The chest pains were intense and scary.
Well this time I was right, but that turned out to be the beginning of my downward slide into what was eventually confirmed as chronic fatigue.
That original episode was in 1991; it turned out to be myocarditis, my pre-chronic fatigue viral infection, and it kept me off work for six weeks. After I returned to work, my motivation was absolutely rock-bottom. Although I gradually got swept along with the sheer volume of work, it wasn’t long before my energy levels started deteriorating along with my short term memory and in particular my concentration. I eventually collapsed one weekend and ended up back in hospital – for six weeks this time. I was in a complete mental fog, and physically only able to get up for two hours before collapsing back into bed. Noise and temperature hypersensitivity, joint and muscle pain (and later muscle degeneration), inability to concentrate or multi-task, continuous headaches and visual focusing problems together with the inevitable leaden-weight fatigue and total lack of any kind of energy, were all problems that persisted in varying quantities and degrees, for months which, as time went on, became years. I lived alone and felt that I had to try and manage everyday chores by myself. After a year, I became severely depressed, to the point of suicide, and was admitted to a psychiatric clinic. Here I was put onto various regimes of anti-depressants, none of which helped particularly. At this point I also started in psycho-therapy, and looking back, this was probably the turning point. Sorting out old emotional baggage wasn’t easy, but I came to understand, and in time change, my behaviour patterns and to learn the lessons that enabled me to start moving forward into my recovery.
Before my illness, I had been a high-powered company director. Luckily my employment continued for two years although, altogether I didn’t actually work for three. But eventually financial pressures forced me back to part-time work. I got a job three days a week in central London, which meant the added demands of commuting, but beggars couldn’t be choosers as my only income was the state’s invalidity benefit. I spent months on a ’three days work, and four days recovery’, basis, but eventually I realised that I was gradually coping with greater loads.
From the start I had experimented with any treatment I could find (both orthodox and alternative). I tried acupuncture and homeopathy to little avail. I spent a small fortune on vitamin and other supplements without ever really knowing whether they were helping or not. The only orthodox drug which was beneficial was an anti-viral drug, which considerably reduced my persistent flu-like symptoms. But because I believed that I had nothing to lose, I continued to try any new treatments I could find. Then four years after the onset I discovered reiki, and the impact on my health and my life was nothing short of miraculous.
All through my illness I had continued with regular aromatherapy massages which only provided short-term relief for the muscular symptoms. My therapist (Lynne) had just learnt reiki and was keen to tackle a chronic condition. So we agreed on a routine of weekly, one hour, whole body treatments for two months, after which we reduced it to a 10-day interval and then to fortnightly sessions. All this took four months.
What I hadn’t grasped initially was that the early sessions can produce what appear to be, adverse reactions. These are cleansing or detoxing reactions and are to be welcomed. During my first three treatments, I suffered a kidney infection (severe enough to prevent me working), then a major skin allergy and lastly a nasty ear infection. Despite my growing reservations, Lynne assured me that this was all good news. Then after the fourth treatment, the big breakthrough happened.
Like most chronic fatigue sufferers I am a fairly go-go personality. Throughout the four years, the frustration created by my physical limits meant that whenever an opportunity arose, I would still push myself to, and beyond, my limits, even though I knew I would pay for it afterwards. However in the week following my fourth session, I danced the weekend away, fully expecting to spend the rest of the week completely incapacitated. However, amazingly this was not the case. Suddenly I could manage the stairs in the London Underground without having to climb at a snail’s pace and stop after every flight. My concentration span noticeably improved and I hardly ever needed my afternoon sleep anymore. In the weeks that followed I coped with much higher levels of physical and mental activity without paying the price of debilitating fatigue – now I was only ordinarily and healthily tired and this was terrific.
My incredulity and amazement knew no bounds and it took ages for me to really accept that I was better.
Gradually I came to accept that the unbelievable really could be permanent. Provided I didn’t go mad beyond these new limits, I could live a relatively normal life again
That was over 15 years ago.To this day I have been able to maintain that level of mental and physical activity without disadvantage. However it made me realise two things. Firstly, that I alone am responsible for my own health (not my doctor or anyone else, and therefore I am free to chose any form of treatment I feel comfortable with). Secondly, I couldn’t assume that Lynne would always be around to treat me should I suddenly need it and nor should I be reliant on her. So I moved onto the next obvious step of learning reiki for myself.
Because reiki is a hands-on technique, it is appropriate for both practitioner-healing and self-healing. Originally I decided that it would enable me to keep the chronic fatigue under control, but in practice it brings me far greater benefits. I can treat any minor aches, pains and injuries with it rather than taking painkillers. It can be used to help other people with minor or chronic conditions, and this can be achieved either face to face or on a distant healing basis. It is basically one of the world’s best kept secrets.
(Originally published in the Journal for Alternative and Complementary Medicine, UK.)