The hell that the dark nights inflicted on Carly MacDonald left her in despair – until she found the therapist she now jokingly calls "my angel".
But Carly, who lives in Inverness, confesses that the first time she saw Bi-aura energy therapy in action as Mirjam Wigman treated her, she had to shut her eyes because it looked so weird.
"It looks quite funny the first time you see it and that's why I closed my eyes," said Carly. "I thought 'what on earth is this?'
"I could hear Mirjam breathing heavily and even though my eyes were shut, I could feel which part of me she was working on because there was a kind of heat sensation."
Bi-aura is a bio-energy therapy which can help physical and emotional problems. The therapist sweeps their hands around the client without actually touching them, but using their hands to feel where different levels of energy might indicate problems.
Mirjam explained the theory: "There is an energy field in an aura around us and it is linked to seven energy centres in the body. When someone is healthy, energy flows freely up and down the centres or chakras. But if people are not fully healthy or energised, we can scan the energy field to feel for any blockages."
The therapist can shift the blockages and disperse the energy evenly to let the body heal itself.
"The body does the work and that is what I like about Bi-aura. It is very natural," said Mirjam.
Every winter, Carly MacDonald's energy flagged and she felt terrible.
"For as long as I can remember, I have always hated winter and the dark nights it brought. Things started to get worse as I grew older.
"Three years ago I was diagnosed with what the doctors thought was depression and I recall them telling me all I needed was a 'pick-up'. They prescribed anti-depressants which I knew were not going to help me because I had the same horrendous feelings at the same time of year, every year. At this point I felt in a no-win situation."
But one doctor looked through Carly's notes and suggested she tried a lightbox.
"It became apparent I could be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). My work funded a lightbox for me which I had to sit in front of for one hour daily in the months from September through to February.
"Although the lightbox had some effect, I still felt the overwhelming feeling of fatigue, my skin was bad, I lost a number of friendships and I was having horrible arguments with my family, purely because I still felt so low.
"I couldn't talk to anyone about the way I was feeling. How could anyone possibly help?"
But a neighbour of Carly's parents found help with depression from Mirjam and then Carly saw an advert for Mirjam's work. But it took her a year to pluck up the courage to give it a go.
"I felt the all-too familiar symptoms coming back – as soon as the clocks changed, I changed. I pulled myself together and took some time off work, called Mirjam and made appointments to receive Bi-aura sessions."
The effects came, but they didn't happen at once.
"After the first session I felt sceptical that nothing had happened, but I knew in my heart it would take longer. On the second day, I felt more confident immediately.
"By night time I was full of the cold and felt physically ill. I had a feeling that I almost could not go back to see her for the third and fourth sessions. Mirjam explained to me it was my body detoxing.
"In my final session, although my eyes were closed, I could feel Mirjam working on my chest, and – with what seemed to happen in an instant – my whole body fell forward and immediately I let out a huge sigh."
Since the sessions, the effects for Carly have been dramatic.
"There are no words for the complete result it has had," she said. "For one entire year now I have never had to use my lightbox, nor have I had any symptoms.
"I jokingly call Mirjam 'my angel' but to me she truly is. The Bi-aura sessions have changed my life, and for that I will be eternally grateful."
Mirjam first came across Bi-aura when she developed asthma in 2000.
"I was at a low point in my life and I remembered that I'd seen an article about Bi-aura and I'd cut it out and put it away," Mirjam recalled. "There was a practitioner in Inverness and I went along for some sessions and I began to feel my energy coming back."
But she didn't get better immediately. Once the Bi-aura therapy moves the energy around, the body will heal itself.
Feeling worse before the full effect of the therapy happens is common and is known as a healing crisis.
Mirjam said: "It was as if my body hadn't caught up. My asthma temporarily got worse and I became allergic to my cat.
"It was about 10 weeks before I felt physically better.
"But I'm pleased that happened to me and I had the detox effect because it means it is easier to explain it to other people."
Before her treatment finished, Mirjam had already decided to become a Bi-aura therapist herself.
It meant more than a year going to Glasgow for weekend training sessions, as well as working on the therapy in between, but she has now been giving Bi-aura therapy since August 2002.
Asthma, migraine, depression, ME or chronic fatigue syndrome, back pain and stress-related problems are among the conditions that have been helped successfully by the therapy.
Mirjam said: "In my experience, it doesn't matter what people come with. What tends to happen is that people reach a certain point, there might be things in their past where they know 'I want to get rid of this now'. If they have a problem, they have to be ready to let it go. I can't force anything out of anyone and that is something I like too."
Mirjam, who comes originally from Holland and knew as soon as she first visited Scotland that she would come to live here, used to be a mental health nurse. Now, alongside her Bi-aura practice, she runs a B&B in Drumnadrochit and people interested in Bi-aura come from across the world for a holiday with treatments.
Mirjam is glad that the first-ever day-long workshop run by the Bi-aura Energy Therapy Foundation is coming to the Highlands.
Designed to provide an insight into the theory and practice of bio energy therapy, the workshop on May 26 will give people the chance to discover that they can tap into the therapy to improve their own health, letting their own body heal itself.
The therapist who first treated Mirjam is no longer in the city, but she is pleased that another Bi-aura therapist has moved into the area.
She laughed: "The Highlands is so big, there is a place for us all here."
To book a place at the workshop at the Ramada Jarvis Hotel, Inverness, from 10am to 4pm, either phone 01661-844-9899 or email email@example.com
For more information on Bi-aura and the organisation, go to http://www.bi-aura.com. To contact Mirjam, you can go to her website at http://www.lochnessbi-aura.co.uk. Margaret Chrystall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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