I sometimes reflect on my journey through life and wonder at the decisions I made and how they came about - none more so than my choice of career to become a Doctor and then a Therapist. I enjoyed a good secondary school education, although the thought of training to become a Doctor did not ever cross my mind until I was ready to leave school - it took me by surprise as much as it did my family. I remember clearly the day the University application forms were to be returned. I was sitting at the kitchen table throwing different course suggestions into the room at my mother who was now becoming tired of being my sounding board. 'French and zoology? French and business? Law ...or what about...?' Then it happened. I heard or rather felt the answer coming from deep inside me - Medicine! I have developed many beliefs since this time and I now know this was what people would term 'my calling'. Still slightly bemused at my own decision I headed to Aberdeen to start my studies in Medicine at the University there. I spent a fruitless year trying to find 'Myself' but instead found myself red faced in front of the Dean and his Board of advisors trying to persuade them to let me back into the Faculty, having messed up my first exams. As fate would have it, they agreed to let me try again and eventually I completed my studies with no further hiccups. The world of Medicine was fascinating to me and I took well to my various hospital jobs and the responsibilities that came with them. The 100 hours plus per week were bearable due to the interest I had in learning about physical diseases and the advanced treatments there to deal with them. I eventually decided to venture into General Practice found a Practice in Elgin in the North of Scotland. My initial enjoyment in General Practice was high. The hours were long and the paperwork barely tolerable but it was a privileged role. I was at the centre of family life dealing with the physical, mental and social disorders people experience from birth to death. This was both very challenging and rewarding - but something didn't feel right about the orthodox medical approach to healthcare. My days were spent prescribing medication for conditions and then counter prescribing to help ease the problems caused by side effects associated with the first medication - this became a never-ending spiral. I was beginning to realize there had to be more to the promotion of health, the causes of illness and how we should treat them. I began to get interested in alternative or complimentary health approaches. I read copious books on acupuncture, homeopathy, herbal medicine, Ayurveda, Reiki, hypnosis, and much about Spiritual healing. My bookshelves were sagging with a vast array of esoteric literature my intention was to broaden my knowledge and allow myself to feel more comfortable in my role as GP but the opposite happened. Gathering knowledge and interests in these subjects merely served to fuel my growing discontent with conventional medicine and the part I played in delivering it. Some may say I grew a conscience. It was at this time I started to look into training in psychotherapy. Again I had never contemplated such a thing and it appeared to come out of nowhere. On reflection, I can see this was similar to the 'calling' I got to do Medicine, not premeditated but completely out of the blue. The decision happened overnight and before I knew it I had enrolled into a school in London to study Ericksonian techniques. I completed the two-year diploma course and began to see people in my spare time. Before long I had a large private clinic which required me to cut back on my time in General Practice. As I continued to work in my new field I started to get the answers to my questions about General Practice and why it did not feel comfortable. Medical training had taught me to isolate symptoms and organize them into systems of disease: respiratory, gastrointestinal, nervous etc. I began to realize that this model of thinking served to split the individual into parts not representative of the whole. I soon became interested in the more holistic approach of mind-body medicine. I soon began to consider the health problems of my clients and patients from a different perspective. On the one hand this was very exciting but on the other it lead to frustrations in my General Practice role as the system was not set up for this kind of work. My times spent doing therapy soon became the most enjoyable aspect of my working life to date. I was beginning to see the potential of a mind-body perspective and the successful way this could help with problems that previously I had only had a prescription pad to turn to. It was during this time I started to come across the conditions Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME and Fibromyalgia in the therapy room. Like my colleagues, I was at a loss as to how to explain these illnesses. The routine tests that doctors depend on to help in diagnosis, were usually borderline or normal. It wasn't long before I found myself falling into the trap of thinking the symptoms must be due to a depressive illness. Fortunately, fate had other plans for me and I began a relationship with a previously healthy and vivacious, young woman whose whole life had been turned on its head when she developed 'ME'. The two years that followed, with Sally, were a turning point for me as a Doctor in my understanding of this condition. Like many people with her condition it had been suggested to her she may have 'Depression' but there was no doubt in my mind this loving, happy person was as far from being depressed as I was. The bottom line was she was completely and utterly exhausted. Her other symptoms of aches, pains, headaches and general malaise were very real and through time I soon learned to recognise the external signs. This was not the effect of Depression. Any lowering of her mood was understandable considering the degree of suffering she was enduring. It is difficult for me to find the words to express the frustration I felt as a helpless partner and more importantly a Doctor whose chosen vocation was to improve the health of people in need. To watch the brave fight she had daily with her physical state was inspiring. Here was someone who had always been very physically active and mentally active now reduced to survival instincts only. As well as my acute sense of frustration I had to admit to admiring her ability to get up each day to cope with unimaginable discomfort and despair. On reflection I know it was the strength of these feelings and the experiences we shared during our relationship that led me to commit to understanding these conditions and find a way to treating them successfully. Over the following years I started to see more people with CFS/ME and Fibromyalgia in my role as therapist. I knew successes in this field were few and far between. I felt this was due to the fact that we did not know what was really going wrong within the person presenting. After all, how do you fix a fault when you don't know where or what it is? I started to try a variety of techniques to deal with these challenging cases. Initially these were frustrating times and any improvements were limited and not up to my self-imposed high standards. Over the following two years I worked tirelessly with CFS/ME and Fibromyalgia cases. Through trial and error I developed a successful therapeutic process. I was delighted to see consistent 100% recovery in all cases completing treatment regardless of duration or severity of illness. It was following the treatment of one certain case that I decided to leave General Practice and commit to body-mind medicine. The client in question had had Fibromyalgia for 42 years! The degree of suffering she endured was terrible with daily pain and weakness in her arms and legs it was a wonder that she did not go to her bed and never get up. I will always remember the day she came in for her appointment and began to cry. Inwardly I was ready to be disappointed that she was feeling no better when she told me that she had been completely symptom free for the last two weeks! Again,I recognize that my inner voice increased the volume on 'my calling' and clarity followed. That night I wrote the hardest letter of my life and the next day handed in my resignation to my General Practice. My attention was now fully on the treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, ME and Fibromyalgia.
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