Crisis What Crisis?

Lessons for when life unravels

In Crisis What Crisis? Andy Coulson, former newspaper editor, Downing Street Communications Director and inmate of HMP Belmarsh, talks to embattled, shamed, courageous, ruined, resilient, unlucky (and lucky) survivors of

Chris Lewis on incarceration, cricket and the long walk back

Season 1, Ep. 7
Chris Lewis is the England cricketer who when his fortunes faded turned to drug smuggling. On 8 December 2008 Chris was caught with 3.5 kilos of liquid cocaine hidden in fruit tins as he arrived from St Lucia, convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison. A shocking fall from grace for a man who arrived in the UK from Guyana as a 10-year-old and who achieved his dream playing for England in 30 Test Matches. In this episode Chris talks with a straight bat and without self-pity about his self-inflicted crisis and his journey back to freedom and repentance. This is the first time that Chris and Andy have talked since they last met in prison six years ago. Chris' Crisis Cures: 1. Find nature: “Whether it’s going into the park or down to the river I love taking walks. Getting out distracts you from your problems. And distraction often helps me find solutions.” 2. A Course In Miracles by Helen Schucman: “A long read but all about taking control, understanding that you are responsible for what happens in your life, not other people.” 3. Meditation: “I started in prison and try to meditate whenever I can. It’s about finding that place to off load and start again with a fresh mind.” Links: Chris Lewis – Crazy, My Road To Redemption: Episode Notes: Chris Lewis was coming towards the end of his six-a-half-years in jail when we met at HMP Hollesley Bay in 2014. We shared a few chats during our time there, but never did he talk with such depth and detail as he does in this podcast.There is no doubt that Chris is a changed man. Chastened by his spectacular mistake and devoid of self-pity. “I blame no-one but myself,” he says repeatedly. In preparing for our conversation I found a YouTube clip of Chris being interviewed at the Oval. He had just joined the Surrey Twenty20 team – at the age of 40. Calm, assured and charming – this was a man who had been given a final chance at glory. But Chris was injured almost immediately and just nine months later was arrested at Gatwick. How Chris calmly explains the chain of events that led to such a catastrophic decision was a compelling feature of our conversation. But more interesting was the journey of self-awareness that Chris has been on since that moment. He now talks to young cricketers about the dangers that lie ahead when sporting success fades. A story of redemption but also a cautionary tale of epic proportions. Stream/Buy 'Allies' by Some Velvet Morning: Some Velvet Morning

Victoria Milligan on tragedy, survival and human spirit

Season 1, Ep. 6
Victoria Milligan’s life changed forever on May 5th 2013 when a boat trip in Cornwall with her husband Nicko and children, Amber, Olivia, Emily and Kit, then aged four ended in horror. Thrown into the water at high speed, their boat circled back on them, killing Nicko and Emily. Victoria lost her leg and Kit was seriously injured. “In a moment,” she says “I went from a perfect life to becoming a widow, a bereaved parent, a single parent and an amputee.”In this episode Victoria, who is now training to be grief therapist herself, explains how she coped with a multi-layered trauma, and ensured that she and her children not only survived but thrived carrying the memory of Nicko and Emily with them into a new life. A true testimony to the power of human spirit. Victoria’s Crisis Cures: 1. Small achievable goals. Don’t plan too far ahead. That has massively helped me and still does every day. 2. Find your mantras. Mine is: “We are good enough”. I try and start every day by saying that to myself, however I feel. Don’t wake up and tell yourself you should have got more sleep, or I shouldn’t have drunk so much. And I start the day positively through exercise. That works for me. 3. Self-care is key. We are all natural care givers but we have to make sure we put enough time in for joy and happiness. If we’re not in a good place emotionally and physically we’re not in the right place to look after others. Being a little bit selfish is not a bad thing. Links: Victoria’s website: Child Bereavement UK: Cornwall Air Ambulance: Julia Samuel: Episode Notes: We’ve talked a lot already about self-pity in this podcast. But no-one would blame Victoria Milligan, even now seven years after the accident, if the first words she uttered were ‘Why me?’But it was clear, in the first five minutes of our conversation, that they are not in her vocabulary. The total lack of self-pity was, for me, one of the defining features of this podcast. The strategies she deployed to make sense of the senseless, as she puts it, were another. Dealing with just one of Victoria’s tragedies would be devastating. Tackling them all is unimaginable. But it’s through recognising them all as separate individual challenges that have to be broken down and dealt with using different tools and emotions that has enabled Victoria to cope. Taking one day at a time, how being kind to yourself will allow you to take care of others and the fundamental importance of finding the right way to manage your pain. That there is no manual for grief. Victoria rejected therapy when it was first offered. “All I wanted was Nicko and Emily back and no therapist could do that, so what use would they be?” she says. But overtime she came to understand the enormous value of grief counselling to help her through the loss of her child and her husband and to come to terms with her injuries. That she now wants to put all that she has learned to positive use as a therapist and writer herself - to find a positive from her tragedy – speaks volumes. A heart-breaking story told by an inspirational woman. Stream/Buy 'Allies' by Some Velvet Morning: Some Velvet Morning

Johnny Mercer on mental illness, grief and grit

Season 1, Ep. 5
Johnny Mercer, government minister and former Commando, talks with brutal honesty about his childhood battles with mental illness, including severe OCD. And, with astonishing frankness, he describes his brutal and heart-breaking experiences in Afghanistan where he was witness to countless horrors, not least the death of his close friend Mark Chandler. An emotional, powerful – and for those looking for crisis lessons – useful episode. Johnny’s Crisis Cures: 1. Stay strategic: “You have your goals and they have to be realistic; but once they are set the key is to focus on those and not get distracted by the niff naff and trivia.” 2. Keep perspective: “So much is down to luck; whether it’s an accident, whether it’s your career, whether it’s war, luck has such a heavy hand to play that you have to bear everything you do in perspective.” 3. It will end: “Seize the initiative; you’re never going to be in a crisis forever... whatever you’re going through things will return to normal just stick it out.” Links: We Were Warriors – One Soldier’s Story of Brutal Combat is available via OCD-UK: Tickets For Troops: Help for Heroes: Episode Notes: Johnny Mercer is the non-graduate who should never have succeeded at Sandhurst – but who went on to be one of the most combat experienced officers in Afghanistan. The non-voter who should never have got elected, but who is now a Government Minister tipped as a potential future PM. What’s more remarkable are the challenges – as both a child and adult – that Johnny has faced down. An upbringing in a strict religious household that almost, in his words, destroyed his mind. A childhood that led him to develop an extreme Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, the management of which Johnny describes as a continual ‘work in progress.’ His approach to these crises, with the support of CBT and other treatments, was to find a greater, tougher challenge to focus on. That came in his three Afghan tours during which he risked his life almost daily. But it also left him confronting visceral grief when his close colleague and friend Mark ‘Bing’ Chandler was killed instantly as they fought side by side. I found Johnny’s methods of coping in these extreme situations compelling. Accepting and embracing that luck plays such a huge part in crisis situations, understanding and accepting your limitations as well as your potential and, perhaps most powerfully, remembering always that courage is just as contagious as fear. Stream/Buy 'Allies' by Some Velvet Morning - Some Velvet Morning

Vicky Pryce on prison, pushing on and the healing power of football

Season 1, Ep. 4
Vicky Pryce is a whirlwind of positivity, productivity and energy - economist, academic, author and mother of five. But in 2013 her high-powered life took an unexpected and damaging twist when she was found guilty of accepting her ex-husband’s driving licence penalty points and was jailed for Perverting the Course of Justice. Vicky gives us a startlingly human account of her high-profile crisis. She talks of the lessons learned in prison and details the strategy she undertook to steer her life towards a successful recovery.Vicky’s Crisis Cures: 1. Football: “I support Chelsea, I’m a season ticket holder, I go with my kids and that’s a great release from tension – although of course you substitute one type of tension with another.” 2. Books: Doctor Fischer of Geneva or The Bomb Party by Graham Greene. “It’s a book about greed and it shows that the richer you are the greedier you are and the more risks you’ll be prepared to take to make more money. It’s an incredible book that I’ve read and re-read.” 3. The sea: “When I want to relax, I think of swimming and looking at the horizon on a beach in Greece.” Links: Twitter: Pro Bono Economics: Women in Prison: Working Chance: Women vs Capitalism – Why We Can’t Have It All in a Free Market Economy: Episode Notes: Economists pride themselves as planners and forecasters. But Vicky Pryce is a woman who found herself in the midst of an extraordinary life experience that no-one could have predicted. Or as she puts it: “What I learnt about life is that things can just happen, just like that and you can’t control it”. How does someone whose successful career has been anchored in logic and data, cope when a chain of events lead to a prison cell in Holloway? Vicky leant heavily on her analytical skills – deciding to research and write her book whilst in prison. As she says: “I just decided in my mind to consider this as going off for a while to do a particular job... The way I survived was by almost becoming an observer, I found it fascinating, something I could learn from, you’ve got to avoid thinking of yourself as a victim right in the middle of it all.” But the fierce independence that led Vicky to leave Greece at 17 and pursue a career in London also played a key part in her recovery. For me, the most revealing moment of our conversation came when I asked Vicky if she still saw herself as that 12-year-old, riding a motorbike through the streets of Athens. “Yes,” she replied instantly, “You don’t change and I’m very much the same person .. I know more and through the process one has made loads of mistakes .. but one remains like that.”So, remember who you are, drive forward, don’t look back – the Vicky Pryce method of crisis recovery. Stream/Buy 'Allies' by Some Velvet Morning - Some Velvet Morning Website:

Richard Bacon on battling scandal, addiction and nine days in a coma

Season 1, Ep. 3
If this podcast is about analysing crisis in all its forms then Richard Bacon, one of Britain’s brightest TV presenters and producers, is a guest who has survived more than anybody’s fair share. A career shattering scandal, addiction and mental health issues and a sudden illness that left him in a coma and fighting for life. In this episode Richard talks about what he has learnt from his dramas – self-inflicted and otherwise - with disarming frankness, brutal self-analysis and plenty of humour. Richard’s Crisis Cures: 1. Avoid alcohol: ‘I think if I’m going through a dark day the thing is to not drink because that can very quickly bring out anger.’ 2. Vinyl music: ‘I often play sixties bands, whether it’s The Who or The Kinks or The Beatles or The Stones… nothing makes me happier than putting on a piece of vinyl, I just love everything about it.’ 3. Babington House: ‘I got married there and it still retains its kind of magic quality…it’s hard not to go there and do anything other than feel much better.’ Links: Twitter: Instagram: The ADHD Foundation: ICR Everyman appeal: Episode Notes: Richard Bacon is a man on a mission. Already an established entertainment and newspresenter in both Britain and the US, he recently signed a deal with NBCUniversal to devise and produce new show formats. All this a testament to his energy and optimism. But transatlantic success can also be traced directly back to a decision made in the white heat of a crisis in 1998. Caught taking cocaine by the News of the World (under a previous editor!) whilst he was presenter of the BBC’s flagship kids show Blue Peter - Richard could have taken the view that fame and TV were not for him. Instead, aged just 23 he decided to ‘own’ his crisis and march headlong into, not away, from the drama. The bold innocence of youth, perhaps. But it also took courage, focus and determined self-belief – three critical crisis management skills. But success has been a tough road for Richard in part because of ADHD. A condition that he believes has contributed to his dependencies. As he puts it: “I’m a run towards, not a run-away addict. I’m not running away from anything.” Richard’s restless curiosity, and the support of his wife Rebecca, have been his saviours professionally and personally. A willingness to engage with his own strengths and weaknesses and to confront the truths of them is another crisis lesson worth noting. A big believer in the power of therapy (and, fortunately, podcasts), he says the simple, but not always easy, act of talking about your problems takes you a long way towards being able to fix them. Music: Allies by Some Velvet Morning

Martha Lane Fox on near death, denial and disco

Season 1, Ep. 2
Baroness Martha Lane Fox is a force of nature – entrepreneur, philanthropist, cross bench peer and one of the most influential people in digital for the last 25 years. The co-founder of, she also now sits on the board of Twitter, the Donmar Warehouse and Chanel. But Martha is also someone who can talk with power and authority on the subject of crisis. In 2004 she was left fighting for her life after a car accident in Morocco that broke 28 of her bones, including a shattered pelvis. In this episode Martha talks powerfully about the practical techniques – both mental and physical – she has developed to cope with a crisis she must confront every day of her life. Martha is, I think, an inspiration to anyone dealing with their own trauma. Martha’s Crisis Cures: 1. Boxing: ‘It’s so fundamental to my mental and physical wellbeing...even just imagining doing exercise can build the muscle mass. It’s quite extraordinary the relationship between our brains and our muscles.’ 2. Books & Poems: ‘The poem Don’t Hesitate by Mary Oliver, it’s about joy…even when the world is bleak and there’s always something awful happening it doesn’t mean you should begrudge yourself joy.’ 3. Pant Discos: ‘Putting some music on, blaring out way too loud (sorry neighbours) and having a couple of minutes moving about. Nothing beats it.’ Links: Twitter: Peers for the Planet: Doteveryone: The Open University: Queens Commonwealth Trust: Just For Kids Law: Lucky Voice: Episode Notes: Two things strike you immediately about Baroness Martha Lane Fox. A total and utter absence of self-pity is first. But an authentic, compelling honesty about her crisis and its impact is second. Honest that nothing good came from her accident. Honest that, for her, denial has been an invaluable weapon in the years since. As she says: “Denial is a very, very important part of how I function. I’m sure there are lots of people who would say there is lots about that that’s not healthy. The way I don’t get scared or feel as though I am a fraction of what I was, is by denying that I might fall over, that I have massive physical challenges. Some things you have to park.” The power of denial is not a strategy for crisis that you’ll find in any self-help book but I thought it was incredibly valuable because, as Martha herself says, “Crisis is not a competition.” There is no authoritative manual for crisis because every crisis is different. The key is in taking the time to work out what is best for you. And for Martha, one of the most positive people I’ve had the good fortune to talk to, denial has – when she feels she needs it – absolutely worked. Music: Allies by Some Velvet Morning