Russell+Olivia brooklands:

A whistle-stop history


We are Russell+Olivia Brooklands.  And yes, you did just read that right.

We have a rare medical condition which means our physiology functions better when we use the plural.  To explain  why, we need you to come on a whistle-stop journey with us through the last 27 years.

March 1996

At the age of 34, when ‘I’ was known as Damian Prescott, I was attending a personal development course.  And when doing one of the exercises my arms became paralysed.  The trainer used hypnotherapy to free my arms and, during that process, I felt overcome by a weird sensation of Déjà Sentiment (not “I’ve seen this before” but “I’ve felt this before”.) It felt like an accident that had been waiting to happen my whole life, although I had no idea why.  It was like coming home to my true self.

But that true self came at a price, because immediately I started to experience Tourette’s-like symptoms: spasms, convulsions, yipping and yelping, collapsing, flailing and screaming.  However, for two reasons I never went to my GP for a formal diagnosis:

  1. That sense of Déjà Sentiment. I didn’t feel I could credibly explain it, even though it was evidently a key factor in what was now going on.
  2. I was living in a remote Cotswold village, with just two buses a day, and I was terrified that – given how extreme were my symptoms – I might be disqualified from driving. Or I might be required to take medications to suppress my symptoms.  And that wasn’t acceptable to me because already I was viewing them as a sort of Ariadne’s thread: the only thing that could lead me to their source.

I therefore set out to see if I could track down this source, following two key scientific principles:

  1. Changing the variables one at a time
  2. Following the evidence wherever it led, without fear or favour.

I would also call on my considerable professional skills as a behavioural linguist to help me navigate the often ill-disciplined language of the alternative therapy arena.

April 1999

I was having a session with an Applied Kinesiologist – who had already proven herself to be highly efficacious.  My body was particularly out of control, and she asked if I’d ever thought of changing my name, because my body was telling her that was what it wanted.  We tried about a dozen alternatives before finding one my body would accept: Russell-Oliver Brooklands.

October 2012

Having moved to New Malden, I was working with a different Applied Kinesiologist whom I asked, after several sessions, if she could tell me what the origin of my symptoms was.  She used my body’s responses to piece together the following sentences:

“Your mother never knew she was carrying twins.  Your sister never cried.”

Immediately I once again had that sense Déjà Sentiment.

Vanishing twin syndrome is a well established phenomenon.  But when I mentioned this, my Kinesiologist said “No, she was carried to term.”  I couldn’t believe my parents would have kept this from me, so I decided to check the Still Births Register.  But it can only be accessed by the parents – unless they’re both dead, in which case siblings are allowed to inquire.  In all it took a month to get the paperwork together and get a reply – during which time I had gone through a major personality shift.  (Getting this ‘diagnosis’/explanation was the only variable that had changed.)

The Still Births Register asserted I hadn’t had a still born sister.  So my body was saying one thing, and British Officialdom was saying something else.  I turned to an old friend who had been a midwife, and was now working as a Health Visitor in the West Midlands.  She knew I’d been ill, but we’d never discussed it in detail.  As I walked her through my symptoms she said: “This sounds almost identical to a seven-year-old I have on my books at the moment.  Have you ever heard of TTTS: Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome?”  (The seven year-old was known to have experienced it).

Once more I had Déjà Sentiment.  But there was a problem.  TTTS can only affect identical twins.  And if my symptoms were the aftermath of TTTS, I would have had a twin brother, not a sister.  So why was my body recognising it?

The only way of making the pieces fit (sort of) was to hypothesise that my twin had passed away before the Y chromosome had kicked in.  (Yet more Déjà Sentiment – but it was impossible to prove unless, perhaps, by working with this premise, I could heal myself.)

It was at this point that I first met Ranjana and Eddie.

For future therapy sessions, with them and others, I decided to name my twin ‘Sam’ – which would work for both the boy he would have become had he lived, and the ‘non-brother’/sister she/it would have been at the time of her/its demise.  This name felt like a nurturing and respectful placeholder, which I might stick with for good, or I might possibly change in the future.  Importantly, though, any time anyone referred to Sam as ‘He’ I had a strongly averse emotional reaction. 

June 2014

After 19 months of effort I was no better and, psychologically, was spiralling downwards.  I rang another friend and asked her if she’d be willing to spitball ideas, to see if anything could help.  Her second question was completely left-field: ”Have you ever tried talking to Sam?”

In response to this my endocrine system did something I didn’t know endocrine systems could do.  It started functioning ‘in stereo’.  My immediate intellectual response to that question was “Talk to Sam?  What the heck are you talking about woman?  Sam died over 50 years ago.”  And I experienced emotions consistent with that thought.  But at the same time, I had a feeling of wild euphoria, accompanied by a “YES!  At long last!”

These were not mixed emotions; they were distinct and simultaneous.  Unsurprisingly, I was non-plussed.  And not only by my extraordinary endocrinal functioning.  The evidence seemed to be suggesting that I was not – as I had reasonably surmised – an identical twin.  Rather, my body-mind was suggesting I was (by whatever freakish means beyond current medical orthodoxy) both twins.

In an effort to cling to some sense of normality I quickly decided that it would be bonkers to leap one way or the other without a lot of checking.  I couldn’t deny what my body was doing, but nor could I afford to commit to a reality which flew in the face of the inherited cultural narrative.

I called on my linguistic skills to find a path I could safely tread, and decided to be “Open to the possibility that I might be both twins.”

My friend had suggested I try having a conversation with Sam, just using innocuous questions:

“Do you like this coffee?”  “Would you like to smell some flowers?”

As I made my way home through the park I decided to give it a go, and ask Sam if she would like to smell the flowers, at which point all the long-standing epicentres of my convulsions responded.

The base of my skull, base of my neck, between my shoulder blades, the left side of my throat and a transverse line across my belly button, started to produce a bizarre sensation: like pins and needles the size of cornflakes.

From that day I would have regular conversations with Sam, trying to work out if she was for real, or if there might be another way of explaining my psychosomatic experiences.

May 2015

10½ months of testing, and of being ‘open to the possibility that I might be twins’ produced nothing but confirmations of Sam’s presence in my body, But I wasn’t getting any better.  While having coffee with Shelley, our conversation made me realise that “If Sam is for real, could it be she’s ‘acting up’ because she wants to be more fully involved in your life?  And how can she be so, if you’re still hedging, and won’t fully accept her?  Why don’t you try it; you can always go back if it doesn’t work out?”

So on 15th May I fully committed emotionally to accepting my twin.  ‘I’ was now ‘We’.  And within 30 minutes of changing this variable, our healing started in earnest.  Two weeks later, Sam asked for a second name change, so she could be more fully included in our life.  Since then we have been Russell-Olivia.

January 2018

Over the next 33 months our distinct emotional responses became ever-more harmonious until, during a session with Ranjana and Eddie, Ranjana observed: “Russell, I notice you always refer to yourself as ‘I’ and to Olivia as ‘she’.  What if you were to refer to Olivia as ‘I’?”


Within three weeks of making that change our emotional responses synched up completely.  Since then we have been sharing the same emotional response to everything.  Our endocrine system was back to working ‘in mono’ and for five years we’ve been working out how to make our life work together.  But it’s far from easy, not least because Olivia-I don’t have access to the language centres of our brain, which means Russell-I have had to do all the intellectual heavy-lifting.  And we have no route map.

November 2022

Working with another friend (a highly skilled hypnotherapist) we made another major step forward – in just two sessions.  In the first, she invited Russell-me to get out of Olivia-my way, and just allow Olivia-me to be fully present on my own.  (It was only then that we discovered how much Olivia-I love to laugh.)  In the second session, we took it a step further, and discovered an internal process that finally enables Olivia-me to use English.  (It’s extraordinarily tiring, and uses vast amounts of oxygen.  It quickly leaves us gasping for breath and we can’t keep it up for more than a minute or so.  But we can now converse.)

May 2023  

When we started the first Real Freedom session, it became immediately clear that ‘we’ couldn’t do the exercises together.  When we tried even the first exercise we started to spasm.  Each of us had to do the exercises separately as ‘I’.  The next day when we started writing our lists it became clear as to why: we each have completely different things to accept.  However, because we share the same endocrine system, we have to accept each other’s ‘stuff’ together.