fiction.  She confuses the Pandanus Palms
    psychiatric hospital with a film location.  We are lead to believe she
    has once tried suicide and that the stunt man may have caused her
    latest breakdown.
  2.  Penny has “adopted” Cleo and calls her “dear”. She cares about
    her and understanding her moods but is not able to help in a positive
    way.  She has her own set of unseen demons.
  3.  Tom is a bit player with an important part. Did he cause the bruising
     on Cleo’s arms?
  4.  The setting is a room with lavish décor but Cleo becomes cold and
    hungry.  Is she reliving an incident or just acting the part?
  5.  Is the box a padded cell or a prop gone wrong?
  6.  Does Cleo see the truth wrapped up in theatrical guise?  Is she driven
    by revenge to murder?  When the “reveal” comes at the end, can we
    guess at what was truth and what was the swirling of a delusional
    mind, aided and abetted by Penny.