I heard about Mickel therapy on three separate occasions before I decided to get in touch with a Mickel therapist. I can now safely say it was the best move I ever made. Mickel therapy is the only thing that has worked for me. Having been first a nurse and then a midwife in the NHS I’ll admit I was a bit sceptical about any alternative treatment options for CFS/ME outside of the organisation. I’ve always based my own practice on current research so the fact that Mickel therapy is not an approved treatment used by the NHS sat uncomfortably. However, I was so desperate to get better and out of all the ‘alternative’ therapies Mickel therapy appeared to me to be the most genuine and to make the most sense.
My journey with CFS/ME started with a sore throat. I was working as a midwife in London when it all began. Or at least that’s when I thought it began; I now know it began a long time before that. The infection was an effect rather than the cause of my condition. I tried ignoring how poorly I felt and carried on working but after two more night shifts that was it, I couldn’t get out of bed. The doctors initially thought I had laryngitis but when it didn’t go away one doctor said I probably had glandular fever, although they could never prove it as the blood test had been taken too late to determine when I’d contracted it.
I slept constantly for the first 6 weeks. Each time I phoned work I’d say “I’m sure I’ll be better by next week, I just need to sleep it off and I’ll be back” but I couldn’t sleep it off and it carried on and on….. and on. I pretty much spent my life in bed. Each time I felt a bit better I would get up to try and do something but the room would spin, the tiny bit of colour I had would drain from my face and I’d have to get back into bed. I spent many hours soaking in the bath just trying to get warm but even that would exhaust me and I’d have to go back to bed to sleep. This went on for months. I spent days and nights lying in the dark with a hot water bottle on my head, unable to move due to the pain. Analgesia just didn’t work. Having always been a very positive person I just kept thinking that I would get better soon. The general assumption was that I had glandular fever, I knew it could go on for a while, especially as you get older and the advice I’d been given was to rest. So I did.
After 4 months of this I had to see a different GP. “You don’t have glandular fever, alarm bells are ringing and you need to get back to work” was all she said. I felt so confused. What was she saying to me? Did she not understand that I did not want to feel this way? I wanted nothing more than to go back to work and live a normal life. I was already having an internal battle about whether this was all in my head as glandular fever had never been proven, all my blood tests were normal and throat swabs clear. Wanting desperately to leave this whole thing behind me but wondering whether I was really up to it, I attempted a graded return to work. I managed 4 hours of light duties with great difficulty and then slept for 48 hours until my next 4 hour shift. I struggled through this shift and was then forced to bed for a week to recover. I didn’t make it back to work again after that and I felt like a failure.
I couldn’t understand why positive thinking wasn’t pulling me through. I’d been asked by my GP whether I felt depressed.
The symptoms were definitely getting me down though. As was watching the calendar pages flip over each month, without being able to do all the things I’d planned to do but overall I was still feeling positive and genuinely believed I’d be better in another couple of weeks.
I feel it’s important to say that I have a lot of respect for the NHS as a whole. I’ve worked alongside many amazing doctors and other professionals during my time as a nurse and midwife. However, the NHS definitely doesn’t have the answers to everything. The support from the GP got less and less and the ‘from’ and ‘to’ dates on my sickness certificates got further and further apart. I was now being signed off for a month at a time with post viral fatigue. I always felt uncomfortable with this diagnosis. I really didn’t feel that I was ‘post’ anything but in the midst of it. How can someone feel so acutely ill without any sign of recovery if the virus is no longer there? It didn’t make any sense to me.
I was told by the GP that after 6 months post viral fatigue would lead to chronic fatigue syndrome and that I should be careful. I naively thought “that won’t happen to me, I’ll be better before the 6 months is up and the diagnosis changes”. I looked outside the NHS for help. I took a carrier bag full of vitamins and supplements every day, started meditating and tried lymphatic drainage massage. Whilst these things helped me to cope and made me feel like I was doing something to try and help myself they didn’t actually get to the route of the problem.
Sure enough after 6 months my diagnosis changed, it turned out that CFS/ME didn’t just happen to other people after all. Rather than feeling better I was feeling more and more exhausted and heavy. I couldn’t watch TV. I couldn’t listen to the music that I loved as I was unable to keep up with it. I couldn’t concentrate long enough to read anything and my headaches would get worse if I tried. My eyes wouldn’t move quickly enough between people when they were talking, combine this with the brain fog and keeping up with conversations was impossible. I was struggling to keep up with the world. Everything seemed to move so fast. I’d sit in the back of a car and fixate my eyes on the headrest in front so I wouldn’t have to look out of the window while travelling. I was becoming more and more sensitive to light and sound and I became so weak that I couldn’t walk for more than 10 minutes without having to rest. I was sleeping for 10-12 hours a night and still needing sleep during the afternoon as well.
I was referred by my GP to a CFS/ME clinic in London. They were really positive and told me I’d get better using graded exercise therapy (GET) and an activity plan that involved regular, short periods of rest. Brilliant, finally some positive help, I thought I’d be better in no time at all doing this and so followed the programme religiously. After a further eight months of misery, timing everything I did and alternating between physical and cognitive activities I was still no better. I’d been on such a roller coaster both emotionally and physically. Each time I thought I was getting better I would “do too much”, which really wasn’t very much at all and end up relapsing again. The last relapse I had was the worst of them all. I could barely walk round my bed because my legs felt so heavy. I’d been told that the relapses would get less severe as I followed the programme so you can imagine how terrified I was when they got worse. With each relapse I’d get new symptoms, my arms had previously been fine but it had got to the point where I could hardly move them. Everything felt so heavy and I’d struggle just to carry a glass of water. I remember sitting on a chair by the kettle attempting to make a cup of tea one morning, I didn’t have the energy to stand which wasn’t that unusual by then but when I couldn’t even lift the kettle I burst into tears. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced. We’ve all felt tired. I should know having done years of night shifts but this doesn’t even come close. No amount of will power helps in this situation. You feel like you’re trapped in a body that doesn’t work and in your darkest moments wonder if it will ever work again. Life was passing me by and there was nothing I could do about it.
The second CFS/ME clinic I was referred to, which happened because I moved out of London to the north of England with my partner, also did their best to help me. I’m not ungrateful for their time but the treatment was again about managing symptoms rather than curing them. They informed me that some people are just designed to live a quieter life. I appreciate they were just trying to offer moral support, but saying “why should it be the norm to stand up to cook or do the ironing anyway?” left me with anything but a boosted morale. I’d resigned myself to thinking that I was going to have to be someone who led a quiet life just to get through each day. None of my dreams and hopes for the future had ever involved a quiet life. To me life was for filling with experiences and for standing up to iron if I wanted to! I was devastated.
That was when my mum got talking to a lady on a boat who knew (my then to be therapist) Leisa Zakeri. That was the third occasion Mickel therapy came into my life and words really can’t express how delighted I am that it did. It turned my life around after just five sessions. I’ve got a life again, a life that seemed so far out of reach during the countless hours I spent just staring at the wall. I still have to pinch myself sometimes. It’s honestly astounding. I’m living a much more varied life now than prior to getting ill and am so much more proactive. I’m not saying that Mickel therapy is easy as it takes working at and courage, but for me it was absolutely worth it. If you’d told me 4 months ago that I’d now be volunteering for the Alzheimer’s Society a few times a week, trampolining… yes I know I can’t really believe that either, attending a pottery class, attending a life drawing class, hiking 12 miles in my new walking boots, dancing at festivals, socialising with friends I hadn’t seen for ages and applying to be a midwife again there is no way I’d have believed you. No way at all. I’d started to lose all hope that I’d ever get better. But I have. My body actually works a lot better than I could have imagined! Thank you so much Dr Mickel and Leisa. You’re both wonderful. You’ve given me my life back.