It’s always been in my nature to help people.
I don’t say that to boast. I say it because to understand that is the first step towards understanding me, as well as the business I have been developing for, well, pretty much my whole life.
You see, it can be difficult to explain what I do without explaining who I am. So here is my story, a story of trauma and of hope, of a tireless pursuit of knowledge, and a vision of creating a happier and healthier life for both myself, and my clients.
I was an observant child. Observant beyond what was expected of someone my age. My obsession with searching for the truth about people, and keen ability to empathise with them, is something I consider a gift, but it was born as a means of survival.
My parent’s relationship was a toxic one. My birth father was an aggressive man, and the only way my mother could deal with his wrath was by being strategic in her interactions with him. Naturally, I feared getting into trouble too, but as a child who couldn’t fully grasp the root of his anger, my only option was to emulate her. In the process, I began to recognise subtle warning signs that told me how to expect him to act. I got good at spotting them. Better than any child should ever have to be.
But as these circumstances taught me to identify the worst in people, it also helped me identify what made them good. What made them unique. What made them brilliant. I learnt to identify the strengths and weaknesses of my peers, their passions and their uncertainty. You might imagine that led to people treating me like an outsider, like the weird kid best avoided.
You’d be right.
The intense curiosity I showed for people made them uncomfortable. When I pointed out things I gleamed about them – often, things that they didn’t like or acknowledge about themselves – it made it even worse.
My fascination hit its peak in the seventh grade. At the time, we had a wonderful teacher who, unfortunately, got sick and had to leave her job mid-term.
Over the following fortnight, my class went through 15 substitute teachers, none of whom lasted more than a day due to the spiteful, calculated antics only children can employ so insidiously.
Then in came substitute #16, and from the moment she entered the room, she had our undivided attention and respect.
How? Why? I couldn’t understand. I tried to ask my classmates, but they just gave me the same tired look I always received when asking such peculiar questions, or offered empty responses like “she’s nice”.
That was the first time I experienced so-called the X Factor – that enigmatic element of the human spirit that seems to allow people to excel effortlessly.
Even when I entered high school, and stowed away my curiosity as part of a stereotypically teenage need to conform, I kept that teacher in mind, and the impact she had. I wanted to know what allowed her to succeed where others had failed. Most of all, I wanted to be like her.
Not as a teacher though. I wanted to be a doctor. I’d become obsessed with the medical field when I was 11, and asked for a local instead of general anesthetic so that I could stay awake and observe an operation on my toe. The surgeon wasn’t exactly keen, but I wasn’t taking no for an answer.
That’s about the time I decided I wanted to be a doctor, but life had other plans for me.
One day, I felt on top of the world. I had a great group of friends, and had just been offered an apprenticeship at a horse riding school.
The next…I remember stepping into the classroom and seeing the girl I’d considered my best friend look at me in disgust. The others around her – all of them, 24 hours ago, good friends – shot me the same look.
Turned out the guy she liked was more into me than her.
Suddenly, I was the outsider again. But I didn’t want to let school drama distract me from my dreams. So I left school, and pursued the apprenticeship.
In hindsight, it might have been a choice made too quickly, but for some time it felt like it was the right one. After being qualified internationally as an equestrian coach, I started my own riding school. Hundreds of students came through the gates to learn the art of riding on one of my 30 horses.
But as the years went on, though I became rich, and successful, one thing managed to elude me: happiness. More than that, I was depressed, and I couldn’t understand why.
At the age of 21, I made the decision to spend the next year something that would give meaning to my life. I didn’t know what it would be, or what it looked like. But I swore that if I didn’t find it in a year, I would kill myself.
So began a process of extreme experimentation and education. I studied the Alexander Technique, then massage, fitness, energy healing, naturopathy and more in search of a solution to my pain.
I suppose, in a way, I was trying to reconnect with the part of myself that had wanted to be a doctor. Paradoxically, the journey would close the door on that for good.
I was in naturopathy class when my teacher saw me rubbing hydrocortisone cream on my psoriasis. I’d been using it for six years under the instruction of my doctor, but it seemed like the condition had only worsened.
“Don’t you know that will only make it worse?” the teacher asked.
Initially, I didn’t listen. I trusted doctors. I respected them entirely. But then I did some research on the ingredients, and realised my teacher was right!
I confronted my doctor. Why was he treating my condition with something that was only making it worse?
“It’s just what we always prescribe.”
Just? Did my condition mean so little that he never stopped to consider other ways of helping me?
I was angry. I was confused. I went on a 10-day Buddhist ‘quiet retreat’ to clear my mind and ponder on the future.
Six days later, my psoriasis was no more.
The moment I saw that it was gone, everything changed. In an instant, I realised that everything I had studied, just like the traditional medicine I had once revered, had elements that worked and elements that didn’t. So what if, instead of committing myself to one particular discipline at any given time, I made use solely of the elements that were effective? I could break from the limits of convention to create something better.
I closed the riding school, and broadened my study into tantra, shamanic healing, psychosomatic therapy, beauty therapy, food as medicine, and a whole range of physical and spiritual concepts. I didn’t care how crazy some of them were (and some of them were truly crazy); it was important to keep an open mind.
My family laughed. They thought it was ridiculous, and told me to get a real job. But I knew that what I was doing was right, and going to make a profound difference, so I persevered.
My business formed from the process organically. If I was hired to perform a massage for someone, I would include an element of energy healing to heighten the effect. If a client wanted advice from a counsellor, I’d also suggest a form of exercise.
I consistently got results, and so my clients were eager to direct friends and family to me to ensure they got the help they needed as well.
Most are professional people who don’t have the time to explore a range of treatments for their ailments. By coming to me, I can get to the source of their issues quickly, and so long as they are open to trying unconventional means, soon find a process through which to ease their stress and maintain their health.
There is no one miracle pill. No one solution. If we don’t acknowledge that, we only make the problem worse – as I did with my psoriasis. As I like to say, “put your head in the sand, and you’re liable to get your butt kicked”.
I am passionate about helping clients focus their minds and move away from what is hurting them. It takes courage. It takes a willingness to learn and explore.
After a life spent avoiding challenge in many forms, my mother was diagnosed with cancer some years ago. While going through treatment, I’m proud to say that she turned to me to find other ways to help her find ways to defeat her illness.
One day, we were sitting together and she said “you know, the things I used to joke about you doing with your life are the very things that are now saving mine”.
If she could find it within herself to open up and look beyond tradition for treatment that works, I think anyone can. If you’re reading this, and you think you’re ready to do the same, reach out. I’m here to help.
Dee can be contacted via e-mail at dee(at)deeshelton.com
*Following the passing of Dee’s mother on January 23rd, 2018, she has started work on a new book, entitled Legacy of Love.*