In 2009 I was diagnosed with M.E. I’m not bed bound or anything and I can still get about when I’m able, but I can’t do what I used to at all.
I spend about 80% of my life with a migraine, I don’t sleep well and I’m in pain most of the time. After 7 years of trying and failing to find some relief through medication and hospital procedures, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is my life now and I’m learning to live with it.
My illness officially started in May 2009, when I became ill with a severe gastroenteritis while I was on holiday with my boyfriend in Egypt. In hindsight, I can see that for about a year beforehand my health was in decline. I had at least one bug every month and I was physically exhausted from my job as a PA in the NHS – my holiday was literally the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was admitted to hospital on my return to the UK and my health declined from there.
I carried on working for three months after I was discharged from hospital, working evenings and weekends to keep up with the demands of the job. It soon became clear that I couldn’t physically sustain it and my manager advised me to take a period of sick leave. After a month and no improvement, my manager started a capability procedure to ‘support me though this difficult time’. As I was still too unwell to return full time by the following January, my contract was terminated on the grounds of ill health. My role was replaced with three full time posts.
Meanwhile, I learned that my boyfriend had been seeing someone else whilst I had been too unwell to go out.
After 7 years of building a career and a relationship, I had lost them both in the space of a month.
I can’t deny that I found the loss of life as I knew it hard. I spent the majority of the first year of my illness asleep, because I was utterly exhausted and suffering with daily symptoms including chest pain, difficulty breathing, migraines, flu-like aches in the arms, legs and back, muscle tremors and violent muscle spasms all over. At times I feel so awful that it is frightening.
Seven years on and my health continues to fluctuate. The hardest thing I’ve found to deal with is that my brain is as active as it ever was. My body won’t let my brain do what it wants to and in those few moments it does, I end up suffering for it badly.
I make the most of each day as much as I can and try not to get down about my situation. I had envisaged having children and a career by the age of 35 and I can’t deny that I regret that, but there are positives to take too (honestly!).
I like to think that getting ill was natures way of telling me to take a different path.
Sure I’ve lost, but I’ve also gained. I’ve gotten to spend more time with my family than I otherwise would have done, I managed to gain an A in an Art AS Level which I completed from home and I have met some amazing people through my illness. They have more than made up for the dozens of friends who abandoned me when I became ill – I know that the people I have around me now are keepers!
I don’t know what the future will hold, but I am positive that if I don’t fully recover I will still be able to have a fulfilling life within my boundaries. If there is one thing I have learnt, it is that without your health you have nothing and it is my health that I am concentrating on now.
Without the support of my family and friends I don’t know what I would have done and although I have lost a lot, I have gained a lot more in the kindness and care I have found.
Words by Katie Prentice