Monthly Archives: April 2018

#YogaSavedMyLife – Fierce Calm Feature


Feature for Fierce Calm

For 22 of my (almost) 29 years I have had mental illness. Age 7 I developed anxiety and emetophobia (phobia of feeling/being sick and being around vomit/anyone who is ill). An unfortunate encounter with a sausage a few months later, which made me very sick, bedded the seed of the phobia.

In the years that followed, I was taken to doctors, psychologists and paediatricians. They all came to the same conclusion: I was attention seeking. There was nothing wrong with me. So I was left to suffer. But I was a little girl who wasn’t well. Looking back, my heart breaks for her.

Age 13 I had a full mental breakdown in school. That was when I first self-harmed to try to cause physical pain as a distraction from my mind and from the physical feelings of what was finally labelled anxiety. In addition I became agoraphobic (fear of being in a situation that is physically or socially awkward to escape) and suicidal depression and had two further breakdowns at 19 and 25.

I’ve tried all sorts of treatments: CBT, exposure, counselling, hypnotherapy, specialised programmes, medication. I found counselling and medication most helpful. I processed and talked out a lot of my experiences, feelings and thoughts on my blog, which is now a published book. Photography is a hobby I can take everywhere and proves a good distraction from my instinctive agoraphobic tendencies.

I came to yoga six years ago, age 22/23. I wanted to try to improve my body and mind through exercise. But most forms of exercise weren’t accessible or sustainable: I needed something easy on the joints – I was diagnosed with arthritis, lupus and fibromyalgia – and that I could do at home. I had a try at yoga on the Wii Fit. I enjoyed it and bought a couple of yoga DVDs, then started feeling confident enough to begin building my own practice. I joined Instagram in 2015 and my practice has continued to blossom since.

Yoga is beneficial in mental disorders it trains the mind as much as it does the body. It brings you into the present, you have to train your focus on what your body is feeding back to you or you’ll lose the pose! Recognising that connection was key. If I could quiet my mind for yoga, it stood to reason that I could manage my mind at other times, too.

In Loving Memory of Archie

Archie Ellison Humphreys – De Stefano
a.k.a. Chunky Butt / Creme Egg
23 January 2011 – 10 April 2018

Below are the last few photos with my baby Archie while the vet was out the room getting the euth injection ? Thank you to my husband for taking a few pictures for me. I didn’t think I wanted any more of him looking so poorly but something told me I needed to be able to see the love I had for him. And the trust and love he had for me. A pro could not have captured the moment any better. I couldn’t have done that day without you. And I couldn’t have had the strength to let go if it weren’t for being taught so much so well by my mum and the people I learned all the medical stuff from so I could be skilled enough to know and address the exact situation from beginning to end.

I’m devastated. My heart feels like it’s breaking into pieces. But I know without doubt it was the right thing for my boy. He was so very, very sick and even if we tried treating, he was so frail, his body was already starting the process of shutting down…what he had was always going to be too much for his tiny body. Dental overgrowth, tooth root abscess, tumour, arthritis, cataracts…all cascading through his body at once.

The hardest thing I have ever had to do was to hold him as he fought the injection. It couldn’t have hurt more if the injection had been given to me. But he passed with the sound of my voice and the constant touch of my hands. I can’t thank the vet enough for that. I had to be with him and him with me – it was non negotiable and I’m blessed we have a vet who understands the importance of this pet-owner relationship.

Archie is at peace. No more pain. No more struggling. I had to make the decision to let him go in order to prevent additional pain and suffering and stress. He had 7 years and 3 months of a bloody brilliant life, dearly loved by so many people, but none more so than me and mum. Not having him around will take some adjusting to. He was with me for such a long time through the biggest changes.

I was privileged to be his mum. ?



When we got home from the vets, I knew I had to get out. Away from home. I couldn’t be there…without Archie…I was not ready to just move on like nothing happened.

So when we got home, I let Wilbur say goodbye to Archie’s body – a ritual I do for every pig that has died who was living as one of a pair or larger grouping. Wilb had maybe 15 minutes with him before I took Archie out the cage, wrapped him up in a towel and popped him in the freezer.

This freaks out so many people. It used to freak me out. Still does if I think too much about it. Once I had about 7 pigs in my parents freezer as we were living rented and couldn’t bury or afford to cremate them. We did eventually get them home here, and they are buried in our garden now that we aren’t renting any more. So although a horrible thought, freezing is a necessary step if immediate burial or cremation isn’t possible. As our garden is half beautiful but very shallow lawn, and the deep area where burials take place is half bog/swamp, we can’t bury Archie yet. So he had to be placed in the freezer to preserve him until such a time we can then unwrap and commit him to the earth.

Once we had sorted Archie out I needed to get out. If nothing else it seemed daft to not make the most of a) the medication I’d taken earlier to get me to the vets without having a panic attack, and b) the sunshine that had appeared. We went to the local park and did some light training. I’m trying to build up my strength endurance so trying to hold a few long crows/Kakasana each day. I managed what is certainly my longest by far in about 3 years – 30 seconds – so I’m pretty content. It proved a good distraction for a short while, at least.

I’ll be honest. I do feel tired. But I also feel strong. In spite of the multiple deaths of the last 2 months, human and animal, I’ve held it together. I’ve done all that must be done. I feel more “grown up” this week than at any point in my life before now.

It doesn’t mean I don’t hurt, though. Because I do.

Underneath the yoga, the ambitions, the pushing on through life – I’m heartbroken.

Our thanks and gratitude for their advice, guidance and support go to:
Chris De Stefano
Tracey Humphreys
Church House Veterinary Clinic
The Cambridge Cavy Trust

And to Denise Tuffee for bringing Archie into this world and for allowing him to join my family. He was monumentally special and no words can express the love I had for him, and how thankful I am to you for letting him come to me.