Part 1: An Introduction
At the end of August this year I hit a particularly low point. The unusual heat wave was wreaking havoc on my symptoms, I had just lost my beloved cat, Bruce and I caught the stomach virus from hell in June, which my body was STILL feeling the effects of two months later. I wasn’t really getting much medical support for my condition at all and was frustrated by my slow progress. I felt as though I had been written off and left to fester. Quite frankly, I had simply had enough of life with M.E.
In a desperate bid to find something, ANYTHING that I hadn’t tried yet I went on yet another research mission online and came across an article about a 34 year old woman who had been living with M.E since she was a teenager, and who had made huge progress in her recovery thanks to something called The Perrin Technique. (You can read that particular article here, if you’re interested)
I did more googling and came across Dr Raymond Perrin’s website, where he explains his theory behind the development of The Perrin Technique, and to be honest, it all sounded very plausible based on what I had learned through the M.E clinic and through my own research around the condition. I started to read the testimonials from people who had undergone the treatment and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing: many were saying they had made a complete recovery and were back on their feet.
The one testimonial that really struck a chord with me, however was from a lady who said she was now more or less able to live a “normal life”. Those words were music to my ears. Normal life - a job, exercise, seeing friends, going for walks, doing the food shopping, starting a family - all those regular, run-of-the-mill things that we take for granted until they suddenly become unavailable to us.
I frantically began searching for local practitioners and as luck would have it there was one based at a physiotherapy centre right here in Wigan. I don’t think I’ve ever loved Wigan as much as I did in that moment. I called and made an appointment for a consultation almost immediately. Some of my friends and family encouraged me to be cautious and not to get my hopes up for a miracle cure, which was fair, but to be honest my expectations of anything being that simple or easy with this condition were extremely low at this point anyway.
Since coming home in February, I was being supported by the M.E clinic to learn how to better pace my activities and how to use rest and mindfulness techniques to help my autonomic nervous system to calm the hell down. This was all helping, of course, and pacing and rest remain two of the most crucial elements of managing life with this condition, but if there was even the slightest chance that this new treatment would help to speed things up a bit I had to try it. I always have been an impatient little shit.
The Science of It All
You saw me just reference the autonomic nervous system earlier, and I know you were super impressed by my scientific chat so here’s some more for you. The autonomic nervous system Is made up of two different ‘bits’ (blowing you away with my technical terminology); the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. People with M.E suffer from an overstrain of the sympathetic nervous system because our bodies are basically malfunctioning and breaking down. Our bodies can no longer create the necessary energy needed to complete tasks. To fix this problem it activates the sympathetic nervous system, also known as ‘fight or flight’ mode, and begins to run on adrenaline. The sympathetic nervous system increases heart rate and blood pressure and directs blood and oxygen to the organs and muscles most needed in a ‘fight or flight’ situation: the heart, lungs, arms and legs.
This is a natural function of the human body, dating all the way back to when we had to face woolly mammoths and the like, and had to decide whether to try to take them on or just do one. When a healthy person experiences this, their bodies will eventually return to normal once the risk (be it Jurassic or otherwise) is gone. The lactic acid will drain from their muscles, their heart rate and blood pressure will slow down and the autonomic nervous system will switch from sympathetic, back to parasympathetic. This is crucial because the parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the ‘rest, digest and recover’ functions of the human body and, perhaps most crucially in this case, energy conserving.
Although the two together make up the autonomic nervous system and both are necessary, only one can be activated at a time. So if your body is consistently having to run on adrenaline, as is the case with most M.E patients, your body is not getting enough opportunity to rest, digest or recover. You can see how this would cause problems over time. Dr Perrin says that one of the main problems that this can cause for M.E patients is a build up of toxins and fluid around the brain and spinal cord. Sounds fun, doesn’t it! Thankfully, this is precisely what The Perrin Technique aims to remedy. Fingers crossed.
Thank you for reading Part 1 of my Perrin Diaries, tune in next time when we will be talking about how exactly the technique works and how I feel about it now, with 12 weeks of treatment under my belt.
Quick disclaimer before I finish: I’ve tried my very best to explain all the science behind it all and although I am pretty clued up at this point, I am obviously neither a scientist or a medical professional so please do consult the internet to fill in any gaps or learn more. If you are a medical professional or scientist and have spotted an error then I apologise, but I tried my best with my poor, inflamed brain SO SUE ME. Don’t really though, I’m skint.
See you next time!