SEVEN years ago, in preparation for my move from the UK to Spain, I so drastically pared down my worldly belongings that, by the end of the exercise, what was left fitted neatly into seven large cardboard boxes.
Thus I began my new life on the Costa Blanca with just my favourite cooking utensils, my iMac, some clothes and a lucrative publishing contract with a British company that had agreed to my relocation because everything I did was Internet based.
Blue skies and warm weather for most of year, plus financial stability and friendships made in Benidorm during previous holidays to the resort, would, I imagined, ensure a life of pure bliss.
Then something went drastically wrong around three years ago. The first warning signs occurred when I suddenly developed chronic depression and a fear of flying. This was followed by a series of crippling panic attacks every time I left my apartment, and, after collapsing in the street one evening, I virtually became a recluse, venturing out only to buy provisions.
The agoraphobia had a devastating effect on my work as my contract required me to travel four times a year to London to meet with the company chiefs and discuss future plans.
This became such an ordeal that, after excusing myself from several meetings, I was compelled to explain my predicament. Company board members were sympathetic but made clear that it was in my own interests as well as theirs to get myself sorted out.
That’s when I splashed out more than £400 on a device that sends electronic pulses to the brain, and is meant to cure post-traumatic stress disorder, which I believed I was suffering.
This from The National Institute of Mental Health: “Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event. Some experiences, like the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one, can also cause PTSD. Symptoms usually begin early, within three months of the traumatic incident, but sometimes they begin years afterward.
“Symptoms may last more than a month and be severe enough to interfere with relationships or work … The course of the illness varies. Some people recover within six months, while others have symptoms that last much longer. In some people, the condition becomes chronic.”
The device helped somewhat but not enough to cure me, and I reluctantly concluded that I would need to consult a psychotherapist. I say reluctantly because I have never been one for discussing my problems with others, always choosing to bottle my emotions.
So I sought help from Stephen Ashley, a therapist who holds weekly consultations in Alfazdel Pi and other places too, and quickly came to realise that, while I had settled in Spain with a minimum of physical possessions, I had brought with me a ton of crippling emotional baggage.
My first meeting with Stephen took place on September 28, 2016, and by the end of the year I was able, without a trace of anxiety, to board a flight to the UK.
I had several more sessions with him, and by March of this year I felt liberated enough to cease treatment. It was with a sadness, though, that I bid Stephen farewell because I went from dreading our encounters – some of which were extremely taxing – to actively looking forward to them.
Regular readers will know that my columns are normally lighthearted observations of life in Spain, but I felt compelled to write this one in the hope that it may help folk who are suffering problems similar to those that turned my life into a living hell.
I’ll leave you with the opening lines of Paul Simons “50 Way to Leave Your Lover”: “The problem is all inside your head she said to me/The answer is easy if you take it logically …
Or, to put it another way, it’s good to talk.