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July 1, 2019

One year ago, on a sunny week in Somerset, Allysa Rochelle was one of the 12 courageous people who attended The Bridge Retreat whilst it was being filmed for a ‘fly on the wall’ documentary called Love(d). Below Rochelle shares her own journey to ‘crossing The Bridge’ and its impact on her life one year on.

“In Spring of 2018 I decided that it was finally time for me to start speaking about my own story. I sat down one night and wrote a list about what I wanted to achieve for this year. I wanted to speak about my story, travel to New York and change jobs. I didn’t have a plan as to how to achieve any of these things, I just knew that they needed to happen in order for me to start the process of healing. Then as happens with such things, once I had set my intentions, opportunities started to really open up.

I had been running the Vulnerable Podcast for just under a year when Selina Barker of Project Love reached out to me. The podcast is for people to speak about their experiences with vulnerability, and I was getting to interview some truly inspirational people. Selina contacted me as she wanted to know more about my story and at the time I hadn’t even thought about sharing it. We met for lunch and I spoke to her about being sexually abused as a child by the man in charge of the cult I was in. I shared with her that once the abuse was over at 16 I then fell ill with encephalitis and ended up in a coma, losing the use of my legs for months. As I reflected with Selina on all I’d been through in my short life, I realised how deeply painful it actually still was.

After our lunch, Selina suggested I go on The Bridge Retreat; she said it was perfect for someone like me. She enthusiastically described the experiences she had and the wonderful after effects she had felt. I remember feeling a shutdown of emotions as she encouraged me. She seemed so convinced that it could help me but I was left doubting that she understood just how broken I was! I mean how could this six day retreat truly heal the depths of brokenness I felt inside of me!? In spite of this I remembered my intentions list and agreed to an introduction with the Co-Founder of The Bridge Retreat, Donna Lancaster.

I had a Skype call scheduled with Donna the week after. I think it’s important to mention here that I am incredibly cautious when speaking to leaders of anything. Being raised in a cult, I’m always wondering what the true motive is, what do they want? Blood, sex, my soul, all of the above?! I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking out for any red flags when speaking to Donna, however I didn’t find any. She was warm and appeared to be very authentic and most importantly she listened to what I had to say. I didn’t feel like she was listening in order to use it against me at a later date but that she genuinely wanted to help me….what an absolute weirdo! I have learned how to overthink my entire life because it has kept me safe but whilst speaking to Donna, a little bit of calm crept in, I felt safety for a moment, before ushering it out as quickly as it arrived.

Donna kindly offered me a Bursary funded place, saying that she thought the retreat would be perfect for me. She asked me to also consider the fact that this particular retreat was going to be recorded for a documentary!! Trust me to manifest wanting to speak about my story and then be offered a place to do so on a documentary that could potentially be seen across the world!! Talk about manifestation!! So I thought about it long and hard before committing. How would this change things, impact my family and was I even ready to speak about my experiences in such depth? What scared me the most was that I had buried so many things so deeply and knew that I wouldn’t be able to control what came out. After much consideration I took a leap of faith and said yes. I simply knew I had to do this and thought why not heal myself whilst also hopefully encouraging others to do so.

I arrived at the retreat a nervous anxious wreck. It was the first week of summer and the weather was divine. I made my way into the garden after placing my things in my room and greeted some of the other participants. The nervous energy was palpable, it was literally hitting me from all angles. What the hell had I signed myself up for?! The first day was intense and I cried like a child, which I was… a wounded child. We conducted some deep inner inquiry into our trauma’s and learned patterns. For the first time in my life I was being given the space to truly reflect upon my pain and was asked to share it in a safely held space where people were really listening to me and my story. It felt like this space was actually created for the child in me to finally be seen heard and validated in my experience. Throughout the week this dawned on me more and more and I became soft and speechless. That week I truly grieved my losses for the first time in my life. In the past I had often had crying fits and panic attacks that I always felt needed to be over in a short period of time. I needed to feel that I was in control and to make sure everyone else was ok. But here I was given the true gift of time and space to cry and sit with myself and my feelings and it was truly incredible. Each night I slept like a baby.

Each day we also explored body movement and the key role of the body in the healing process. I learned about how trauma is stored in the body and can be safely released through movement. We were introduced to therapeutic shaking as a form of trauma release. Gabi, one of the Co-Founders of the retreat led these sessions. She moved so freely and looked so happy when doing so. I wondered how she could let go so easily. It made me really uncomfortable at first but I did it anyway as I had come this far right? Plus we were all in it together. Slowly my self consciousness fell away and my body began to open up and release some of what it needed to.

The following days comprised of more lightbulb moments as I joined the dots about my life, behaviours and choices. There were daily movement sessions with time for silent reflection, long walks in nature which felt healing in itself and amazing food cooked with copious amounts of love. There were also of course even more tears! But as the week progressed, I found the tears turned from those of sadness to ones of joy. I felt myself becoming lighter and freer every day.

Now one year on I can see how the weeks and months after the retreat have been the most transformational for me. The love that was shown to us from Donna and Gabi has provided a model for me as to how to learn to love and care for myself. In 31 years of life, I had never seen what true healthy love looked like romantic or otherwise. For the first time I was given a healthy model of love and I would be damned if I’d let it slip through my fingers! So day by day I have taken positive risks, allowed myself more and more to be vulnerable and taken care of myself and my body in new loving ways. Slowly I feel like I am parenting myself back to life! I have also landed a new job and took that trip to New York to visit my father. I wanted to put what I had learned into practice and dare to let him love me. I had previously always kept him at arm’s length, but now I was ready to take the risk of letting him in. I’m very happy I did, and it was a wonderful experience.

So it may be a cliche but The Bridge Retreat truly did change my life and continues to do so. I now have healthy boundaries and feel a love for myself and my body that grows every day. Of course life isn’t perfect but I’m ok with that. That’s authentic living. Opportunities continue to flow towards me because I am open and not just to giving but also to receiving love. Most importantly I have learned to be compassionate with myself and to live life in flow.”
Allysa Rochelle, Creative Entrepreneur & Love(d) participant

To hear Rochelle interviewing Donna Lancaster for the Vulnerable Podcast, please click here.



Super excited to announce that the documentary Love(d) which features 12 courageous Souls as they participate in The Bridge Retreat, has been nominated for best documentary at a Film festival in Los Angeles!!
WHOOP WHOOP 💃🏾💃🏾💃🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾

If you want a sneaky peek, check out the short trailer above or visit the website to read the Directors statement. Congratulations to the Director Jake Knowles and Producer Madeleine Martinez and the 12 Love Warriors who made it all possible.


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