Search for a cure
One of the things that is a cause for angst for me is having gone in the opposite direction mental health-wise despite doing what felt like so many of the textbook things to improve my mental health. I was exercising regularly, trying to build up my community of friends, trying CBT-self-help to combat negative thought processes, improving my diet by cutting red meat, alcohol and caffeine, started yoga (until breakdown got in the way) and had taken a step away from a lifestyle of commuting that was clearly doing me no good.
So here I am thinking: Now what?
It got me thinking about my physical symptoms – the worst being permanently tight/spasmed intercostal muscles (that I’ve had for over a decade but on which no one has ever given me a decent answer as to how to relieve them) and pressure in my head and the back of my neck.
The two treatments that sounded interesting to me were Cranial Electrical Stimulation (CES (for my head)) and Ultrasound massage for my chest. CES seems to be different from ECT which within society seems to have a bad press. (I’ll let medics & mental health experts amongst you explain the differences). Basically both are things that don’t involve talking therapies, are non-invasive but seem to manipulate organs in some way.
OK! What are we waiting for?
The nagging historian in me. One of history’s figures I’ve read lots about is Nicholas II’s wife Alexandra – one of Queen Victoria’s many grandchildren. After giving birth to four daughters, she gave birth to a long-awaited son…who had haemophilia. At the time, there was little that anyone could do. They could bring in the best scientists money could buy – for they were stupendously wealthy, but to no avail. Alexandra, being a devoutly religious type turned to many charlatan before finally settling with Rasputin, who seemed to have some sort of an impact on her son but no one could really figure out why. And the rest is history.
That’s not to say science failed. If we had discovered everything then scientific research would stop completely. What I want to know is whether something works – and get opinions from reasonably credible sources. When you’re suffering from a long term condition, anything that seems to give you hope can feel like it’s worth reading or looking into – even if it is in the Daily Mail. That’s what is so cruel about some science journalism in mainstream outlets – bad reporting gives false hope to those who are most in need.
Now, I’m not going to go around accusing people and firms of being charlatans or quack-sellers. I leave that to Ben Goldacre & friends at Bad Science. What I am saying is I need more evidence and more credible opinions before going down either of those routes. For example this microcurrent treatment has a centre in Cambridge. Part of me wants to go racing down there, hook me up to a set of batteries and flick the switch in the hope that the pressure balloon in my head (or rather the tension across my scalp & back of my neck along my upper spin) will deflate. Or perhaps getting a couple of electrodes, sticking them into my ribcage and turning up to ‘fry’ those spasmed muscles back into life again.
Going beyond a pill again?
This comes back to points I made in my first mental health article. Medication ain’t gonna sort this. I’ve been on the stuff for over six years continuously and I feel no better in terms of tackling the causes, even though they do suppress the symptoms. It’s how I functioned in Whitehall for so long. Yet as I mentioned above, the stuff that I had been doing of late – and in particular since the start of this year didn’t seem to be working either. So now where do I go?
You could say that’s part of the ‘fun’ of it in a darkly comic manner. I’ve just got to keep trying new things until something comes up that I click with. But it’s terribly exhausting and isn’t cheap either. Well…Okay…the hot stones massage today was, but that’s because I was helping trainees by being a body for someone to work with. It was at Cambridge Regional College – where I did my teacher training last autumn. For those of you interested, have a look at The Park – and give some young people a hand. (I was my trainee’s first client for this particular treatment, so please be patient with them if you are going).
What about public administration issues?
“Yeah Pooffles! When are you gonna get stuck into the Toreeze with their cutz?!?!”
Not today. On the issue of wider treatments, I have no idea other than the claims of manufacturers whether this stuff works. There are a number of scholarly articles out there but they are not written with ordinary patients in mind. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) seems to come up blank too. Not that I know of many non-medic people who would go to NICE as a port of call. I’d guess that most people have never heard of NICE let alone know what they do. In one sense I am lucky in that I can call on some medics via my Twitter network – all of whom that got back had not heard of this. Hence being that little bit extra cautious.
What about h o m e o p a t h y ?
Yep – I don’t want that sort of spam either. I tried such a remedy back in 2001 and was like “Wow! That really stings!” after being told to drop two pippet droplets onto the glands underneath my tongue. Then I thought: “What’s in this stuff?” Cherry brandy with 1/400 essence of some flower. Yes…my thoughts exactly. This was one of the areas where my former flatmate (who is now a pharmacy Ph.D student) and I disagreed – she stood by the treatments and I didn’t.
All of this from a public administration perspective makes me wonder why we don’t put more resources into testing of these things – and the regulation of advertisers claims. It’s not just about stopping the wild and inaccurate claims but also about giving credibility to those treatments that actually do work. It’s one of the reasons why whenever any statistical claim is thrown at me, I always ask “Show me the sample size – are your results statistically significant?”
I’m sort of tempted to give the CES treatment a try – what harm can it do? (Famous last words). I’m sure I’ve wasted more money on worse and at least it will put my mind at rest either way. But again, open to advice.