Benjamin Fry writes about the personal torment that led to the birth of Khiron House (part two)

by Penny Boreham, Intake Manager

How I F***ed Up My Life...Benjamin Fry’s new book, How I F***Ed Up My Life And Made It Mean Something, is to be published this month. It is a searingly honest and deeply personal account of Benjamin’s nervous breakdown and his journey to find a treatment that could actually help him. It took him across the Atlantic Ocean and taught him that there was a new paradigm of treatment emerging that would start to make sense of his situation.

In fact, Khiron House only exists today because of the journey Benjamin made and the transforming treatments he ultimately found in the United States. Those treatments are now part of a whole new approach to healing mind and body, and they are the treatments that are now practiced here in the United Kingdom at Khiron House.

This is the second of three extracts from the book. Benjamin Fry has been persuaded that he needs to seek treatment in the USA, in Arizona. He begins the stabilisation stage of his treatment in a large rehab/hospital where things do not initially go well at all…

Treatment

Barely able to walk, I stumbled down to the nurses’ station and asked the astonishingly patient staff there if they would help me. Of course they did. One of them took me into a small consulting room and I just fell apart.

I cried so hard and for so long that I thought I would do myself an internal injury. I was completely saturated with the experience of being totally bereft. My entire soul seemed to shake with terror, loss and sadness. I was so wracked with grief that I actually fell off the chair and onto the floor. Even in this state I was aware enough to follow the ‘no touching without permission’ rule and asked the nurse if she would hold my hands. She was kind enough to do so, but clearly had absolutely no idea how to deal with me. After about fifteen to twenty minutes of this I think she got worried enough to call for back up. The head of the counselling team was wheeled in to see me. I was slightly recovering but still unmanageably distressed. I had never seen him before and assumed that he must be their top therapist, but my world rather dissolved around me when he started treating me with the same CBT method that had been employed at the Priory and from which I had scarpered. He asked me what the thought was that I had had just before I became so distressed. I understand that if I think to myself, “I’m never going to get another job,” I will distress myself, obviously, but this had been on a totally different scale. There had not been any thought, just a torrent of non-verbal, probably pre-verbal, distress. The idea that I could have done this to myself with some lazy thinking was ludicrous. I was totally shocked to realise that I was back in a therapeutic black hole, more aware of what I needed than were the people I was paying to treat me, and yet still a million miles away from being able to fix myself, or knowing who could do it for me.

Gradually I recovered over the next hour or so and they all went back to work. I had to go to a group session and somehow stumbled through the morning, but I could feel the same emotional tsunami building up again. It did not help that my group now included people who were there for their own rather strikingly difficult reasons, such as being on the way to jail for such things as stalking and photographing underage girls. Not quite the ideal environment for me, at that moment.

By lunch time I was melting down again. I went back to the nurses’ station and asked if I could sit in one of their rooms. I waited there and again fell apart, sobbing uncontrollably, slumped on the floor hugging a chair to try to keep upright. But this time nobody came. I thought this was odd, but they were often busy there with the high need patients like me. I managed to process some of my emotional overload on my own and felt somewhat better for it. That afternoon I had to sit in on another group member’s family session, which was our typical afternoon schedule. At least that would take the focus off me for a while. Things surely could not get any worse than our hard-core morning groups and it gave me a chance just to try to calm down. At some point during this session I began to feel a slight positive tug at my system, perhaps a dividend of the exhausting emotional overload of the morning. I thought maybe I might be starting to turn the corner. But my excitement was short lived.

At the end of the group I was asked to stay behind. The scary therapist was joined by her intern and the family therapist, a veteran of the treatment centre. Suddenly the mood in the room seemed quite different, like visiting the headmaster. I was able, briefly, to assert that I had had a terrible day but was beginning to feel a bit better, when I was assaulted by what I can only reflect upon in retrospect as a therapeutic intervention of utter madness. I was faced by the three of them with stern body language and expressions and then this rather business-like young lady bluntly accused me of being a histrionic baby, castigated me for my “performance” in the nurses’ station, admonished me for touching the nurse and holding onto her and was then told to grow up. They told me that the nurses had now been instructed not to help me anymore and that if I was to behave like this again I would be transferred out to a maximum security psychiatric hospital where I would be left on my own in a bed. I was also put on a ‘no touch’ and ‘no female contact’ contract, which meant that I couldn’t talk to any woman or touch anyone at all. This was written on my name tag which I wore around my neck. Some of my best friends in there by now were women, there being more of them in treatment than men, such as a lovely lady who offered to meditate with me daily and who I remember one day being kind enough to hug me when she found me frozen, weeping in the bookshop. Finally I was told to go and buy a book called, “Growing Myself Up” and invited to follow the instructions. I was totally flabbergasted.

My moment of feeling an inkling of recovery was blown to smithereens. I was assaulted by new anxieties in every direction. In a few minutes they had ripped away from me most of my friends and many of my other sources of security and comfort in recovery. Everything I had come to rely on to get through these few weeks was demolished. I had had to believe in these people, to trust that they knew something new which could get me well. This was obliterated. Their own treatment protocol had made me so unstable and now they were blaming me for being upset! I just couldn’t believe it. Obviously, though, they weren’t reacting to nothing. I was incredibly irritatingly babyish in many ways, or ‘wounded’ as they would have said. My whole demeanour was that of the beleaguered infant who was drowning in abuse and too small to fight back. I was needy, and desperate and probably very annoying. But I was also very ill. The problem with this treatment programme was that it was exclusively behavioural and therefore they took the view that they should reboot my behaviour without working first with what was making me so unwell. There is a time and a place for both in treatment and unfortunately, in this case, they got their judgement on this very wrong. I was left to pick up the pieces alone.

In the next extract from Benjamin Fry’s new book, How I F***Ed Up My Life And Made It Mean Something, we will witness him finally experiencing the treatments that would help him and lead to the birth of Khiron House.

Benjamin’s new book tells the story of his nervous breakdown, treatment and recovery. It is the full story hinted at in various articles that he has published over the last few years.

You can read the articles and excerpts from the book on our blog.

Buy the book from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk or download it to your Kindle.

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13 Comments

  1. Comment by Fi on

    Cannot wait for the book, and I love the title!
    Part of any good therapy is: ” telling it as it is” or calling a spade a spade,brilliant and gutsy title!!

  2. Comment by Bianca on

    I am so sorry that you have to go through this,, but sadly , it ecos my experience in London hospital and The Priory nonsense CBT they wanted to manipulate my feelings with this nonsense.

    I have lived similar abusive experience, and worse, physically abused by staff , excessive force on me for complaining that I was not being believed.

    These practices are called institutional abusive and psychological practices which is a negligent treatment and abuse and manipulation of feelings of a vulnerable patient, of blaming the patient for the failures and the institutional abusive practices of the services, which fall bellow reasonable standards and in breach of human rights .

    The staff basically have not clue how to guide a patient through emotional pain and blame the patient for their emotional pain, and threats the patient with detention if they continue to complaint about no one being able to understand, because of their incompetence and poor training like in the UK, hardly any staff is train in Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults from abuse in hospitals or the community, this statutory regulations tells the staff the type of behaviour that constitute to institutional abuse to a vulnerable patient, and they are not trained, beggars belief!

    It is hell!

  3. Comment by Jo on

    I just read this and thought it was about Khiron House, glad its not! Sounds like a barbaric& dangerous place for someone with trauma.

    1. Reply by Benjamin Fry on

      Well, actually it was one of the top American institutions which at the time prided themselves on ‘treating trauma’… The good news is that they have absorbed some of this work in the meantime and that in general the message seems to be slowly dripping through. Change is slow, but we can help to make it certain.

  4. Comment by Lucy Newman on

    I am reading your extracts and finding them so interesting. I will certainly be getting myself a copy of the book when publisjed. Thank you for allowing me to understand this problem. Regards Lucy

    1. Reply by Benjamin Fry on

      Thank you!

  5. Comment by ana kolpy on

    Having read the above extract and been reminded of my own outflowing of overwhelming prolonged trauma pain I just want to say THANKYOU to Benjamin.

    Also I so agree with Ros’s comment that when there is such a tsunami of emotion time space and being held and loved is exactly what we need but usually don’t get.

    Fortunately sometimes we meet Angels that see our true need and are there for us letting us fall apart safely for the first time, not suffering such overwhelming pain alone. Through their trusting and expressing of Divine Love they invite us to enter that place of Loving Kindness so we may return reborn into who we truly are. Somehow ready to take another step on a journey of healing and realising the Beauty of Life and even something of our own potential.

    I have a question about whether or not Khiron House provides for people that sort of space? And if so is there a way for people with almost no money to be funded?

    1. Reply by Benjamin Fry on

      Thank you. Khiron House is set up to be as safe a space as possible, in which transformations of many kinds are possible. We focus on what we can do, clinically, but also allow that there are other ways in which people heal and we wish to help them access all parts of that.

      The NHS has funded some places at Khiron House, but this has always come from the doctors recommendation, and not yet from a patient asking for it, but there is always hope. Once enough people ask there may be a shift in funding.

  6. Comment by Janette on

    I think you’re very brave to publish a book with this much personal feelings in it. I often wonder when people work in a field that had caused them pain in that past whether their work keeps them trapped in the bubble of pain or in that memory. I’d personally run a mile in the opposite direction.

  7. Comment by ros on

    I think this is why so many people hold back. They are aware of the emotional tsunami inside and feel that there is no place to “take it”. Where would they be “allowed” to fall apart ? Obviously a one hour session with a thearapist cannot deal with this – which may be a breakdown lasting several hours or days, on and off. Sometimes, what people most want is just to totally “fall apart” and to be held emotionally and probably physically and gently soothed . Some people are lucky enough to find extraordinary friends or partners who give them this space and support. ( I do know of at least one !). But – in the meantime – where can all the others go ?

  8. Comment by susanne on

    This kind of treatment is surely ongoing as i type. It will enrage anyone reading Ben’s excerpt but actually it’s just pure ignorance in the truest sense of the word. Thank goodness for the trauma therapies that have broken through in the past few short years. Particularly thank you to Peter Levine and others who have pointed the way.

    1. Reply by Benjamin Fry on

      Thank you!

  9. Comment by fi on

    positively barbaric treatment and sooo very incompetent, poor Ben

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