She was hospitalised several times, though all that could be done was to feed her through a tube until she had put on sufficient weight to be off the critical list. I was in a relationship with her mother, and after one of these episodes she was transferred to a mental health unit – and when she was discharged she came to live in my house and I became her official carer for several years. The mental health unit was helpful because she discovered that there were other people with strange symptoms that nobody could properly explain, but otherwise all the NHS could offer was six sessions of C.B.T. (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and chemical medication. None of it made any real difference.
Early in this process, before she had come to live in Glastonbury, she had visited a Scottish G.P. called Dr David Mickel, who had a particular interest in M.E. and related conditions. He had been some help, though the onset of the stomach cramping had confused the medical authorities and she had lost touch with Mickel. Eventually she decided to try to contact him again; he had retired, but not before developing 'Mickel Therapy' – unfortunately not supported by the NHS – which was being used by practitioners who had been trained by him. Within six months she was able to move into her own flat. She has now made a full recovery, and has trained as a therapist herself.
Dr Mickel's research had led him to see that patients such as her were all experiencing the symptoms of an overactive hypothalamus gland. The hypothalamus is a pea-sized gland in the centre of the brain, responsible for maintaining balance in all the systems of the body. When it is overworking it produces more chemicals and hormones than normal, creating a 'biochemical marathon'. This means that even when a person is resting, their body is still working hard as if they are running; hence people can sleep all night and yet wake up feeling exhausted.
Mickel Therapy is based on the theory that we have two brains: our thinking brain and our emotional brain (gut instinct). The emotional brain is constantly picking up information and feeding it back to us; its role is to keep us safe, happy and fulfilled, and it speaks to us in emotion. The thinking brain's role is to interpret and analyse this information and decide on the best response to it. According to Mickel's theory, when these two brains work together we have a positive feedback loop which creates a healthy body and a happy, fulfilling, empowered life. However, many of us suppress our emotions because we have been taught they are unacceptable ("don't cry, be a big boy” or “nice girls don't get angry”), or we may respond to them with the wrong action. Emotions are powerful chemical messengers (neuropeptides), and when ignored they can bombard the hypothalamus gland causing it to overwork – creating the terrible physical symptoms of ME, fibromyalgia etc. Mickel Therapy teaches clients how to reverse this process by translating their symptoms back into the original emotional messages that the body was attempting to convey.
Mickel Therapists are still few and far between, but Fiona is now working in Glastonbury (details below).