"We set sail for an adventure of a lifetime. Little did we know what was to happen..."
A WOMAN who lost everything in boating accident is ready to return to the seas after undertaking pioneering therapy.
Debs Mitchell, 54, from Hullbridge, and her partner Mark Morrow, 58, had been living on their boat for seven months preparing for trip to Gibraltar and then across the Atlantic to the Caribbean then it all went wrong. Debs explains what happened:
"It was going to be the adventure of a lifetime.
"The boat was our home and we’d been living on it, moored in Essex, for seven months while Mark was doing it up after his last trip. He’s a carpenter by trade and has sailed for years, including around the Med. I’ve done various jobs, and this would have been my first proper sailing trip.
"All in all, we’d been saving and preparing for a year-and-a-half, and the plan was to go to Gibraltar and then to cross the Atlantic to the Caribbean. The standing joke was if we made it there, Mark would have to marry me! Then, if we had enough money, we’d sail around the world.
"People talk about doing this and that, and we had the possibility of actually doing something different. We should have gone last year, but then Covid happened. Life is too short and this was us getting out there and doing something. My motto was ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ But after everything we went through, I’m thinking of changing that now…
"We set off from Essex in July and pootled around the coast, stopping at the Isle of Wight, and Salcombe in Devon, where we spent a few days. On August 7th, we were ready to set off on our adventure. We got up, checked the weather and everything was fine. There was nothing to suggest we shouldn’t have gone.
"But there was an unexpected squall – massive waves, strong winds, and something happened and the engine lost all power. Then nature took over. We had sails up and anchors down – we tried everything we could. But the force of the storm was too much and we got swept into the rocks near Salcombe.
"The boat was being smashed to pieces. I’d called the coastguard when we lost the engine, and some people walking on the cliffs had spotted us and done the same. I thought it was game over. We were in the cockpit and the boat was full of water. Then one of the waves knocked me off my feet and I went down into the boat; into the water. Luckily, Mark was able to pull me out. I was terrified. Then we were hanging on to the ship’s wheel, waiting to be rescued.
"The coastguard, lifeboat and rescue helicopter all came and we were winched off the boat to safety and taken to hospital. We were both badly bruised and after being checked over, we were released.
"But the boat was gone. We’d lost our home and everything we needed in our day-to-day lives was on it.
"Then, a few days later when we were back in Essex and staying with family, I asked Mark to take me to the hospital. I’d been feeling more and more unwell and had an abnormal heartbeat. I was admitted and it turned out that I’d had a tiny heart attack. I was monitored and discharged a couple of days later, but after the accident I couldn’t bear to get into water.
"I loved swimming before all this happened, but I couldn’t even get in the shower. And I wasn’t sleeping at all. Every time I closed my eyes, I was drowning, going down the slipway into the water.
"I was in the corner shop and I bumped into Brad Mace. I knew him socially and that he is a therapist. He asked how I was and I told him what had happened and that I wasn’t sleeping, so we arranged for me to see him the next day to try brainworking recursive therapy (BWRT).
"I’d never heard of BWRT but that one session changed everything.
"It basically made me rethink what had happened and completely changed the response to the memory and the feeling of the event that I was stuck with, so now I just feel calm.
"It worked in one session. I was too scared to shut my eyes before, but afterwards I slept like a baby. I’m still having a few bad dreams, but now I’m sleeping again.
"BWRT is amazing and Brad was brilliant. I had a follow-up session but I’ve been signed off now and I know it’s there if ever I need to go back.
"I’m fine in water again – and I’ve started swimming again too. I began the other day in a friend’s pool and next I’m going to start at the public baths.
"And we’re buying another boat and going ahead with our trip. We’re both going to find some work, do the saving and preparation, and go for it. This was just a hiccup and life’s too short."
Brad Mace, BWRT therapist from Positively Calm says: “When I bumped into Debs I could tell straightaway that she was suffering and luckily I had a space in my diary the next afternoon. She couldn’t carry on in a state of anxiety and not sleeping.
“During that one session we were able to bring her overwhelming negative feelings toward the memory down from a 10/10 to a virtually 0.
“Debs has done fantastically well. BWRT never ceases to amaze me.”
How does BWRT work?
The therapy works on the ‘hind brain’, the part of the brain that controls the ‘fight or flight’ response we experience when exposed to danger.
Sometimes referred to as the ‘reptilian brain’, the hind brain controls systems that don’t require conscious thought such as breathing, perspiration, heart rate and liver and kidney function as well as the hormone system.
If it recognises a pattern that triggers anxiety, it automatically prompts the release of hormones such as adrenaline when the trigger is encountered.
BWRT therapists work with clients to create an artificial freeze response — literally visualising the traumatic memory or source of anxiety in a freeze frame and then stop their responses to it in its tracks, by repeating the freezing action. They are then invited to replace their past response with a different positive emotion.
Because it works directly at the core of the problem, BWRT resolves issues within days rather than weeks or months.