Can you heal a broken heart in 24 hours
Crippled by the end of her 11-year marriage, LUCY CAVENDISH checks in for an 'emotional detox'
08:00 GMT, 2 April 2012
The sun is shining as I arrive at a gorgeous remote country house hotel, the daffodils in the expansive gardens are all nodding along in the breeze. It is, undeniably, a beautiful day — and, yet, I couldn’t feel worse.
My marriage is over. The 11 years I spent with one man, the life we created together — four children, cottage, two dogs, beaten-up old Land Rover — has come to an end.
Try as I might, I can’t make sense of any of it. I want to cry, curl into a little ball and hide away. Sadness, frustration and anger have taken up permanent residency in my body.
New outlook: Lucy – in red – tries yoga to relieve stress
I don’t want to be a devastated, angry, crazed single mother, scared of the future.
So, here I am, sitting opposite Denise Leicester, the founder of spa brand ILA and the person who is running a new 24-hour emotional detoxing course at Chewton Glen hotel in Hampshire.
There are four other women here. I briefly meet them. They look as wrecked as I feel.
Denise tells me she has done courses like this worldwide. I tell her I feel nervous. I am not sure what’s going to happen and I feel worried of totally losing it — crying under the weight of my dreadful sadness.
‘You don’t need to worry about crying,’ says Denise, giving me a sympathetic smile. ‘This is a chance for you to feel nurtured.’
Emotional stress can lead to suppression of the immune system — and an increased chance of infection
Nurtured I no longer know what that feels like.
‘That’s why you’re here,’ says Denise. ‘Women give themselves a hard time. We repeat the same patterns, think the same thoughts. This is something we want to change. We’re here to support you.’
What she is describing feels so pertinent to me. I’ve spent years of my life wondering why I keep on falling in to the same emotional pitfalls — having crushing feelings of panic, a lack of self-worth and yet, underneath it all, feeling so out of control.
I simply can’t believe this detox course can change the bad habits of a lifetime in just one day. But Denise claims it can.
‘I’d like four days with you really ,’ she says. But she will do the best she can.
‘Massage, yoga and Nordic walking,’ she says smiling. ‘It’ll do the trick.’
I look at her, somewhat sceptical. How on earth can massage and a walk (costing me 250) solve deep-rooted problems She tells me I will also have a session of Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) with renowned practitioner Ranjana Appoo, who is known for helping people to start a ‘healing process’. It all sounds a bit airy-fairy and New Age to me but, so be it, I surrender.
An hour later, I’m lying on a bed having warm oil poured over my head. I am having my chakras worked on.
Eastern cultures believe we have seven chakras, which are ‘force centres’ or ‘whorls of energy’ that exist on parts of my body. The therapist says my earth chakra is out, which signifies emotional upheaval.
I feel tears pricking the back of my eyes. Upheaval It feels more like a nuclear bomb has gone off in my life. But all I say is: ‘My relationship has broken down.’
I lie on my front as she gently works her fingers up and down my spine, and find myself drifting off.
I realise, as my mind empties, this is the first time I have felt calm this year. It feels heavenly.
Positive energy: Ranjana teaches Lucy the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which involves tapping parts of the body to rebalance emotions
After the massage, I meet Ranjana, a bubbly Roedean-educated woman who is the founder of the Emotional Health Centre. She is going to teach me EFT, which involves showing me how to tap my fingers on various points of my body while repeating the statements she says out loud.
It’s believed that these points are portals to meridians, or energy paths, which run through the body — and each of these meridians is believed to be associated with specific emotions and themes. Tapping on a meridian ‘rebalances’ it.
The idea is that by making certain statements, when you’re tapping on these points, you are interrupting the thought pattern, releasing the bad energy of the situation.
Ranjana asks why I am here. I tell her. ‘I don’t need to know everything,’ she says. ‘Just tell me how you feel.’
‘Frightened,’ I say.
‘Frightened,’ she repeats. ‘And what would you like to feel’
‘Peaceful, hopeful, calm,’ I say.
Ranjana writes my words down. I want to tell her how scared I am of being a single mother, of keeping my four children emotionally sane, let alone myself.
I want to explain my panic to her, my disappointment.
But Ranjana just moves towards me and holds my hands. ‘How are you feeling now’ she asks. I start crying. I bow my head with the pain of it.
'The tapping is very ritualistic, the copying of the words almost like a chant'
‘Hold your head up,’ says Ranjana. ‘Stay with me.’ She asks me to hold my ring finger. Then she asks me to close my eyes. ‘I want you to think of a tree,’ she says. ‘This tree has a strong trunk and many branches.’
She asks me to start tapping the top of my head, and then to follow her actions. As she describes a strong tree with ribbons on each branch, she taps her forehead. I tap my forehead.
She asks me to take in a deep breath. I do and, as I exhale, I follow where she is tapping, next to her eyes, then beneath her eyes.
She works her way down her body, tapping away and, at the same time, asking me to visualise my fears, my hopes, my loves and then take each one of them and tie them, in my mind, with a ribbon to the tree. I follow her, tapping away on my breast bone, under my arms, then on to tapping all my fingers.
I am sure I look ridiculous but, by now, I don’t care. I’m finding I rather enjoy the rhythmic nature of it.
While I am tapping, Ranjana asks me to repeat things. ‘I acknowledge that I want to give more time to my children.’ I repeat it, tapping away.
‘I acknowledge that I might not be able to do that right now and I am going to accept this.’
She carries on, talking about my emotional state, my fear, my intense love for my children, my guilt, my nervousness about the future. I repeat what she is saying and keep tapping away.
We do this for an hour. Towards the end, as I repeat the statements and tap, I believe these things to be true.
Emotional recovery: Lucy tries Nordic walking with the help of Denise Leicester
The tapping is very ritualistic, the copying of the words almost like a chant. I ask Ranjana if it works because it is about acknowledging things out loud. ‘I don’t know why it works,’ says Ranjana. ‘But it does.’
My head has cleared. My feelings of helplessness have gone. I am not sure if it is because of the release in verbalising how I feel, the opportunity to focus on myself for once, or whether it is the tapping.
I go to bed, exhausted but smiling, for the first time in months. I have a peaceful night’s sleep.
The next morning, I am up at 6.45am to go for an hour of Nordic walking with Denise, who shows me how to swing my shoulders and my hips as I walk very fast. ‘It opens up your back,’ she says. ‘Your spine is connected to your nerves; we need to be aware of this to reconnect with our emotions.’
As we walk down to the sea, I find myself taking deep long breaths.
I often feel so panicked I feel breathless. But, today, my breath is easier. My mood feels lighter — it is a luxury to spend time putting myself first. When we get back to the hotel, we have a yoga session, again working through all the chakra centres.
'I often feel so panicked I feel
breathless. But, today, my breath is easier. My mood feels lighter — it
is a luxury to spend time putting myself first'
Finally, after a bowl of porridge and some green tea at 9am, I have my final treatment, a Kundalini back massage which, again, involves the therapist gently massaging down my spine.
Twenty-four hours after I first arrive, I have to check out. I have had a wonderful time and I feel so surprisingly relaxed, I want to chain myself to the bannisters and never leave.
As I begin my return train journey, I think about home. I feel all warm and toasty about my children. I feel relaxed. I don’t know how long this serenity will last but, in this moment, I do somehow feel resolutely positive. I don’t have a toxic thought in my head.
Eastern remedy: Lucy has a warm oil poured on her head by therapist Sarah as part of a massage to work on her 'chaktras'
Then a text message pings through from my ex — the type of text that would usually have me running for the hills. A familiar feeling of panic starts in the pit of my stomach.
Then, inadvertently, I find myself holding my ring finger and then tapping each finger, my chestbone and the top of my head. I say to myself: ‘I acknowledge the fact that I am going to be OK with all of this,’ I repeat.
I am sure the other passengers must think I am mad, but I don’t care. ‘I will cope,’ I continue.
Gradually, I realise the fear is ebbing away . I’m elated by the sense of calm I’ve briefly managed to restore.
Can this last I don’t know.
Perhaps it’s just the first small step to emotional recovery, but — maybe — there’s something in it, all this tapping and chanting.
A week on, and I find I still feel the same way. There is hope for me.
Ila-spa.com. For inquiries for Emotional Detox Spa Day (250) and Five-Day Emotional Detox Retreat being held on September 23 (from 1,480), visit chewtonglen.com