When Carmel Twomey returned from an appointment at her local beauty salon one Saturday morning in March 2013, she was shocked to discover that a chunk of her right eyebrow was missing.
"I went to have my eyebrows waxed and eyelashes tinted as I was going out that night," the 50-year-old acupuncturist recalls. "When I got home and looked in the mirror, I realized the beautician had waxed off a third of my eyebrow!"
Carmel was upset but not too concerned, as she assumed the hair would grow back—just as the salon assured her it would. But one month later, there was no regrowth whatsoever. Worse, she noticed the remaining hair had started to recede. This continued until, soon, she was left with no right eyebrow at all.
"I was very distressed," said Carmel, who's from Ireland, but is now based in Hertfordshire. "I even looked into having an eyebrow transplant. But I was told I'd have to wait at least a year to be a candidate."
In the meantime, Carmel was advised to have blood tests to check for any abnormalities. The tests came back normal, but by the time she got the results back, Carmel noticed she was losing hair from her head too.
"My hair was very limp and coming out in my hands. That had never happened to me before. Then, in the third week of July, I lifted my hair over my ears and found two bald patches."
By mid-August, Carmel was completely bald. She then proceeded to lose all of her body hair, including her remaining eyebrow and her eyelashes.
"I felt like a freak," said Carmel. "I was so ashamed."
An unhelpful diagnosis
Carmel booked an appointment with a London trichologist who specialized in male and female hair loss. But he said there was not a lot he could do for her.
"He said there was hope for regrowth as my follicles were still alive. But he couldn't tell me if my hair would grow back or not."
He advised Carmel to visit her GP, but not to take any of the drugs she would undoubtedly be offered. "He told me, 'The drugs can make your hair grow, but you will need to be on them for life. If you come off them, your hair will fall out again.'"
As Carmel didn't want to take any medication anyway, she followed the trichologist's advice. Her GP diagnosed her as having alopecia universalis—the complete loss of hair on the scalp and body—but also admitted, "We know nothing about why people lose their hair in Western medicine."
Carmel turned down any drug treatment and, instead, used the alcohol-based lotions her trichologist had given her, which were designed to "stimulate the scalp". She bought a wig so she could face seeing people, and tried her best to relax as she was told her hair loss could be related to stress.
Over the next few months, Carmel attempted to carry on with her life as usual. She started looking into alopecia universalis and its possible treatments, yet found the research so negative that she decided to stop (see box, page 66). "I read things like, 'The longer you are without hair regrowth, the less likely it is' . . . I found stories of women with alopecia who didn't get their hair back. I had to shut the research down."
But after a year of no change in her condition, Carmel decided to take a more active approach. She signed up for a two-month mindfulness meditation stress-reduction programme, starting in March 2015, and meditated for six days a week while on the course and for nine months after that.Yet Carmel continued to see no change in her condition. "I felt a lot more relaxed, but there was no hair growth."
Carmel then embarked on a raft of alternative treatments, from manual therapies like osteopathy and massage to talking therapies like counselling. And still she saw no change in her alopecia. "All the treatments were helpful in some way," said Carmel, "but I had no hair regrowth at all."
Carmel already had a healthy diet, exercised and didn't smoke, so a drastic change of diet and lifestyle wasn't on her list of things to try—although she did give juicing and cutting out sugar a go. And despite being an acupuncturist, Carmel didn't think acupuncture would be right for her. "My usual acupuncturist had retired and I hadn't been able to find a replacement. I'm extremely fussy."
It's good to talk
Just when Carmel thought she had run out of options, she met someone though work who was to completely change her life.
Richard Moat had developed his own form of talking therapy, based on more than two decades of research into the connection between emotions and health. When he told Carmel about it, she immediately thought, "This is for me."
Carmel attended one of Richard's seminars in August 2015 together with a friend, and remembers telling her, "This is it! That man is going to get my hair back."
Over the next few months, Carmel liaised with Richard about his therapy, which he calls 'Moativational Medicine', and decided not just to undergo treatment, but to train in the therapy herself. "It made sense for me as an alternative health practitioner, because I could learn all about the therapy and Richard could work on me personally at the same time."
In January 2016, Carmel had her first session with Richard, which was over the phone in the comfort of her own home. "The therapy doesn't have to be done face to face," said Carmel. "There's no hands-on treatment. It's just talking."
It wasn't until Carmel's third session with Richard that he discussed her alopecia with her. "He went through all the details with me . . . what happened . . . whether it was sudden or gradual, etc. Then he took me back to the 18 months before the hair loss and asked me if there was anything stressful in my life. I replied, 'That was the worst year of my life.'"
Richard's view was that Carmel had not properly dealt with the trauma from that period in her life—the relationship and work stress she experienced—and her suppressed emotions were the root cause of her alopecia. His treatment was not to get Carmel to talk about that traumatic time and 'relive it', but to change the way she felt about it.
"You don't have to open the can of worms," said Carmel. "It's about dissolving the glue that's holding the trauma in place."
To this end, Richard employed various techniques, including visualization, verbalization and breathing techniques. "He'd give me exercises to change the way I was feeling about a particular event," said Carmel.
Carmel continued to have regular sessions with Richard and, by the end of February—after two and a half years of being completely bald—Carmel noticed some hair growth on her head. From then on, very gradually, her hair started to grow back.
At around the same time, Carmel noticed that some other long-standing health problems she had completely resolved.
"Within a month, all my sciatic symptoms, hot flushes and colitis [inflammation of the colon] had, for the first time in over 18 months, actually cleared completely and have not recurred since. I know it was Richard's work that did this," said Carmel.
Paying it forward
Today, more than a year since starting sessions with Richard, Carmel feels "the best I have felt in my entire life". She doesn't have a full head of hair like she once had, but Carmel has experienced significant regrowth and is confident her hair will continue to grow back. Crucially, she no longer feels the need to wear a wig.
"That was the real gem for me," said Carmel. "I started working with Richard for hair regrowth, but the most important thing that's happened is he's enabled me to remove my wig and show my true self to the world. For the first time in my life, I am completely comfortable with who I am."
Richard's work isn't just about treating symptoms, Carmel explains. It's about empowering individuals with tools and techniques to better deal with their emotions, and life stresses and strains as they arise.
Having completed more than a year of training with Richard, Carmel is also happy to now be able to offer clients Moativational Medicine as well as acupuncture at her practice in Berkhamsted. "I've seen amazing results with patients already," said Carmel. "One woman with chronic leg pain came off all her medication after just one session . . . another woman with anxiety feels so much more confident now."
Carmel hopes to work with alopecia patients in future. "I'd like to help them with hair regrowth and to feel better about themselves," Carmel said. "We all hold the keys to healing within ourselves. We just need someone to facilitate it."
Alopecia: the conventional view
• Alopecia is the medical term for hair loss.
• Alopecia areata—patchy hair loss—is thought to be an autoimmune condition.
• Alopecia universalis—complete loss of hair from scalp and body—is the most advanced form of alopecia areata.
• Alopecia totalis is the loss of all scalp hair.
• Topical steroids are often used to treat alopecia areata, but are not very effective for alopecia totalis or universalis; the same can be said for the other drug treatments currently available.1
• According to the North American Hair Research Society, 90 per cent of patients with mild alopecia areata experience spontaneous regrowth within two years, but in cases of alopecia totalis or universalis, especially those lasting more than two years, the chances of spontaneous regrowth are low and patients are less responsive to therapy.2
Moativational Medicine is the treatment and training programme developed by internationally acclaimed life coach and peak-performance expert Richard Moat, based on his more than two decades of research into the link between health and emotions.
"I've studied mind-body medicine, therapeutic linguistics, human potential, energy psychology and quantum physics," says Richard. "Moativational Medicine is a self-styled modality that's come out of that—a synthesis of what I've learnt and found works best."
The main principle behind it comes from energy psychology, a collection of interventions—including Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and Thought Field Therapy (TFT)—based on the idea that everything is energy and, by stimulating the subtle energy system of the body, human functioning can be balanced, restored and enhanced.
"Energy psychology stems from the traditional Chinese medicine idea of meridians and energy flow," Richard explains. "All energy is designed to do is to flow," he says. "If it is blocked, that creates disharmony in the body."
Richard believes that repressed emotions can cause blockages in the body's energy system which, in turn, can cause physical symptoms. "The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that 85 per cent of all diseases appear to have an emotional component. In my opinion, it's about 98 per cent."
While acupuncture is designed to resolve energy blockages by needling certain points on the body, and EFT and TFT use 'tapping' techniques, Moativational Medicine involves talking with the client—which doesn't even have to be done face to face—to pinpoint problem-causing emotions, and then working with the individual to resolve them.
"The techniques I use depend on the client, but include writing, breathing, verbalizing and visualization. If you can find an appropriate outlet for your unresolved emotions, you can return the body to harmony."
Richard, who runs seminars in the UK and around the world, also coaches clients on how to avoid negative behaviours in future and be 'authentic'—not afraid to express their true emotions—thereby preventing energy blockages from recurring and symptoms returning.
Richard claims to have thousands of happy clients besides Carmel Twomey. He says 98 per cent of them have experienced a positive result of some form, while 64 per cent have seen a complete reversal of their symptoms.
Speak your mind
Richard Moat, as part of his Moativational Medicine programme, employs a number of different techniques to help clients get rid of unwanted emotions—without them having to become emotional. Here's one he calls the SWAB process, which anyone can try.
1) Be honest. List all of the unwanted emotions you are aware of harbouring.
2) Make a statement. Prefix each of the emotions on your list with the words "I can feel..." to create a simple 'truth statement'.
3) Express. Meaningfully recite each statement out loud as follows:
Speak in your usual voice, tone and volume, then Whisper, as if wishing to keep it a secret, then Announce, as if you want the entire room to hear, then Breathe deeply and deliberately for three in- and out-breaths.
4) Observe & test. The emotional 'charge' has now been reduced and your emotional load lightened; try to reconnect with the original emotions and notice the change.
5) Repeat. Keep putting your truth statements through this SWAB process until you find it difficult to feel those emotions any more.
119 High Street, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, HP4 2DJ
www.carmelacupuncture.co.uk; Tel: 07882 889 989
Richard Moat/Moativational Medicine
www.richardmoat.com; tel: 020 8123 0957