Hi, my name is Adrian. I am a 48 y/o Therapist, Health Advisor.
The Title of this page is not an exaggeration, nor is it a hook to get people interested in some far-fetched sales scam with a “Buy my Cream” or “Pay now while stocks last” Ending.
It is simply the truth of my illness and my journey in defeating it. Or put another way, What I did to not let it defeat me.
So let’s begin with the type of Eczema I had. Most not suffering from this debilitating illness will not be aware that it manifest’s in many different forms with varying degrees of aggression, pain and life crippling consequence.
The form of Eczema that I was eventually diagnosed after many years of pain and suffering is eloquently called Dyshidrotic Eczema or Pompholyx Eczema. It is a particularly nasty variant with symptoms of soreness and blistering appearing on the palms of the hand and in between fingers, on the soles of the feet and between the toes. The blisters are tiny at first but can grow and group to become a fluid sack, first clear then thick and filled with blood as the pressure grows. Because of its location the pain, especially around nerve endings is excruciating, and the psychological damage of not being able to wear shoes, walk normally, use hands and see yourself as having a form of leprosy is phenomenal. I say psychological damage with purpose because according to the Oxford Definition, Damage is:
(Physical harm that impairs the value, usefulness, or normal function of something. … ‘Instead of letting up, they exacerbate their injuries, potentially causing permanent damage.)
The result of having it and stressing, rubbing, scratching etc. Only makes it worse! You see the hot, itchy, painful, unsightly often weeping and sometimes infected and not very pleasant smelling eczema would only get worse with a multitude of factors. So many factors that it took me over six years just to get a definitive diagnosis of what the problem was, which didn’t come with a cure! My diagnosis came in desperation after I made an appointment with a private Practising Specialist Dermatologist, who was so very kind that he immediately sent my GP a letter and had me referred back to him as a consultant under the NHS. It was my first lucky break in 6 years of intermittent agony. Can you imagine suffering six years of creams, ointments, guesses and antibiotics of all shapes and colours?
This agony had begun while I was a serving soldier. I like to think I wasn’t the average soldier. I was above average for fitness levels. I was a member of the Regimental Boxing Team; I excelled in difficult environments, such as Courses in the Brecon Beacons or Operational / Exercises in extreme environments. So when the blisters started to appear on the soles of my feet, it had an immediate impact. I found myself making excuses why I couldn’t take part in fitness sessions. I’d constantly wrap my feet in Zinc Oxide tape to complete a particular exercise or training course. But above all else, I would not admit to being anything less than the perfect fighting machine I thought I was meant to be. As you can imagine, my daily stress levels went off the charts. I had been disciplined in a very Military way for my anger on a few occasions, and as a result, I was losing what I thought was a lifetime career as an Infantryman.
Then I had a break; my Officer Commanding decided I should spend two years on posting at the Infantry Training Centr, instructing recruits. For a short period, life got better, being away from Regental life resulted in less pressure and my blisters as they were known didn’t come so often and with the support of a lifelong friend I took up fishing in my spare time. But now and then, the blisters would come back. I would treat them with a needle and some disinfectant. Or wash with Hibiscrub from the med centre, explaining how good it was for getting my camouflage cream off and preventing spots. I extended my posting by six months and following this left the Armed Forces. I tried a few Jobs in Civie Street but as it is for all that leave the Armed Forces the transition was very stressful, and my hands and feet got pretty bad, pretty fast. The following years saw me in a mix of jobs where I was working for four days and off for four days. During the off days, I would nurse my skin and rest my feet as much as possible. Walking caused friction and irritation. I wasn’t aware that at the time my days off and the need to nurse was the 1st step in understanding and removal of the illness.
By the time I had come to the end of my tether and found a Consultant Dermatologist that could: a, recognise the illness. b, name the illness, and c, give me a method to treat the illness. By this stage, I had six years of utter pain under my belt. It was in Jamaica that the moment I couldn’t go on arrived. I was on an extended vacation and in great need of relaxation when I met a very beautiful local girl. We had gone for a meal in Ochi Rios at a very good Sea Food Restaurant. Within an hour my hands looked like a Sci-Fi scene from Total recall, where Arnold’s face is blowing up and about to explode. After a late night drive to Kingston, where a diagnosis of acute Allergic reaction to Shell Fish was provided. We drove back the next day and I with a pocket full of a drug called Prednisone. This drug in various forms became my staple diet along with AntiHistamines for the next few years.
Now for those that know Prednisone also known as Prednisolone, I can only sympathise. It is a drug that should be on a shelf, inside a glass case with a sign saying “break only in times of emergency”. The side effects are varied and quite strong especially when a larger dose is required. But they did help to manage the blisters. They also allowed me to work and even start a steady relationship. My partner was very sympathetic when my “Leprosy” came back intermittently, even when I was like a bear with a sore head. Some of the side effects can make you semi-psychotic!
I found myself living in Manchester and with a new Dermatologist. This Specialist who was amazingly knowledgeable had personal experience with my form of Eczema and prescribed a very expensive and still in “trial” drug called Alitretinoin, that had recently been found to help some Eczema sufferers. I was invited to join the trial program as a test case for six months. It was highly effective, had almost immediate results with almost zero side effects. After the six months, I was prescribed a lower dose for maintenance of the symptoms and reassessed every three months for the next several years. Every three months I would have blood tests, and try to convince the Doc that it was working and allowed me to live a healthy normal working life. And every three months they would remind me that it was never meant to be prescribed for so long, but as long as I had no adverse effects, I could continue. The adverse effects didn’t include the unknown and the greater risk of Cancer.
Throughout this time I had been studying. It had started with the interest of a Combat First Aid Instructor researching anatomy and physiology and afflictions of the skin but evolved into a deep interest in everything medical, and I became an Ambulance Technician and finally a Paramedic eventually leaving the Ambulance work and practising in high-risk environments. The work allowed for a higher level of income that I used for studies in Holistic Therapies. I was convinced that besides being “Triggered” by certain foods, and the inner workings of my body “Homeostasis” could be found in alternative medicine.
The more I learnt, the more I practised the teachings. And the more I practised, the better my hands and feet became. I had less and fewer outbreaks. And in 2017 after not taking the medication for a year, I was discharged from outpatient care. The Consultant which I had never seen before sat me down and said, “Well Mr Basford, could you tell us exactly what you did to stop needing the medication”? My answer was simply, “I changed my lifestyle Doc”.
Indeed I had. I was in the UK and had just given my resignation. I was still a bit in shock as I was giving up a 60k a year job. But the only reason I had taken that job was to continue studying and be able to pay my bills.
My lifestyle changes are not difficult for anyone to follow. They are not particularly complicated either. But they do have a cost. This cost is in time and effort. I had many trials and errors, but I succeeded! I should say I don’t expect everyone with a health issue to spend over a decade doing research and gaining qualifications in the hope they can become free from pharmaceuticals.
The number one lesson that I learnt is that the diseases and illnesses that are being diagnosed are only symptoms. You can not cure a symptom. The best we can hope for is that it is controlled. Unfortunately, the means that provide this control is researched and supplied by a profit motivated system headed by pharmaceutical companies.
My life today is not recognisable to what once was. I am healthier, at times fitter and I intend to help as many people as I can to do the same.
This is the first Blog I have put together; I struggled to find a topic that I thought would interest people, but was advised to “be real and make one about yourself” so here it is, I hope some find it interesting if not helpful.
Yours In Health
Adrian J Basford
Hi, my name is Adrian. I am a 48 y/o Therapist, Health Advisor.
This paper has been produced to answer a few questions about stress and provide an insight into some successful methods to help manage stress levels and stay healthy.
What is Stress?
The World Health Organisation (WHO), as stated that Stress is the health epidemic of the 21st Century, and they should know!
By definition, the word “Stress” is: Pressure or Tension exerted on material or object.
“Psychological Stress” defines it a little deeper: Any uncomfortable, emotional experience accompanied by predictable biochemical, physiological and behavioural changes.
That’s quite a mouthful for such a small, simple word. In essence what they are both explaining is a negative reaction that can change your mental and physical health also known as homeostasis.
We all know this and have been using simple examples in our everyday speech for centuries. We, our parents, siblings, colleagues have always received or stated some or all of the following statements when stress has been a factor?
- You’re a pain in the neck!
- That’ll be the death of me!
- It was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders!
- XYZ wears my nerves down or gets on my nerves!
- I knew it was wrong, I felt it in my gut!
This list could get quite long; there’s that many! The common factor for stress is when external forces that are generally out of our control have a negative effect on our internal comfort levels.
Is there such a thing as healthy stress?
The adage that stress is a motivator is true. In times of great difficulty, stress will motivate people to achieve great things. The problem here is that in most cases the situation is not classed as a great anything. It is a normal daily occurrence that has a negative effect that can be extremely detrimental in the long term.
What happens internally, when we have so much external stress?
The good news is that we are genetically engineered to use stress to survive. The bad news is we can’t simply switch it on and off as and when it’s needed.
In the early days when a sabretooth tiger came around, our stress would trigger some beneficial reactions. Our heart rate would elevate alongside our breathing which would allow excess oxygenated blood to flow to our muscles. Our senses would be heightened, and our adrenaline levels would be turned up to the max. We would be able to fight much more effectively or run away faster. This flight or fight mechanism is still part of us today. There is a third part to this story which is less talked about today. If it were described correctly, it would be called the Fight, Flight or Freeze Mechanism. The Freeze is, as expected the indecision, the unknowing of the best cause of action to take, but with the same physiological changes present and sometimes a greater mental stressor. It is not uncommon for this to present as a panic attack.
After the event that caused such a profound change in our physiological chemistry has gone, it takes a few hours to recede to normal levels. However, the problem for modern-day humans is that the fight, flight or freeze was not caused by a passing tiger. The stress was due to an event at work, home, or school, college, shop, road junction etc. The memory is now stored in the part of the brain called the Amygdala, its function is to react to stimuli, but can’t differentiate between what is normal and what requires survival instinct. Therefore, the next time you are in a similar situation, your reaction is pre-programmed, and you are ready for the event. We are very capable of pre-empting a problem and subconsciously (The part of the Psychi that doesn’t need to think) will begin preparing us for the repeat event like it or not! This event recall is so finely tuned that your body can react to a perceived threat in nano-seconds!
This is good news if your tired and working on a machine that burns. It will prevent a repeat of the pain initially experienced by muscle withdrawal.
Not so good if your heart rate reaches above 100 beats per minute and you hyperventilate every time you feel any heat on the skin though
But what if that past event doesn’t repeat?
It makes no difference. For many, the traumatic event was so well stored in our memory (Amygdala) that the subconscious ensures the body is ready for the next time, no matter how long that is.
If the readiness to react is initiated whilst in a certain environment and is further exacerbated by other life stressors, we can find ourselves in a state of constant readiness/stress. Unfortunately, we have not evolved enough to be able to cope with that stress. We get frustrated easier; we experience pain in the muscles that are perpetually at the ready, headaches as the result of a change in circulation. We accumulate a large number of hormones that are imbalanced (Adrenaline is a major one, but there are many more). Stomach / Gastric Problems due to a form of gastric paralysis during the fight or flight phase. Chronic fatigue as energy production is at a faster rate but isn’t recyclable. This list of physiological effects is as vast as the reasons that can cause it.
The outcome of the events mentioned above manifests in behaviour changes as well as physiological symptoms occurring. Anger, Depression, Anxiety, are amongst the most common. Other factors can manifest in Phobia related to a particularly traumatic event.
Prolonged exposure to these stress levels can lead to physical illness, the list of which would fill this paper twice over. Here lies another problem with our modern society that has introduced a system of administering another chemical that limits or enhances biological functions to prevent an illness from being a problem. It fails to investigate the reason why the illness is present but does give a diagnosis, which we call a disease.
If you examine the word “Disease”, you may find that it is two words. “DIS” Which is a Latin prefix meaning away, apart, not right. And “EASE” which translates to Undisturbed, Tranquil, Effortless. However, if I state categorically that Disease is not an illness in itself but a symptom of a Disease, such as Stress, I would be classed as a scaremonger, alarmist or maybe even a pessimist by some.
It doesn’t matter what I’m called or my beliefs, what does matter is that to cope with our inbuilt alarm systems that when left unchecked, result in a plethora of illness.
We must learn to manage the stress.
Stress Management Methods that we can adopt immediately
First of all, I want you to imagine you are the most advanced, high tech car the universe has ever built. Not hard is it; we are indeed such an advanced being that we are amazed when we see a replica (Robot) that can do the basics such as walk, run and jump as we do.
Then imagine that car being filled up with the wrong fuel, being driven at max speed by the worst driver ever! Constantly on the road without even a maintenance stop for months and maybe even years. That is where we are in our modern-day lifestyle.
Eat Healthy Foods
We use processed, fast foods for convenience. Drink coffee, black tea, alcohol use processed sugar as an energy source and abuse our speed settings to the max in work/social life and wonder why we have problems with stress. Remember the opening definition of pressure or tension exerted on material or object? By adjusting our fuel, we ease off on the workload and help the bodies defences.
So, the first and most simple way to manage stress is to use good fuel. Eat Healthily! Your body will thank you.
Slow Down and Breath
Speed is good and necessary in this fast-paced and even competitive society but easing back on the pedal now and then will ensure you can go a lot further and arrive in better shape. Take time for yourself, even if its 10 minutes of quietness at the park, canal, beach, forest. Being able to watch, listen and breath nature for 10 minutes a day will allow stress levels to recede nicely.
Purge Toxins Easily
Exercise will allow the toxins in the body to be released; this is the waste that stress leaves behind. It’s a bit like changing your oil and filters regularly. Light exercise, walking, light sports such as yoga or Tai Chi will allow for the body to release some of the negative effects of stress and you will feel great almost immediately as your body positively responds.
Relax the Mind, and the Body will follow
Resetting the mind sounds far more difficult than it is. Meditation as a form of altered state is the same as experienced in between wakefulness and sleep, or when driving somewhere and being in remote mode. That feeling of not being aware of time or remembering how you got somewhere is an altered state of consciousness at work. Listening to relaxing music and zoning out is another. It is the conscious mind taking a break and is very beneficial in eliminating the stress held in the body. Meditation is a simple and ancient art, It has been documented as far back as the earliest scripts and is one of the best ways to eliminate stress and allow the body to heal. There is also a big movement at present in mindfulness exercises, this is likened to meditation and is designed to assist you in slowing down whilst promoting a healthy mind/body connection.
Remember to enjoy life
The final piece of the puzzle is to remember to enjoy life. Laughter is a great healer. Stress dissolves with laughter, the biological shift from toxins to healthy hormone release is phenomenal. Being with a loved partner, child, pet or group and remembering what it’s like to laugh is perhaps the greatest of gifts you can give yourself.
1. Healthy food equals healthy you (Fuel)
2. Slow down and smell the roses, reward yourself (Breath)
3. Do light exercise, walk to the shops or buy a bicycle (Be active)
4. Let the mind relax, meditate and heal (Take a load off)
5. Laugh and the world laughs with you (Enjoy life)
For most of us, we can’t escape life stress; there will always be a someone, a something, a somewhere that will trigger our inbuilt fight, flight or freeze mechanism. But we can help it ease off and be healthier for it. After a very short while after installing these five simple points of stress management, the greater stressors are not so important anymore because they have stopped piling up inside our self-destruct when full storage box (which is you).
This paper is not meant to be a substitute for medical care. When we reach a tipping point in our stress levels, we should recognise the danger and seek medical help. At this stage, it has become unmanageable and requires external assistance. The information on this paper may help to prevent personal stress from reaching a crisis point and may even assist those that have reached it to recover; it is still not designed as a substitute for formal therapy.
It is the time of year for students to come to the practice. They may have a history of being insecure; they may have a nervousness about the future or an issue from early years in education. The common thread is being unable to focus on studying for exams, panic at the prospect of sitting the exams and sheer terror at the thought of failure.
So, we work on the problem, we empower the young person in coping strategies, and we resolve past trauma if it is present. Then the real work starts, the home study, cramming of data, revision of information making the little-understood topics well-rehearsed.
I provide Entrainment recordings to help them concentrate and focus on the subject matter. I use software to multilayer sound that can be pleasant to the ear, relaxing and provide a small change in how the brain works so that it is functioning in a state that is optimal for the task being employed.
There are many frequencies available from sub 1Hz to plus 40Hz; these are Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta and the higher conscious perception frequency of Gamma which can go up to 100Hz.
Although Alpha is arguably the best state for learning new information, Theta state allows the neuron pathways to slow below the level of Alpha to around 5-8Hz which affords a stronger connection between the conscious and subconscious mind. Intuition and spontaneity become the norm which creates a platform for problem solving and creativeness. This deeper state is where artists and great thinkers do their work. It is also where emotions are muted, the panic alarm is silenced allowing for information to be better accessed and the absorption capacity is optimised.
The old rules apply and need to be practised continuously. Sleeping at least 8 hours during the night, this means not studying past 9 o’clock. Giving the mind a hormone boost while reducing adrenaline and cortisol levels can be achieved with healthy activities such as walks, swimming, yoga or simple meditation. During the study sessions, adopting a regimen of 20 to 30 minutes in-depth study with 10 minutes breaks allows for processing, storage and recovery between data input, overload is the enemy.
Diet should be a key factor throughout the study with regular meals that provide “Brain Foods” to assist in the process. These include Seeds, Nuts, Apples, Leafy Greens, Oily Fish, Eggs, Broccoli Stems, Blueberries and Green Tea.
The most important of all when ensuring optimal efficiency is Water. The brain works best when hydrated; it isn’t so complicated.
The lack of Carbohydrates in the list of foods is not by mistake. Sugar and Carbohydrates require a lot of energy and fluids to digest and have an almost yoyo effect on the energy available. The sugar rush will be followed by an energy slump, and this provides a poor environment for optimising the Brain activity needed. Compensate with a little natural Honey in Green Tea, Dark Chocolate and Fruit, which are healthy alternatives to the Processed Sugar and Carb Cravings.
Alternative breakfast options such as Natural Yogurts (Skyr) or an Omelette. Healthy fibre, low in sugars cereal with milk and honey are good options.
Eating a varied and balanced diet will achieve two very important tasks. Firstly, the lack of distraction when hunger is manifest will provide optimal processing. So, eat small portions often. Snack between the sessions and drink continuously. The second is Hormones; the balanced and varied diet will keep this teenager’s nuisance quiet which has the advantage of reducing anxiety levels and providing the brain with the freedom to absorb as much information as possible.
I wish all students luck in the coming months and hope this helps in some way.
“It is not that I am so smart, it is that I stay with problems longer.”
The Access Health Therapy Logo is a symbol with meaning. Chosen for its simplicity along with the adequate and poignant connotation attached to it.
It is of West African origin, known as an Adinkra symbol. As in most cultures, the use of symbols predates the written language and Adinkra Symbols are still taught for cultural awareness today.
The common story is of a King named Adinkra that was defeated and captured for copying the design of a Golden Stool which was representative of absolute power. His wife began to wear dresses with the symbols woven or dyed into the cloth to demonstrate her sorrow. This tradition continues predominantly with the Asante peoples of Ghana a former empire before colonial times.
The symbol is called EPA in the Twi language of Ghana; it is representative of two links to a chain or a set of cuffs. In the original language which often has a proverbial meaning for symbols, it is explained as “Onii a ne pa da wonsa no, na n’akoa ne wo.” This translates to English as: “You are a slave to the one whose handcuffs you are wearing.”
When I first saw this translation, It reminded of a song that I have always liked “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds” This was, of course, a song from the late great Bob Marley who very likely had ancestral roots with the region the symbol hails from.
In therapy, I often find that the current problems a client faces in the present are rooted in the past and that to be free of the problem that has brought them to my therapy room, we must remove the mental chains that are being carried. I often explain this to clients as throughout their lives every unresolved problem, trauma or painful experience has left a lasting mark on them. If they see these past events as links in a chain, some small some very large, it is not difficult to understand how the sheer weight of the chains makes progression in life difficult as the burdens continue to grow heavier with each unsavoury occurrence they experience.
Generally, many sessions aim to identify the deep-rooted emotion that is causing a negative belief, behaviour or emotional response, this is not always easy to find and can take some careful probing into the clients past, being ever mindful that to re-experience the past in many cases could be counterproductive. After identification then we work to find a way to resolve the past and release the bonds we struggle to carry in the present. It is common to hear that “it feels like a great weight has lifted off my shoulders” or “I feel like I could fly”, “I have slept deeper and longer than I have in years.”
It is never easy to release the mental chains we put on ourselves. A commonly used sentence I offer for my clients when experiencing an Abreaction or a state of catharsis (the expression and emotional discharge of unconscious material) would be “This is pain and suffering leaving the body; tears are the physical manifestation of that pain.” It is not always easy for clients to accept the tears. Tears are associated with sorrow and sadness by many, but can just as easily be tears of joy or in the therapy room tears of freedom, in a play on the Twi word for the symbol: Emancipating Past Antagonists and of letting go forever.
Adrian J Basford
Practitioner Access Health therapy