Read about how Surviving Me can help people cope with life-changing diagnoses.
Surviving Me is just the most amazing support for someone in the situation I have found myself in since being diagnosed with breast cancer. Thank you, Helen, for all your support and for the wonderful techniques and coping strategies you have taught me along the way. Without them, and the CDs, which I have used constantly, I wouldn’t have been able to relax and sleep, and cope with everything I had to face. It has made everything so much easier and allowed me to focus on living each day.
Witnessing the journeys of close friends and clients with life threatening illnesses, and seeing a lack of available emotional and psychological support, prompted Helen to write Surviving Me. This book is different to other books I have read. It doesn’t give solutions but helps you to find the courage and resolve to take control of your own healing and wellbeing. It gives the reader a toolkit and explores how to enhance their own natural coping strategies. I know from experience that anxiety, fear and worry can be so overwhelming at times and that it is very easy to lose belief and connection with oneself. It is a book of reflection, acceptance and hope for anybody going through a life changing situation.
When I was working through the exercises in Surviving Me, part of my life resonated with ‘What Have I Been?’. I was looking back through my life at other times when I have had to cope with trauma and how I got through. I could see that I have gotten through things before so I knew I could do it again. I knew I could cope with a day at a time. That was the challenge I set for myself, just living a day at a time and treating it as if it might be my last.
This challenge made me look for possibilities for living my life afresh. I had learnt to trust my intuition and I felt I could cope. ‘Just today’ became my mantra. If I were to know that today was to be my last day, how would I be in every encounter I had that day? Just little things, creating positive habits, being kind, giving the passer-by in the street an extra smile. I haven’t been able to do it every day, but most days I have managed it. I listen to the sleep relaxation CD all the time at night. I don’t even try to go to sleep without it at night. It helps with my anxiety so I don’t have the worry of not being able to sleep the next night. All the CDs are amazing and are part of my toolkit for survival, my safe place in the storm.
Helen, and Surviving Me have been my safe place in my storm. From all my heart I would wish that this book will provide others in need with their own safe place, and the encouragement to create their survival kit for their storm. It is fantastic!! A jewel of support!!
God Bless You. With Love and Ease.
After my late wife, Rachel, was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer in 2012, not only did she have to deal with grieving for the life she once knew, she also faced the daily challenge of how to accept and cope with her new life. Surviving Me was inspired by Rachel’s journey (and many others) and is testament to Helen’s natural ability to care for others and a generous gift to those living with a life-changing diagnosis.
I started using Helen’s CDs when I was living in Mauritius two years ago. I was struggling with stress and anxiety as my condition was progressing. I was undiagnosed at the time but the fear hanging over me was that of Motor Neurone Disease. I was terrified and unable to function. The CDs helped me so much – when I was trying to relax and sleep, and when I had to undergo intense and frightening nerve conduction tests when I was at my lowest. I loved the visualization CD particularly and the sleep CD was amazing. I love Helen’s voice – it is so calming and soothing.
When you are suffering with a disease like MND, it is difficult to keep a hold of who you are. The days get taken over with appointments – consultants, GPs, physios, occupational health, speech therapy… to name a few. Everything I do takes so much longer, and now I can do very little for myself. I live my life as a hostage to MND. I don’t have time to keep up with my own life and myself. The requirements of this disease take up so much time. Eating a meal takes an hour. I am almost hungry again by the time I finish. Getting up and dressed takes forever… I never eat breakfast before midday.
Surviving Me has helped me to make time in my day for ‘me time’. The diary has helped me to prioritise and the CDs allow me invaluable stress-free ‘me time’. I especially love the visualisation track, which has helped me through many a dark time. The book’s structure helps me to keep focused day to day, and to make the most of the small amounts of time that I have to myself.
Surviving Me has helped me to tell my story. I have really enjoyed this part of my journey with the disease and gained comfort from it. It has kept me in touch with myself, allowing me the indulgence of talking about the way I think and feel and to record my time with MND. The thought of leaving my kids whilst they are so young is terrifying, and it is important that I leave a legacy behind for them. It is important for me that in years to come they have something to look at and my story to remind them of this journey I am making. I want to share the detail of what it has been like for me as it is part of who I have become, and I need to let them know how much they mean to me.
With Helen’s help, we have documented my story and the first part appears at www.survivingme.org. Yesterday we set up a Twitter account for my new blog – Not Deaf Dumb or Stupid – which will allow me to carry on the story on my own each day. It has really surprised me that so many people are inspired by my story and want to read it! Without Helen and the support of Surviving Me, I would be in a completely different place right now. Our journey together has given me the invaluable gift of being able to laugh at myself and my disease.
I feel sad that as I was coming to terms with my diagnosis, I hid away from the outside world and feel that in so doing, have missed the last year of my daughter’s life at primary school. I don’t intend to hide away any longer!
Forensic scientist, BSc, CChem, CSci, MRSC
Although I am not living with a life-changing diagnosis, I feel the guide will help me in my therapy work with clients. It contains lots of useful information, coping strategies and some very helpful relaxation exercises.
Tina Croke, counsellor and member of the Family Support and Counselling team at St Luke’s Hospice (Cheshire)
Everyone who has seen Surviving Me has been bowled over by its content. It is the most incredible, thoughtful and edifying resource for anyone who is struggling with a life-limiting illness.
Amanda Mackenzie OBE
Chief executive of Business in the Community, the Prince’s Responsible Business Network
With an intriguing title like ‘Surviving Me’, this workbook and diary draws you in. The tone and aim are clearly set in the introduction: “In the midst of your fears, using this book as a guide will help remind you who you are and prevent your condition from taking over.” The content of the book demonstrates that the authors have listened very carefully to people who are living with life-changing illnesses. Ranson compassionately acknowledges how illness may alter people’s total experience of their self, however they also put their trust fair and square in human resilience and creativity. In doing so this becomes a workbook relevant to people at all stages of their illness: from the early stages of feeling overwhelmed to later stages that may lead to growth and self-actualisation.
This is a generous book. It offers clear guidelines, resources and advice for when patients feel lost, but with a range of open questions it never ceases to invite people to tap into their creativity. It engages the strengths from the past, the priorities of the present and makes the future an open plan with freedom to be oneself and power to be courageous. The book includes an audio relaxation toolkit and encourages reflection and reflective writing. It is a book that will suit both the ‘doers’ and the ‘thinkers’.
Surviving Me puts the self at the core of life whilst acknowledging the crucial role of people’s relationships for their wellbeing. At regular intervals, the exercises are opened to include people’s friends and relatives. On the last page, people are invited to help others by sharing their story on the website www.survingme.org/shareyourstory. This is a touching attention to a beautiful side of humanity: our desire and need to be something for somebody else, to give back or to give afresh.
The cover of the book is made of plastic. The implicit message is that this is a workbook – a book you use at your kitchen table, in the middle of your everyday life. But with its uplifting colour range and entertaining formatting and graphics, it also invites to turn it into something beautiful. … This book will offer you a solid and aesthetically pleasing framework to create a personal treasure, a testimony of the richness of yourself that sees you through at the toughest of times.
Counsellor and researcher in cancer survivorship, St. Luke’s Hospice (Cheshire)
I thought the workbook was very insightful and will be of great value to those who have received a life-changing diagnosis. I am sure that such news can be overwhelming and it was heart-warming to understand how, with the aid of the tips in Surviving Me, it is possible to both redefine yourself after trauma and deal with it on your own terms in your own time.
I thought the ‘folder’ style of the book allows you to easily add your own supportive contributions and notes and the plentiful supply of ‘diary’ pages make planning your future, ’one-step-at-a-time’, very straightforward.
The different media approaches used should allow people to access the material as they wish in whatever form most suits them and help them deal with any anxieties, stay in control of their own lives and develop stress coping strategies, while still allowing time for calm reflection.
Plainly one of the key strategies here is to give the reader hope that regardless of the type of diagnosis, the support they require will be there when they need it and although the lifestyle changes they face may be significant they will be able to overcome them and go on to live fulfilling lives. The book fully achieves that aim and I am sure will help individuals, and their families, focus on taking each day as it comes and living it to the full.
Baroness Sally Greengross
I have been considering how I might feel to be given the diagnosis that I have a life-changing illness. I know from the traumatic events I have experienced in my life that I would probably be paralysed by fear, anxiety and desperation, a sense that life was slipping out of my control. What would I need to help me reduce my anxiety? I would need a plan to help me take control, encouragement to understand and be aware of my natural resources and help to reduce stress when I felt overwhelmed and uncertain. Helen has provided, in the workbook, the tools to reduce stress, work towards greater self-awareness, acceptance and a plan to take control and as much as possible live life to the full. The other thing I know I would feel is a sense of isolation.
The stories on the website help to reduce this sense of isolation and give the opportunity to share the experience. I feel Helen’s workbook and website can support people to find a balance between the fear of dying and the wonder of life.
Counsellor and supervisor (retired)
At Aviva Health, we’re delighted to support the launch of Surviving Me. For individuals facing a life changing diagnosis it can be an incredibly difficult time, and while medical and practical considerations are well catered for by the NHS and private health insurers, there is often a gaping void in terms of emotional and psychological support.
Chief medical officer, Aviva
Surviving Me by Helen Ranson offers comprehensive support for those recently diagnosed with a life-changing illness. By taking stock of life so far and identifying what matters to you now, it enables you to manage your life in a way that’s in line with your most important priorities. It leads you through a process of reviewing your past, reflecting on your current situation and planning your future life based on your own personal values and priorities. The resource contains a wealth of useful information, space to record all that’s important to you and audio support to manage your anxiety and create a rested, resourceful and resilient outlook. Highly recommended for those wishing to live life to the full whilst managing the challenges of life-changing illness.
Author of Moments of Meaning: Living Life Whilst Facing Death and facilitator helping create Compassionate Communities in Cheshire
The Surviving Me workbook is a treasure-trove of positive and useful strategies to employ when facing a life-changing diagnosis. When all is confusion, here is a way of finding solid ground and helping you get clear about what’s important in your life in a very practical and self-reflective way. I particularly liked the structured exercises with helpful suggestions and prompts. The reflections involved in the ‘writing my story’ section help you to find your true self again when you may feel you are just your ‘diagnosis’.
I would love to be able to use this with my clients in my hospice therapy work – there is so much rich potential in it. Helen has done a wonderful job in creating this innovative and excellent workbook, which has the potential to help so many people. I highly recommend it.
Mindfulness and self-compassion teacher and hospice counsellor
A life-changing diagnosis can turn life upside down in a moment, so what can you do to start to re-balance this and begin to find ways of moving forward?
‘Surviving Me’ is a resource developed by Helen Ranson, a former anxiety specialist and trauma counsellor, who has brought her skills, knowledge and experience together with real compassion, to create this step-by-step guide that can help you with that journey. Easier said, but harder to do, this can be the starting point to not only exploring what is important to you, but opening up new possibilities. This guide provides an informal, yet structured way to do this, through a series of activities and exercises to help you to get to where you want to be. It’s like having a personal coach to take you through the process. How you do it will reflect your uniqueness but it’s broken down into progressive sections which come together to help you contemplate your wishes, goals and future plans. As well as helping you to uncover your own ways of coping, the guide also provides a CD with four different techniques to boost these, such as EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), visualization and meditation. They are easy to follow and soothing to listen to, and give an opportunity to test them out in comfort and safety.
However, you don’t have to wait for challenges to appear in life. This guide can be used by anyone who is contemplating their life’s meaning. Do it now to help you live your life to the fullest.
Specialist Advisor & Project Coordinator EOLP
I find Helen’s ‘Sleep relaxation’ CD so relaxing. It helps me to rest and go to sleep. Also, it enables me to get back to sleep when I wake during the night. The voice is so soothing and calming and makes me feel so comfortable.
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