This time last week Mr Knittingkitten and I were on our way to a slightly dodgy B&B in Central London (just behind Buckingham Palace don’t you know?) hardly daring to hope that the reason we were there would be a successful one.
After reaching a point in my life where I was (am? This hasn’t changed…yet) about to lose my job and I had received a little encouragement from someone who cared enough to be persistent I had decided to try something called the Lightning Process, so called because it works so quickly.
There were many reasons why I had doubts about doing it, but thought I really didn’t have much to lose. The first step is to read a book – ‘An Introduction to the Lightning Process’, and I had made this hard work, partly because I have a tendency towards cynicism and also because I found the thought of ‘getting well’ from M.E. overwhelming.
It was very frustrating as no-one will actually tell you what the lightning process is so how can you judge if it will be the right approach for you?
A week later, today I’ve taken the dogs for not one, but two walks, done a fair bit of weaving, made soup, cooked dinner, kept up with Twitter and FB (previously just doing online stuff would have been my limit) and done my lightning process ‘homework’. Now, for those of you who have experienced issues with fatigue/pain, let me make this clear, I haven’t pushed myself, I’m not ‘fighting’ anything, I’ve just been doing what any other healthy, albeit unfit, person might do.
So what has changed in the last week? Maybe I didn’t really have M.E? I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, I definitely had M.E. and that had been confirmed by two GPs and two Consultants. I had all the typical symptoms; the post exertional fatigue, joint and muscle pain, disturbed sleep, digestive problems, brain fog, migraines and a weird kind of sore throat thing.
The lightning process, as I understand it, works by ‘resetting’ your neurological processes. The idea is that the symptoms of M.E are caused by the body’s flight/fight/freeze response getting ‘stuck’ and producing all kinds of unhelpful hormonal and autoimmune issues. By using the process you can change this response and therefor stop the stuff that is making you feel rubbish. This is a very crude description and only my understanding, not a definitive description of the lightning process and the theory behind it.
Understanding it like this works for me; I am a psychotherapist and am very aware of the impact disruptions to our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems can have and a technique called Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing is widely evidenced as being useful and is used in the NHS to help people with post-traumatic stress disorder. Like the lightning process, it effectively allows you to establish new neural pathways and integrate experiences.
Now, I’m not about to tell you any more specifics, not because I’ve signed something saying awful things will happen if I disclose details, or because I’m being paid, or even because I’m mean. But because it’s important for anyone who is planning on maybe giving it a go to actually go on the training and learn to do it properly. I read a blog before I went on the training (the Lightning Process is training, not treatment) that described it so I tried what I had read, when it didn’t work I believed the training didn’t work. An analogy they use on the training is that when baking a cake you need the right ingredients, combined in the right order then cooked at the right temperature; when I tried what I thought was the process I didn’t have all of the ingredients and certainly didn’t mix them properly etc etc.
Two key criticisms of the LP by some people on M.E. forums are firstly that it costs money. As I mentioned earlier, I’m a therapist and if I were working privately I could charge around £45 per session and would expect clients to commit to a minimum of 12 sessions which is an awful lot of money, but this is generally accepted. NHS therapy is largely limited to CBT and often has long waiting lists so clients are happy to pay for good therapy delivered professionally. Also it is recognised that therapy tends to be more successful if people pay so even charities offering therapy, such as Relate, charge on a sliding scale as the client is ‘investing’ in their mental health. Why should it be any different for the lightning process?
Secondly, there are questions about whether the recovery experienced by people is permanent as maybe if it wasn’t those who had done the process wouldn’t want to admit to being ‘duped’? As I’m only in very early days I can’t answer this one but I can guarantee I will tell you either way, I have no compunction about doing so, believe me! What I do know is that the quality of life I have experienced over the last few days pretty much make it worth while already.
Finally, why isn’t it endorsed by NHS professionals? I don’t have the answer to that. I imagine it is something to do with the same reasons why 12 step programmes (Alcoholics Anonymous for example) aren’t recommended by many working in the alcohol treatment field. I work in this area and am aware of several specialists, both doctors and nurses, who actively discourage attendance at AA, or don’t ‘believe’ in it, despite it being the most effective treatment for alcoholism in the world. Just because we don’t understand anything doesn’t mean it isn’t useful.
My hopes include returning to work as soon as possible, I’m sure my colleagues will be happy to have some of the strain relieved, and I want to climb a mountain or two.