AS A nurse and then a midwife, Jo Hoffmann was sceptical about alternative medical treatments.
Like many people, she was wary of treatments that were not used by or approved by the NHS.
But that was to change after she became so ill that she could barely walk around her bed. She could not lift the kettle to make a cup of tea and she struggled to carry a glass of water.
“I didn’t have the energy to stand,” she says, “When I couldn’t even lift the kettle I burst into tears. It’s like nothing I have ever experienced.”
Jo, 32, was working in London when her problems began. “It started with flu-like symptoms, so I just thought ‘I’ve got flu, it will get better and it will go away’,” she says.
She tried to ignore how unwell she felt, but after two more night shifts she was so ill she could not get out of bed.
Doctors initially thought it was laryngitis, but when things did not improve they suggested glandular fever. Unfortunately, they could not tell for certain as the blood test had been taken too late.
She slept more or less constantly for six weeks. “Each time I rang work I would say I was sure I’d be back the next week, but it went on. I would get up to do things, thinking I was a bit better, but the room would spin and I would have to go back to bed.” She also experienced pain to the point where she could not move.
Time was going by, yet she tried to think positively. “I just kept thinking that I would get better.”
Her GP asked whether she felt depressed – she didn’t. Jo was signed off work with ‘post viral fatigue’, which she was told could lead to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). It was then that she looked outside the NHS for help.
She took vitamins and tried lymphatic drainage massage, but six months later she still felt exhausted and heavy. “I couldn’t watch TV, listen to music or concentrate long enough to read anything,” she recalls. She also became more sensitive to light and sound and could not walk for more than ten minutes without rest. Her diagnosis now switched to CFS/ME – Myalgic Encephalopathy, a condition similar to ME.
Jo gave up her job and moved north to Shipley with her partner Matt who, she says, has been “amazingly supportive.” She was referred to a CFS/ME clinic but the symptoms were managed rather than cured.
The breakthrough came after a friend of her mum described her experiences. She had suffered similar symptoms and recovered after undergoing Mickel Therapy, a talking-based treatment for conditions including post viral fatigue, CFS, ME and other debilitating conditions. It sets out to draw a distinction between the thinking brain and the core emotional mid brain or body which generates emotions independently of thought. It counteracts the notion of ‘what you think is how you feel.’ The therapy teaches clients to translate their symptoms back into emotions and take corrective action so that the symptoms no longer need to occur.
Clients learn to understand messages from their bodies and translate them into action.
Jo read about the therapy in a book by Dr David Mickel, who developed the treatment in 1999. “It seemed to make sense to me,” she says, “It is very much about acting in the moment, on emotions that surface.”
The woman had been treated by Scotland-based therapist Leisa Zakeri, so Jo booked an appointment. “The first session was a lot of talking, about why I felt I was getting these symptoms,” says Jo, “The second time I was made to feel aware of these core emotions, accept them and act upon them.
“You keep notes about your symptoms, which happen when an emotion has been suppressed.”
The therapy draws upon various ‘keys to health’ which clients can use to take action to suppress the emotion and resolve it.”
It took only five hour-long sessions for Jo to begin to feel better. “I didn’t need more. But it takes time to rebuild your life,” she says.
Keen to return to work, she at first began volunteering to reassure herself that she could do it, and has recently started work in midwifery again, working part-time. “I was so eager to get back to work.”
Jo’s experience with Mickel Therapy led to her signing up for a training course in Scotland, where she qualified as a therapist.
“It is a bit strange to be on the other side, but I am used to that role due to my background in midwifery,” she says.
She believes that alternative therapies should sit along side more conventional treatments. “I have a lot of respect for the NHS as a whole but it doesn’t have the answer to everything. I had always been a very positive person and I could not understand that positive thinking was not making me better. The illness ground me down – I thought I’d never be a midwife again.”
She loves helping others. “It is exciting and rewarding. I have helped people with the same symptoms that I had.For more information contact Jo on 07894 497894 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.