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29 March 2018

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3/29/18 Hero: Hazel Gale

Today’s #SameHere🤙Hero: Hazel Gale (I find this story inspiring for so many reasons. First, Hazel was at the “top of her game” competitively, so others just assumed she was ok. Second, she tried something unique & different to heal, bc why not, when more “popular” treatments fail you? Finally, she, like Derek Hess and Greg Auerbach on the Alliance found a way to use the arts to share inner feelings of MH. With that, I also want to introduce a great artist herself, Emma Oakley-Cook, who will be the lead “Crazy” helping us animate some of our school & office MH curriculum concepts.  Here is Hazel’s story).

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“A decade ago, my life looked very different. My passion was fighting. I trained two/three times a day in a kickboxing or boxing gym, & I won world & national titles in those two sports respectively. As glamorous as that may sound, though, I wasn’t happy & I was growing increasingly unhealthy.

 

Rather than feeling inspired by my love of competition, my efforts in fighting were driven by anxiety, shame, & self-loathing. The fighter identity — striving to be a ‘winner’ — was a fantasy fix for my feelings of inferiority. And it wasn’t working.

 

Over time, the stress that I forced upon myself took its toll physically as well as emotionally. Gradually, things started to go wrong. First, it was anxiety, insomnia, a distracted mind, & I withdrew from social circles as the fear set in. Next, I grew depressed, lethargic, frustrated, &  incommunicative. Then, my body caught up: nausea, new allergies, IBS, muscle pain, headaches, repeated injury, brain fog, a constant sore throat (for years), repeated bladder infections, & that all-consuming, sickening fatigue that only someone who has pushed themselves to the brink could ever understand. I had burned out.

 

For the longest time, I failed to admit this to myself, let alone anyone else. But in the end, I had to ask for help. First, I sought the magic pill. I felt sure that something could fix me. So, I tried every vitamin, mineral, supplement, diet, & treatment that I could find.

 

But these things only made a small dent in how I felt. Ultimately, this problem was coming from the inside, so it was there I had to look to find my answers.

 

Someone recommended that I see a clinical hypnotherapist. I think my thought process went something like this: ‘Well, that sounds like nonsense, but nothing else has worked so I’ll give it a go.’ That therapist was wonderful, & she inspired me to qualify as a clinical hypnotherapist myself. However, it wasn’t until a year or so after that when I found Quest Cognitive Hypnotherapy, that I really started making a meaningful difference to my sense of self. I both trained as a practitioner & underwent my own therapy process w/ the founder of Quest, Trevor Silvester.

 

It wasn’t easy, the therapeutic journey. Like most, I had to endure the emotional rollercoaster of improving one day, then relapsing the next. There were countless times when I was ready to give up hope, but bit by bit my anxiety faded, my self-awareness increased, & then my body started to let go of those old physical symptoms too.

 

I got back into competition during all of this, & gradually my performance improved there as well. But the important thing wasn’t the winning anymore. Therapy changed my perspective, & with a healthier mind, I turned my attention towards the joy of training rather than the need for victory.

 

Ultimately, that shift turned my entire life around. After winning two national titles in ABA boxing in 2013, I left competition behind to focus on my therapy practice instead. My goal now is to help others emerge victorious from their own battles (whatever they may be), & I feel inspired by that sense of purpose every day.

 

This week, I published my first book (Fight: Win Freedom From Self-Sabotage), & it feels incredible to know that I’ve made something so meaningful out of everything I went through.

 

Lots of those I trained w/ were shocked when I first told them about my experience. It’s all too easy in this world to get deceived by the shimmer of shiny medals & the bulge of big biceps. But I know now that just as success ≠ happiness, athleticism ≠ health. If we want to experience a greater sense of emotional & physical wellbeing, I believe we must train ourselves to stop chasing the mirage of ‘successful winner,’ & search inside for the real solution instead.

 

The #mindmonsters project is perhaps the most wonderful thing to have come out of the book-writing process. At the beginning of ‘Fight,’ I ask the reader to visualise the most destructive part of their personality. For some, this will be the part that makes them anxious or angry. For others, it’s the part that inspires them to binge-eat, drink, withdraw, procrastinate, etc.

 

As I started sending the first drafts of the book out for friends & colleagues to read, some sent back drawings of what they imagined. The images were powerfully emotional. It was humbling to be given glimpses into people’s most vulnerable human experiences, so I started asking for more.

 

#SameHere🤙, I now have a catalogue of mindmonsters – along w/ the answers to seven questions about them – from people all over the world. The most exciting thing about this, for me, is that in sharing their monsters, those who have taken part in this project have been expressing the experiences that we’d usually be more likely to lie about or try to hide. Mindmonsters are the metaphorical representation of shame, & the first step in letting go of that toxic emotional state is to acknowledge the things that inspire it.

 

You can view a selection of monsters on my Instagram profile hazel.gale.therapy & on the website (https://mindmonsters.online). If you’d like to contribute your own monster, then that would make my day! The instructions are on the ‘Meet Your Monster’ page on the site.”

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