Friday, 24 February 2012

ME: The Toxic Tiredness

A full two-hour program on M.E. from BBC Scotland. A bit long, and ironically, I needed to have a 30-minute lie down after watching it!

The first half of the program contains some testimonies from some very real, very 'average' people among the Scottish population who are M.E. sufferers. Not a lot 'new' is covered for those already knowledgeable on all the ideas of M.E. currently out there.

The second half of the program gets more interesting, in the sense that there is a focus on the discussion of whether a malfunction in the hypothalamus could be the cause of M.E.

This isn't the first time the hypothalamus has been associated to M.E. However, a convincing case is made here as to how the modern lifestyle is at conflict with how the brain was originally meant to function in a more primitive environment, hence the greater occurrence of disorders associated with the brain, including the area in and around the hypothalamus.

There are very few actual 'treatments' discussed in this program, except for a lengthy focus on Mickel Therapy. It may well be that this focus was chosen, since BBC Scotland is intended to promote the regional language and with it regional culture including its people. Thus, it would be a great claim to have your country as the one that discovered the cure for M.E.!

Mickel Therapy, not suprisingly, was invented by a Scot called Dr. Mickel. A fellow doctor came down with M.E., and after observation, Dr. Mickel became convinced that the root of the problem lay in the hypothalamus area of the brain. He persuasively talks of how the hypothalamus can be caught in a prolonged state of the flight-or-fight response, which causes all hormone and bodily processes to be in hyperactive mode. To me, this makes particular sense, in that for a while before my M.E. was officially diagnosed, my symptoms were largely like being in an extreme fear-triggered state, even though the trigger could be of marginal stress, such as getting on a crowded bus. I was suddenly overcome with coldness, felt like oxygen was draining from my body that I could no longer keep standing, and then I often wanted to vomit or needed to empty my bowels. I recognized the parallel to the flight-or-fight-like response very early on.

If this identification of cause and symptoms in relation to M.E. is true, then Dr. Mickel claims that it's just a matter of re-training the mind to counter any extremes of emotions. Mickel Therapy therefore sounds pretty much like cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), although Dr. Mickel says that Mickel Therapy is different from CBT in that it deals with the present, not the past. Actually, from my own reading into CBT a few years back when I considered whether my M.E. was instead panic attacks, good CBT practitioners don't in fact focus on the past of patient, but rather prefer to 'move on'.

Dr. Mickel states that he's cured over 4000 M.E. patients, a very grand claim. One of his own patients later sums up Mickel Therapy as: "...not going to be a cure, but will help you recover."

Exactly! I've tried several hypnosis sessions under a trained practitioner, and I can come to the conclusion that proper sessions with ANY type of decent counsellor or psychologist can help you to reduce the level of anxiety that can come with being extremely ill over a prolonged time period, and can certainly be considered 'successful' from that perspective. But I'm personally 100% sure that psychology-based therapy in itself will not result in 100% recovery from the symptoms of M.E. I don't want to dismiss Mickel Therapy altogether, but I wonder that if this treatment is heralded as so successful, then why is it not promoted more widely. It suggests a bit of an over-projected miracle cure.

As often with other alternative therapies, there is a lack of research into getting clinical evidence as to their effectiveness. The lack of research again comes down to lack of funding money available.

Towards the end of the program Professor Peter Behan comes on to say that he doesn't believe in Mickel Therapy as a cure for M.E., although like me, he says that good therapy can have other benefits. Professor Behan is no stranger to M.E. since he has formerly studied a lot of M.E. cases and came to treat Dr. Charles Shepard when he came down with M.E. Dr Shepard, a skeptic of M.E. while training as a doctor in the 1970s, since his coming down with M.E. in his twenties has come to be a key voice in the UK debate on M.E.

I haven't looked beyond the home page of Mickel Therapy, so am not aware of the costs involved. The BBC program mentions that on average, eight sessions are needed. If you want to check out Mickel Therapy for yourself, visit the main Mickel Therapy website here. One benefit of Mickel Therapy is that it can be conducted via Skype, an online communication method that I mentioned also being offered by the Optimum Health Clinic in an earlier post.

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