Clara’s Irish childhood in County Limerick with loving parents and a supportive Catholic upbringing may have seemed idyllic, but for years she was subjected to sexual abuse by two adults. Unable to tell anyone, she quashed her shame and fears. By 21, Clara had attempted suicide three times and had married a violent alcoholic who continued the pattern of abuse.
‘I felt worthless and thought my husband was the payback for the abuse I thought I’d caused before,’ she says. ‘To an outsider I looked normal, but my mind was in a straitjacket. I then developed endless obsessions and phobias. I would tear paper into pieces; felt too terrified to go outside; tried crash diets, but still couldn’t banish the pain.’
By the age of 26 Clara had three children, but her fears became increasingly debilitating. ‘I would come home and expect to find my children dead; drop them off at school thinking I’d never see them again; and was terrified that everyone was a per-vert who wanted to hurt me and my kids,’ she recalls. ‘I was so scared I couldn’t even go to my doctor.’
The crunch came when Clara’s neighbour was charged with sexually abusing children. ‘I was living next door to my worst nightmare so I knew I had to get help.’ Her GP was sympathetic and organised counseling. Previously, Clara hadn’t taken it up because her fear of people meant she couldn’t stand being alone with a therapist. This time, however, she completed six months and, for the first time, talked about her childhood. ‘It helped me get rid of some guilt and I gained a little control.’
Within months, though, Clara’s panic attacks returned so she sought solace in food bingeing. ‘My weight was a blanket protecting my body,’ she says. ‘I would have weighed 20 stone if my panic attacks didn’t make me vomit constantly.’ Her GP gave her drugs to curb her appetite but they only exacerbated the panics.
Out of desperation, Clara turned to hypnotherapy. However, after a year, she was still experiencing panic attacks and her weight escalated.
A Distant Memory of the First Healing
‘One day in July 1996, I spotted an advert for relaxation through Reiki and there was a picture of the practitioner, Gaetano. I thought he had a kind face and, amazingly, I trusted him. I booked a session without even knowing what Reiki was. I was alone with a man twice my size, but I didn’t feel scared.
‘I lay fully clothed on the couch and he explained that Reiki is a laying-on of hands. Before he started I could feel an energy,’ says Clara. ‘Even when his hands touched my breastbone I didn’t flinch. I felt a major heat from head to toe and a suction as he removed his hands from my body. I switched off totally during the hour session.’
Gaetano advised Clara to relax after the treatment. ‘After it, I felt really calm and went home to bed. I woke up at 6 o’clock the following evening and had been asleep for nearly 24 hours. It was as if a button had been pressed to wipe out my eating disorder,’ Clara recalls. ‘The next week, I didn’t think of eating. I drank lots of water but it was a fast with no effort or pain. I lost about nine pounds but felt no hunger pangs. At first I didn’t even realise that it was the Reiki.’
Clara felt she didn’t even need to go back for further sessions. ‘It took time to sink in that I’d been cured, that I no longer had any more worries about food and the obsessions that had taken over my life.
‘I thought my problems would return after a few weeks, but they didn’t. “Cured” is an understatement. There is no word to describe it.’
Helping other victims of abuse through healing treatments
At 45, Clara says she is in control of her life for the first time. She feels so transformed by her Reiki experience that she wants to devote her life to helping other victims of abuse through this healing treatment. She has completed the first two stages of Reiki practitioner training and each night she practices it on herself. ‘It’s like a prayer for me.’ she says.