A client, Pritti Bhabra, talks about their Fibromyalgia journey with Bowen therapy: We are grateful to her for taking the time to put this together to help others.

“When I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia twenty years ago, I was elated. Relieved that finally someone knew what was wrong with me, I hugged the leaflets I was sent home with close to my chest. Finally there was a name for what I had been feeling: a list of symptoms that I could relate to – and had not imagined.

That elation soon gave way to despair. Although I had a name for my ‘condition’ I was no closer to finding a solution or to feeling any better. In the years that followed I saw many doctors and consultants. They told me that I probably knew more about Fibromyalgia than they did. I had a variety of blood tests, nerve tests, even physiotherapy. I tried a whole host of medication – prescribed painkillers, and various anti-depressants – all to no avail. In fact these made me feel much worse – physically and mentally. Fibromyalgia makes you hypersensitive – to taste, smells, sounds, etc., so even a paracetamol can cause more trouble than it’s worth.

The pain and exhaustion began to give way to anxiety and depression, I began to doubt myself and started to wonder whether indeed ‘it was all in my head’ and that I just needed to think positively and get on with life. When one breaks a leg – you can show, or prove to anyone that you have a fracture or a breakage. The bandage signals to people that you are injured and they then respond accordingly – whether with empathy and sympathy or the willingness to aid you in some way. After a few weeks the broken bone begins to heal and people can note with certainty that you are in fact getting better and that all will be well soon. The bandage comes off and you are indeed healed and ready to carry on as you were before. People notice that you are healed and they also feel that they can treat you ‘normally’ without feeling guilty or thinking that you may be in pain.

When you have a chronic illness, you struggle to recognise whether you are a little better than the day before or a little worse – never mind having to explain to others. You may look cheerful because you are feeling happy or positive, but that doesn’t mean that you are not in pain. You are in a pain, low mood, exhaustion cycle that seems to go on forever. Your body gets used to responding in a particular way – it almost caves inwards. You feel trapped for the most part within yourself. Feeling sluggish, you trudge forwards as though you are wading through treacle. Your mind feels foggy as you feel you are functioning way behind everyone else and from a different place to everyone. You eventually begin to believe that feeling like this is normal and that you don’t have a choice or an alternative.

Chronic conditions do that to a person. When you have suffered with pain for long enough, you start to doubt yourself. ‘Am I really in pain?’ ‘Perhaps I’m a weak person and everyone else is able to cope with a certain amount of pain.’ ‘Maybe I’m just lazy.’ ‘There must be something wrong with me – or is it all in my mind?’

Family and friends would say ‘relax, take it easy, don’t stress’. As anyone knows, this is much easier said than done. How do you change so many years of habit? A counsellor I saw helped me question my own expectations and helped me begin to see things in a slightly different way. Slowly, I began to learn more about myself and subsequently about my body.

Knowing that medication was not for me, I decided to look at alternative therapies. I started off with Acupuncture – sessions of what felt like torture! I had the mindset – no pain no gain – so assumed it would eventually be good for me. I was wrong and the practitioner took pity on me and said that she didn’t think that the therapy was for me – after ten sessions of agony!

I found reiki and reflexology quite useful. These were ways of relaxing my body, balancing me out, and calming some of the really angry muscles down. Massage became my go-to therapy. A bit like an onion being peeled layer by layer, the muscles were ironed out and stretched. It felt painful in some areas at some times, but on the whole the feeling of having everything being pushed back into the right place was wonderful.

This carried on for years. It was by no means a fix, but just helped keep some muscle pain at bay. It was useful and definitely something I looked forward to eagerly each week.

Dealing with chronic pain for so long has a real effect on your mood. Being in pain all the time, being restricted in what and how much you can do, being restricted in when you go out, the amount of sleep you need, etc., all these things take their toll on your emotional state. I definitely reached a place of darkness. I felt very low and fed up with everything. I hated not being able to do things – even enjoyable things. I did not like the fact that my children always saw me struggling with simple tasks and having to rest or nap all the time.

I had taken up colouring and doing jigsaws to help me relax – but even these things that I loved doing, caused me so much pain. My hands and arms ached, my neck and shoulders stiffened – the pain was awful and made me cry at times. How does one move forward from feeling that their life is never going to improve? When all hope has gone you simply resign yourself to plodding from day to day.

Then I met Kathryn.

A niece of mine recommended Kathryn as she had seen her for back pain she was experiencing. I had never heard of Bowen treatment, so looked it up and did some research. With a sort of ‘what have I got to lose’ attitude I booked a session.

My first session was almost surreal. It is such a non-invasive treatment, yet there seemed to be things going on within my body that were both weird and interesting. I found myself listening out for those changes. I love the idea of Bowen – of reminding your body how it should be reacting and not what it has become used to doing.

I distinctly remember waking up one morning after perhaps my third session of Bowen, I got out of bed and stood up. Straight up. After years of slowly unfurling and almost having to stretch out each limb for some time before arriving at a reasonable height I was actually standing up straight. My head was up, my neck and back seemed to be in a position they hadn’t been in for years. I had forgotten what it felt like to stand straight. I was so overwhelmed I actually ran around showing my husband and my children the difference! I really couldn’t believe it!

That was just the beginning of my journey. Over the following sessions I addressed the emotional state I had been in, my body started to change as it reminded itself how to heal and function again, and I became more aware of my posture. I walked tall – without even trying! I had some rather emotional sessions too as thoughts and feelings were released and flowed out from my body. I felt that I was waking up from a very long and drowsy sleep. I had moments when I actually felt energetic and happy. It was simply amazing.

Most of all though – I had hope. Because I was getting glimmers of times when I felt good it meant that it was indeed possible once more to have energy and to be able do things! I felt more in control of my fibromyalgia than ever before.

Over the past couple of years I have had regular sessions of Bowen alternated with reflexology with Kathryn. I find it helps keep me in balance – emotionally, physically and mentally. When one aspect is out of sync I am really aware of the imbalance and can literally point it out. Being hypersensitive, the treatment goes at my pace. Kathryn is able to do as much or as little as my body can take. Sometimes the changes are quick and occur during the session, others take a little while so you can appreciate that things are still happening a few days later.

I have begun to enjoy fun things again, going out and about – all within reason. I still need to rest regularly and try not to stress, but I actually have times when I feel alive!!! I feel energetic and awake. I have been on walks – something I always struggled with. I even managed to convince myself to go skiing!!!!! Something I would never in my wildest dreams have ever thought possible! I only managed a day and a half but to have actually been able to try it was amazing. Getting into the skiing gear was like a full work out in the gym – blimey! Carrying the skis and then walking through the snow was so hard – never mind actually trying to ski (during which time I nearly strangled my instructor!!)– but it made me laugh out loud at the thought of actually just being there! It felt great to just breathe in that fresh mountain air.

Life is always changing and so are our emotions and bodies. There will always be struggles and ups and downs in life – but knowing that I do actually have the energy to deal with anything is awesome. When times have been particularly hard or stressful – like recently, I felt that my battery had gone to zero and I was very low. But this time round, I knew it would pass. I felt myself almost going into standby mode – just weathering out the storm and biding my time. It took a month, but then I did indeed bounce back. Bounce is not a term I ever thought I would ever use to describe myself either! But bounce I did. I woke up one morning and actually felt awake – the battery had recharged.

Like an onion being peeled, the layers are slowly being removed – one has to remember that there have been years of build-up of stress and tension! It is fascinating the little changes that you begin to notice – you start to remember what being ‘normal’ was like!! As you delve deeper you discover more and more about your body, your thoughts – and their effects, as well as being more aware of your posture, etc. You realise your body and mind is a whole working system that needs to be tended to regularly and cared for. Once you understand your body a little better, you can get the best use out of it!

Kathryn has been my angel these past few years. No, she hasn’t paid me to say this! She is such a dedicated practitioner and one totally dedicated to her clients. Although a Bowen treatment normally takes between 45 minutes to an hour, I have sometimes been in a session for up to two hours – simply because my body needed more time to adjust and relax. Whenever you ring for an appointment she assesses your needs and gets you in as soon as she can – quite often rearranging her own personal commitments.

I would recommend Bowen to anyone, it really is a fascinating healing and learning process. Both my children have had sessions too for various reasons – I feel that it is the most natural way of healing yourself body and soul.”