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My body told me to rest: I got better by doing the opposite

Glasgow Herald April 28 2008 by Martin Greig   

I remember the morning. It is seared in my memory. It was a beautiful summer day, the first of my holiday. A world of possibilities lay ahead - only I was struggling to open my eyelids. Swinging a leg out of bed seemed like an effort. I looked at my alarm clock: 9.15am.

I showered and had breakfast. The tiredness hung over me like a storm cloud. My girlfriend phoned to make plans; I said I didn't feel up to doing much. I could feel my eyelids getting heavy again. I put down the phone and looked at the clock: 11am. I wanted to crawl back into bed.

I wasn't overly concerned. I had started a new job three months previously and had been working flat out. It was August 2004. Around March or April that year I had picked up the flu, which I believed initially to be the start of my problems. I tried to work through it but never quite shook it off.

I moved to my new job as a sports writer at The Herald at the end of May, but as the months passed I felt increasingly under the weather. So I took a holiday. And here I was - sun shining, exhausted, but confident that a break would re-charge my batteries. I was, after all, 25, physically fit and had never been ill in my life.

By the third day, my best-laid plans had fallen by the wayside. I phoned in sick the following week, by which stage I was suffering from deep fatigue. I began to worry, so I went to my doctor and she sent me for blood tests. They came back clear. She could see I was drained and signed me off again, but there was little improvement. Thankfully, all my colleagues at The Herald, to my eternal gratitude, were very understanding.

I went back to the doctor. "We could be looking at something like malaria," she said. My jaw dropped. I sought a consultation with another doctor who diagnosed it as "post-viral symptoms", which was at least more likely than malaria, but even she could offer no remedy.

I was off for three months. By then, I had recovered enough to make a phased return - two days at first and then gradually building it up. After six months I was working normal hours, but still not back to where I had been before. I still felt more tired than I should have done and regularly experienced other symptoms - muscle tightness, pin pricks in my feet and light-headedness.

It was clear that physical exertion exacerbated my symptoms so I was worried that any form of it would lead to a relapse. The only real advice from medics and support groups was "pace yourself".

I tried other things. I ate more slow energy- releasing foods; I went to my bed early. The differences were minimal. I became increasingly concerned that I would never fully recover. By then, I had realised that orthodox medicine did not have a clue what was wrong with me or how to treat it.

Hope came from an unexpected source. A friend was suffering from a similar condition and found it even more debilitating than I did, having had to stop work completely. She had been researching the series of interrelated conditions commonly referred to as ME, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, and her trawl of the internet threw up something called Mickel therapy. The explanations it offered - see panel below - struck a chord so she booked an appointment. I dropped in to see her one night, as usual feeling under par.

The subject of Mickel therapy came up and she said that it had started to make a real difference to her. After three sessions, she felt less tired and more confident about the future. I was delighted for her. I left feeling much more positive and e-mailed my friend's therapist for an appointment that night. I instinctively felt that this was something which could help me. In particular, two things I liked were that it did not involve any medication and was not psychotherapy. I attended my first session a few weeks later with a Mickel therapist called Lynda Carnochan.

The theory is that the symptoms of the "energy disorders" - currently labelled variously as ME, post-viral fatigue syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and many more besides - are caused by a malfunctioning hypothalamus gland. Treatment involved a series of one-hour sessions during which I learned why my symptoms were there and how to work with them to regain my health.

What struck me was how practical Mickel was. It required dedication and decision-making, but I was prepared to do anything to improve my situation.

Like my friend, after three or four sessions I noticed a difference. I would still have bad days or weeks but the length between them was increasing. I started to build things back into my daily routine that I would never have contemplated previously, like physical exercise and socialising.

The process reminded me of an episode of the sitcom Seinfeld. In an episode called The Opposite, Jerry's best friend George Costanza attempts to turn his life around by doing the opposite from what his head tells him to. Instead of being intimidated by beautiful women, he approaches them. Instead of being subservient to his boss, he challenges him. As a consequence, his life turns around for the better.

When experiencing symptoms my head had always told me to rest. I realised, through Mickel, that doing so only caused my symptoms to escalate. So I did "the opposite", exciting, life-enhancing stuff that sparked positive emotions. I was apprehensive at first, but I soon started to feel like I had a life again and gained confidence from not suffering setbacks.

One night out in particular sealed it for me. It was my friend's birthday. The drink was flowing and all seemed right with the world. At one point, I looked at my watch and noticed that it was 5am. I had been partying all night and felt great. I went to my bed for a few hours, woke up early afternoon and still felt fine (apart from a bit of a sore head). In the past, I would not have gone out at all, expecting to have experienced tiredness for several days at best afterwards. I was getting better.

That was last year. The symptoms have continued to diminish. Even if they do raise their ugly head, I now know how to respond to them so that my body no longer needs to create them. Seven sessions later and six months on, I am back living the kind of active life that a 29-year-old should. It is all thanks to Mickel Therapy.

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It was developed by a Scottish doctor: so what is Mickel therapy?

Mickel therapy is a ground-breaking new treatment for a wide range of chronic health conditions including chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), post-viral fatigue syndrome (PVFS) and fibromyalgia (FMA). Developed by Scottish medical doctor Dr David Mickel, pictured, the treatment involves no medication, dietary change, supplements or psychotherapy of any sort - Mickel therapy is unique, in a genre all of its own. Treatment involves a series of sessions during which clients learn why their symptoms are present and, crucially, how to work with them to regain their health.

What does Mickel therapy believe causes CFS/ME/FMA and related conditions?

Mickel therapy is underpinned by the hypothesis that the conditions of CFS, ME, PVFS and FMA are created by a dysfunction of the hypothalamus gland. However, Mickel therapy recognises the conditions of CFS, ME, PVFS and FMA as being purely physical and not psychological in nature.

How does Mickel therapy work?

Until Mickel therapy's hypotheses and process are studied properly then the answer remains unclear. However, the results show that it does. Dr Mickel believes a whole range of chronic health conditions are created, and subsequently maintained, by the effect of negative primary emotions such as anger, fear and boredom on our physical cells. These are primal, instinctive emotions that are being created spontaneously in our mid-brain without cortical or "thinking brain" activity. Unfortunately, in our modern world, increasing numbers of people have stopped responding to these negative primary emotions, which ultimately manifest themselves in physical symptoms. Mickel therapy reunites clients with these emotions and coaches them in the constructive handling of them, to leave them symptom-free.

What does Mickel therapy involve?

Trained practitioners meet sufferers in a series of face-to-face-sessions lasting one hour. All practitioners are supervised following each and every session, thus ensuring a high standard of therapy across the board. What proof exists that Mickel therapy works? Mickel therapists point to the testimony of more than 1000 clients who report a full return to health - a 92% success rate. This, of course, requires validation by approved research. The Mickel team would welcome such research, and want to have Mickel therapy properly studied.

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