Founder and Chief Executive Officer
“I made the decision to found Full Circle in the middle of a near-death battle with meningitis. My doctor had just informed me I had septicaemia and bacterial meningitis and, if I survived, I faced the risk of brain damage. As my condition worsened and at one point, I left my body and terrifyingly could not get back down into my lifeless body, all I could do for days on end was keep drawing on – and practising – a few mind/body relaxation focused resources I had learned many years earlier.
As my life hung in the balance I was also lucky to receive a series of vital, calm-inducing hands-on therapy (reflexology and reiki) at my hospital bedside. I was only just able to cope with the enormity of what I was facing but through this gentle, supportive approach which I had alongside my life-saving medications I was able to hold onto a profound, unexpected inner calmness just long enough to weather the worst of the deadly storm and crucially, given the dire warning I had just received from my doctor, survive and make a full and medically unexpected recovery.
Back in 1996 I had been diagnosed with SLE (also known as Lupus) – a potentially life-threatening auto-immune condition. At that time, I knew nothing about stress or its impact on my health. I knew nothing about what I could do to help reduce the effect that stress had on my health and immune system. With no techniques offered by my consultant at that time, just a clue that stress was making my illness a lot worse and, he added, accounted for 75% of illnesses that he saw, I was left without doubt. I had to set about trying to find my own answers.
Initially I researched touch therapies and was lucky to be on the receiving end of a few different types of integrated therapies such as massage therapy, reflexology, and energy therapy. Their place in my recovery plan became obvious. I experienced an unanticipated feeling of deep relaxation along with unexpectedly good sleep. I noticed I began to feel peaceful – for no apparent reason. Many years later my diagnosis had to be reclassified as, by then, I had none of the symptoms of the initial SLE diagnosis!
One of the best things I was taught at that time by a skilled integrative therapy practitioner was the importance of the breath in bringing mind and body into a deep state of relaxation. Not a day has passed since, that I have not practiced some form of deep breathing to encourage relaxation and help to release stress built up during the day. This practice is my life-line.
I also became fascinated in nutrition too and its role in supporting the immune system and particularly too, by the mind/body connection and how the stress response (fight or flight response) and its opposite state, the relaxation response affect our functioning. I started a degree in Health Psychology then switched at the guidance of my Course Director to a Master’s degree in Health Science at St George’s Hospital Medical School, London. Along the way, I travelled to Harvard Medical School to study the science of the Relaxation Response with Dr Herbert Benson MD and his team at the Benson-Henry Institute, and later, the science of positive psychology.
As I laid on my hospital bed having survived against the odds and about to be discharged home, I found myself recalling what had just happened. I suddenly recognised that the skills I had learnt and therapies I had received at the time of my first diagnosis with SLE had become a vital part of my own survival toolkit; I had relied on them to help me through the trauma of having advanced meningitis.
This really brought home to me in the most visceral of ways how entirely vital it is to empower and help support the ‘whole person’ when they are facing a major, life challenging illness. I know now that ‘whole person’ centred care is not a nice optional extra, it is an essential component that constitutes the highest care we can offer in hospitals. I know I was lucky to have received and learned these vital skills and techniques so that they were in my toolkit at my time of most critical need.
I see Full Circle as a bridge – to help a person navigate safely across their most turbulent times and to be a valuable resource too for life – whether for a current patient, or recovering, or for a carer or NHS worker.
This is why – within this website space – we have brought together a range of health professionals from world leading experts on resilience to highly skilled practitioners from our own amazing Full Circle team. Their guidance can help provide you with content for your own toolkit. Here you will always have free access so that you don’t have to face a life-changing experience alone and, more than that, you can know where to find a range of safe, evidence-informed methods for when you or your loved ones need it most.
As I lay there, having survived the most deadly form of meningitis I understood why this project was needed. At that moment, a name came to me. It was to be called Full Circle.”
Suzanne in an inspirational speaker and also lectures widely by invitation at schools, university and conferences. She holds a Master of Science (MSc) from St George’s Hospital Medical School.
Suzanne Ruggles Coming Full Circle: A journey to the edge of life and back.
“What you are about to read may change your belief about health, the spiritual dimensions that exist in our wellbeing, our meaning and purpose on planet earth, and so much more. Be open to the possibilities of life, the synchronicities, and let health and healing occur for each one of us on this planet. May many people’s healing occur by sharing your story.”
Dr Kavita Prasad BSc (Hons) MBBS FACP. Former Integrated Medicine Physician, Mayo Clinic United States, and St George’s University Hospital Foundation Trust, London.