Foggy asked for guest bloggers to write blog posts for him; this is a guest blog post from Rachel, a mild M.E. sufferer.
Glandular fever swept through our sixth form college like wildfire; which isn’t that abnormal amongst a group of 17-year-olds I guess. Except I never seemed to get better. I was halfway through the second year of my A Levels combined with Dance Foundation when suddenly I was exhausted all the time, with a permanent sore throat, swollen glands that never seemed to go down, migraines and aches and pains all over. Months and months of medical tests followed, all of which proved inconclusive. In May 1992, I received a diagnosis nobody wants to get, especially someone just weeks away from their exams. I had M.E.
In the early 90s M.E. was a relative unknown. It was known, here in the UK, as Yuppie flu because the only people who had been reported as getting it were burned out city workers. What did I have in common with them? There were no support groups, very little research and nothing anybody could tell me.
I somehow managed to make it through my final exams but all I can really remember about that period is being bone-achingly tired and having to take so many anti-inflammatories that I’ve had stomach issues ever since.
Instead of going to university that Autumn I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to go and stay with my aunt in Tasmania, Australia. The sunshine and slower paced lifestyle did this body good and within a few months I was starting to feel better, needed fewer painkillers and had put on some of the weight I’d lost. Naively I believed I’d beaten this thing. I didn’t know then what I know now; that M.E comes and goes in waves. That, for me at least, it is triggered by stress and overwork.
I returned to England to go to university. Half way through my degree those familiar symptoms came back. Just in time for my final exams, the M.E. returned with a vengeance. You see what I mean about it being triggered by stress? After a year of recuperating I moved to London to start my first “proper” job. You probably won’t be surprised to learn I was back living with my parents and all my symptoms flared up again within 18 months. That’s when I realised I had to stop this “boom or bust” road to recovery, and it’s when I started doing a bit of research. Over the next few years I tried a lot of different things from Acupuncture to Hypnotherapy, from C.B.T. to Reiki and I got a few new diagnoses, Fibromyalgia, Endometriosis, I.B.S. and Congenital Scoliosis. I tried various remedies from the kind you get on prescription to homeopathic and herbal. But the thing that seemed to work for me was Yoga.
You see, I always loved to move my body. From early ballet classes to my Dance Foundation I was never happy sitting still. The problem was since my M.E. diagnosis I found a lot of exercise just completely wore me out. But Yoga was different. I’m not talking about the sort of Yoga that is all over social media these days, Hot Yoga, Power Yoga, Cardio Yoga. No, this was gentle, it involved a lot of lying on the floor, gentle stretching and deep full breaths.
Some days all I could manage was to lie on the floor, other days I could do a bit more. Over time, with patience, practice, and a lot of guided relaxations, I was able to practice gentle sequences. My energy levels improved, I was slowly able to do some other gentle exercise too (walking, light weight training). After a couple of years I was back at work full time. And with regular Yoga practice I could manage my energy better. I didn’t have those “boom and busts” anymore. Don’t get me wrong though, I still had bad days. I still do.
These days I own a little Yoga studio in Cambridge. I teach all kinds of people but I run some classes that are dedicated to people with M.E., Fibromyalgia and similar chronic conditions. Not only is this a chance for them to do a little movement and a lot of relaxation that is suitable for them, but it also gives them a chance to meet other people with M.E., something I never got to do. We keep it very positive in class and try not to moan too much about our symptoms. Everyone keeps coming back so it seems to be helping! Of course Yoga isn’t necessarily suitable for everyone with M.E. and it might not help you in the same way it helped me. My point in sharing all of this with you is to never, ever, give up hope. You never know what is round the corner. I still have bad days, as I said, but my once moderate M.E. is now mild, even on a bad day. I’ve come a long way baby.
Rachel is a Yoga and Pilates teacher, massage therapist and studio owner in Cambridge UK. Check out her website for more info about M.E. and Fibromyalgia http://massage-movement.co.ukor follow along on Instagram and Twitter @rachel_fusion
*Foggy* Thanks Rachel – Doggy snogs xxx