Alex Melia on processing a traumatic experience

Alex talks about a traumatic experience he faced in Mexico

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Alex Melia on processing a traumatic experience


This first episode of the new series of Our Voices focuses on the creator of the podcast, Alex Melia. He discusses the traumatic experience of being the victim of a brutal attack on the streets of Mexico.

A feeling of safety right after the traumatic experience


Alex made the decision to live in Mexico in order to improve his Spanish. It was May of 2022 and, by this point, he had spent 5 weeks living with a Mexican family. Alex describes enjoying his time with the household. He also felt safe as he was living in a “barrio”, the Spanish word for a private gated community. “It’s very well protected and there’s people from all different generations there.”

Reasons for celebration

One night, one of the daughters from the household, Carla, returned home with some exciting news. She had just secured a brand new job and she was determined to go out and celebrate. Alex decided to join her along with two other friends. So, at around 9pm, the group went to a local restaurant, which is where the night began.

The end of the night

One thing led to another and, before long, the group found themselves in a nightclub. “We were dancing. And I remember getting a round of shots of tequila to celebrate Carla’s new job. Then Carla went back. 

So I was left with the two Mexican girls. We continued having drinks, danced, etcetera. It got to about 3:00am and we all said we were ready to go back.” At this point, Alex checked his phone and saw that it was only a 10-minute walk to get back to his home, so he decided to proceed on foot.

A traumatic experience


Alex hadn’t been walking for long when he noticed the tell-tale signs of being followed: “I heard a noise behind me, you know, those little stones, those gravelly stones. And I turned around, the shock, it just really flooded through my system. 

There’s three men here and I remember one of them punching me and it hit me right on the left cheek.” The men continued to attack Alex. “What proceeded was repetitive punches and kicks. I was getting punched and kicked in the head, in the stomach. And I was just in protection mode, just going straight into fetal position to cover my face.” 

In total, the traumatic experience lasted between 45 seconds and a minute. Alex describes feeling in shock as he rose to his feet once the attackers had run off. He patted his pockets and realised that they were empty.

His first concern was how he was going to get back into the house.He checked his pockets once more and gratefully felt the set of keys brush against his fingers. His wallet and phone, however, had most certainly been taken.

Alex Melia talks about processing a traumatic experience
Alex Melia talks about processing a traumatic experience


Differing reactions


Initially, Alex tried to play the situation down while interacting with the family. He made a joke of his traumatic experience and describes how he and the family were joking about the event together the next day. 

While telling his friends about what had happened, Alex reveals that his male and female friends would often differ in the types of response they would give. “With women straightaway it’s “Oh, no. I’m so sorry to hear that happened to you”. “Oh, I wish I could just give you a hug and make you feel better” or “I wish I was there with you right now”. “

I just can’t believe this has happened. What can I do to help?” Male friends are completely different, or my friends. One of them said, “So you didn’t get any digs on these three guys then? Like, surely you would’ve punched one of these people or surely you would’ve had an opportunity to punch these guys…” ”

Expectations of masculinity


While reflecting on the responses, Alex says “I find it funny the differences between men’s reactions and females’ responses.” Focusing on the male reaction, Alex says something quite revealing “Maybe you are expected as a man, in terms of being a masculine man, to actually respond in a sort of a jokey way.

That’s about bravado and showing that you can defend yourself because I think the situation would be very different if it was one man who’d attacked me from behind. I would’ve definitely felt differently about this. If one man had come behind me and punched me and I fell to the floor, I’d be upset with myself.”

The consequences of a traumatising experience


Alex describes how he was able to put the traumatic experience behind him and continue with his work until, a few days later, it resurfaced. 

“I was in a Spanish class with one other student, and we were reading out a Spanish text and we were taking turns reading. And, in that moment, when I was reading the text, I felt this panic attack.” 

Describing the experience, Alex says “It’s like a shortness of breath. Out of nowhere. And you feel like you can’t breathe. It’s just this overwhelming fear. It just rises through your body, it almost grips hold of you, and you have this feeling of fight or flight. It’s get the hell out of there.” Alex had had panic attacks previously in his life, but he hadn’t had one for a while.

Unresolved childhood trauma


This experience made Alex recall the first time he had ever had a panic attack. He describes being 14 years old and giving a speech about the pros and cons of cannabis. 

“I kind of lost my breath. I wasn’t able to continue speaking. And then I went red all over and started shaking. The teacher did nothing to help me. She just stayed at the back of the room and didn’t do anything so there and then I just collapsed. And every time I had a speech to do afterwards, I was just overwhelmed with fear and terror.” 

Talking about the re-emergence of his attacks, Alex says that he believes the attack had made him feel vulnerable again, like he was once more that 14 year-old boy giving a speech to his classmates. 

Processing trauma


Through support with a counsellor, Alex has been able to use techniques to help him manage his traumatic experience and he has witnessed a significant reduction in the number of panic attacks he’s had. He has also found it of great benefit to share his experience with others in ways which are challenging ideals of masculinity.

 “When you say this to friends, they then say, well, I had a panic attack about this, this and this and it happened at this point in time. That’s been eye-opening. And I think sometimes it takes you to speak out first for someone else to then speak out about how they felt, because I wouldn’t have known otherwise that they had had a panic attack.”

Speaking out is what this new series of Our Voices is all about. So join us for this latest episode to hear Alex’s experiences for yourself.

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Laura is the mix engineer for the Our Voices podcast. She has a BA in Music from Nottingham University and an Advanced Diploma in Music Production and Sound Engineering from Abbey Road Institute. Alongside working for Our Voices she is a freelance sound designer and technician. Her highlights include sound design for JK Rowling audiobook ‘The Christmas Pig’, and sound effects editing on The Outlaws, on the BBC.

For the Our Voices podcast, Laura is typically provided with a Voice Over and interview. She then cleans the dialogue, integrates the podcast intro and outros, chooses the music that will add to the storytelling and pacing of the episode, then bring all the elements together in the mix, followed by mastering and then delivering the final edit.

 

Experience in Industry: 3

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I’m the community manager at Our Voices. I spend most of my time focusing on the implementation of our marketing strategy, achieving goals and KPIs, and the rest of the time listening to the amazing stories of our guests from all around the world. What I love most about working for Our Voices is the impact it has on peoples’ lives. It requires a lot of courage to tell your story out loud so I make sure these stories are heard by as many people as possible.

 

I was born and raised in Pakistan and I’ve been living in Hungary for over two years now. I have a Master’s degree in Marketing and I live for mastering the art of digital marketing.

 

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Favourite Food: Biryani – introduced by the Mughal rulers in the Indian subcontinent; this dish is an absolute delight. Also, can never say no to a good burger – extra cheese!

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Favourite Show: Stranger Things – I love how an odd group of friends fight against challenges bigger than themselves.

Favourite Movie: Harry Potter – The only movie I can watch over and over again!

Favourite City: Prague – Absolutely love the Baroque and Gothic vibe of this city.

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I run Fascinate Productions, the production company behind the Our Voices podcast. I’ve had a wide variety of roles in media, from underwater videography, to live televised sporting events around the world. But since listening to my first audiobook in 2016, I’ve been all about audio and jumped in with two feet. Podcasts are enabling the world to democratise its most valuable information. They’re about spreading messages, and sharing ideas, and it’s my mission to help those holding the knowledge, to distribute it far and wide.

When Alex approached us with the idea of making a short stories podcast, with a big social impact, he got our attention. As the producer of the show, I’ve heard his guests’ highest highs, their lowest lows, and the moments of change that made them who they are – it’s been a privilege helping to craft their most intimate experiences into stories for you to enjoy.

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Favourite Food: Ice cream. It’s just the greatest culinary invention.

Favourite Sport: Rugby. I played from the age of 5 until 26 when a dislocated shoulder put me out of action. Still like to watch now though.

Favourite Show: The 100 – I love those ‘what if humans nearly got wiped out?’ type shows.

Favourite Movie: Gladiator

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Richard Willan is the CEO of Fascinate productions, a podcast production and promotion company. Before starting Fascinate, he worked an audio engineer, mastering tracks for artists on major and independent labels.

He is an executive producer for ‘Our Voices’ where he assists with production, creative direction of the show, and marketing strategy.  

 

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Favourite Show: Succession – an American satirical drama. The character development is incredible, and the writing is top notch. 

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Favourite City: London, because it is a melting pot of culture and the music scene is amazing. 

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I am responsible for writing blog articles for the Our Voices podcast. I have the privilege of listening to fascinating stories on the topics and issues that are of greatest relevance to our society today. Once I’ve done this, I create articles that provide an overview and description of the conversations in order to help spread them to the widest possible audience. My job is to make these articles as engaging as the conversations themselves.

As an English teacher who has worked with students from all over the world for over 10 years, I have got used to successfully communicating with those from different backgrounds and cultures. This has helped me to appreciate the value of connection across borders and boundaries. It has also helped me to appreciate that we are all able to learn from each other’s experiences.

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Favourite Show: The Wire. 

Favourite Movie: The Godfather. 

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Favourite Book: “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer. 

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Favourite Food:  In a word, sandwiches. The possibilities are endless.

Favourite Sport: Show jumping. When I was little I wanted to be a professional horse-rider, and I still get a kick out of watching the pros in action.

Favourite Show: Fleabag: the writing and acting create a thrilling kind of intimacy I haven’t seen anywhere else.

Favourite Movie: Victoria is an incredible German thriller that’s all shot in one take – it’s a real trip. Plus it’s beautifully soundtracked by Nils Frahm.

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Hobby: exploring city streets on my bike – preferably while listening (safely!) to a podcast – is when I’m at my happiest. 

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I am the host of Our Voices. I help to find the guests that have a powerful voice to share and then I speak to them and help to tease the stories out of them that will have a positive impact on the listener. 

While running Swoosh English, an online English school from 2013 – 2021, I had the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life and many of these people had incredible stories. This inspired me to start ‘Our Voices’ because I wanted to give these people a platform to share these stories with the world.

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Favourite Movie: Shawshank Redemption: An unbelievable journey full of twists and turns.

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Hobby: Football, boxing, reading, learning Spanish, travelling and watching fascinating conversations on Youtube.

Favourite Book: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts – a book about an incredible journey.