How one man overcame chronic fatigue and regained control of his life [a case study]

Derek was a shadow of his former self.  Battling extraordinary fatigue, his life was reduced to taking care of his basic needs and managing to work part time.  Even walking to the tube station was an effort. At times it was so hard to think, it felt like his brain just switched off.

A couple of years earlier, Derek had become ill overnight after contracting a virus.  The doctor was adamant that he had now recovered from the virus and that he just needed to pick himself up and get on with his life. The raging fever had subsided and the abdominal cramps and vomiting had stopped.  But if that was the case, why was he still struggling with debilitating headaches, muscle aches and crippling fatigue that wouldn’t ease no matter how much he rested?

Derek used to be a very active individual

Before becoming ill, Derek had loved being active.  His favourite activities were climbing, cycling and swimming, and each year he would do a trip with his friends where he combined all three.  

He had recently achieved a significant promotion at work.  It had required three years of intense study alongside the day job, but ultimately delivered what he wanted. He had felt in the prime of his life, looking forward to his future.

mountain climber

Once full of life and physically active, Derek was now a shadow of his former self.

However, Derek now felt more like he was 75 years old, not 35. The shock of the dramatic change in his health and the impact on his social life and career was still ricocheting through him.

Other systems in his body, such as his immunity, breathing, energy and detox  were all showing signs of being out of kilter too. This is a common feature of these conditions.  Since early childhood he had struggled with asthma and allergies. By the time he was in his teens, those symptoms had eased enough to enable him to build up his fitness and pursue his passion for outdoor sports.  

Searching for answers

Although Derek hadn’t been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) / myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or Post-Viral Fatigue Syndrome, he was presenting the symptoms and knew he needed help.  The doctor wasn’t able to help so he went online in search for answers.

Finding The Helpful Clinic, Derek signed up for the Journey programme. He loved the idea of calling the symptoms Sherlock symptoms and turning detective in search for clues pertaining to why his health had deteriorated.  

The Helpful Clinic’s 3D approach to health, which works across Biology, Psychology and Social context (the BioPsychoSocial model), reassured Derek that there was a way to work with his health that didn’t rely on blood tests – all of which had previously come back ‘fine’.

Learning about the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal axis (HPA axis) or the body’s fight/flight  response, gave Derek a framework to understand how that had got stuck in a maladaptive stress state.  This state is called Allostatic Load and means that the body struggles to do repairs or general maintenance work as it’s focused on viewing every experience or input as a potential threat.

We identified patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviour that Derek was displaying. Searching for clues we got curious about whether the patterns were helpful or not to shift him out of stress state and more into maintenance state.  

Using methods like NLP and EFT, we worked through the unhelpful patterns and created more helpful ones.  With Clinical Hypnosis and mindfulness, we worked towards gradually increasing his ability to be more in maintenance state. This meant creating the conditions that allowed the body’s own recovery mechanism to kick in.

Personal relationships often play a crucial role

We also looked at Derek’s social context.  Getting curious about his relationships with colleagues, family and friends.  As a result, Derek was able to identify which relationships felt stressful. Getting curious about why that was and what he needed to learn or do in order to change that meant that he was able to build the skills and tools for a more helpful experience with others.

In light of Derek’s historical vulnerability in his immunity, breathing and detox systems and a family history of fatigue-related conditions, we brought in the expert help of a nutritional therapist to look at his biochemistry.  This helped address Derek’s adrenal exhaustion, impaired mitochondrial function (the battery power generator found in every cell) and strengthen his immunity and detox functions.

man sleeping

Good quality sleep is critical for the body’s repair and maintenance mechanisms.

Derek’s biggest challenge was improving his sleep and pacing his energy.  He had been stuck in a boom and bust pattern of using all his energy when he had it and then crashing leaving him not only debilitated, but depressed and confused.

A structured approach to pacing and benchmarking his baseline ability at each stage of his recovery meant that he was able to manage his energy better.  The pacing, coupled with techniques for improving sleep, enabled him to benefit from good quality sleep, a critical component for the body’s repair and maintenance mechanisms.

After an 18-month journey to recovery, Derek finally felt well and healthy again.  He was able to take up his passion for outdoor sports once more and return to full time work.  An unexpected benefit was that his quality of life in general is now so much better than it had been before becoming ill.

The Helpful Clinic has a thorough follow up protocol to support and embed the recovery gained and reduce the risk of a relapse. In the year since Derek’s recovery, his physical and psychological strength continues to grow and his stamina is stronger than it has ever been.

If you are affected by any of the symptoms and issues mentioned in this article and want help get in touch and book your first Discovery Call to find out how we can support you.  

Please note that not everyone that we support reaches full recovery.  The Helpful Clinic always works towards what is sustainable for each person in terms of levels of health and functional ability.