My name is Christina and I am a 26-year-old from the North East of England. I am also a M.E sufferer.
My journey started when I had just qualified as a teacher and I was in my first year, known as your NQT or ‘Newly Qualified Teacher’ year. I was working flat out and could regularly be found up and at my computer at midnight planning lessons and making sure that my resources were perfect. I was good at my job and I loved it. Just before the Easter holidays, I had started to feel really run down and weak. I even passed out in the middle of a year 11 lesson! This carried on for weeks and I was in and out of the doctors surgery being diagnosed with everything from stress to ‘just another virus’. The final nail in the coffin was a week before the holidays when the school received the OFSTED phone call. As you can imagine whether you are a teacher or not, everyone tripled the pace and I was no exception. On the final day of the inspection after running on adrenaline for 3 days, I was observed and got ‘Outstanding’, great! Except that I felt like a ghost looking down on myself and thinking “you can’t keep working like this”. I continued to get worse and eventually was diagnosed with glandular fever. Throughout the next year, I contracted glandular fever four times as I didn’t allow my body the time that it needed to fully repair. By October 2014 I could barely get out of bed. I worked with a wonderful man and a dear friend called Tom who had suffered from ME for several years and I started to identify with many of his symptoms. Finally, I went to my GP and queried if this could be the cause and was referred to a local specialist. I was officially diagnosed in December 2014.
However, my illness had many layers. On the surface, I had M.E and clearly needed a long period of rest if I was ever to recover. However, there were issues deeper down that I have never spoken about until recently. I had suffered from an eating disorder since around the age of 16 and from this age had lived on a strict calorie controlled diet of 1,200 calories a day in addition to taking fat loss pills and often binging on prescription strength laxatives. My body was already exhausted and I was making it worse by not giving it the fuel it needed.
From being diagnosed and admitting these problems to my M.E consultant, life started to pick me. I finally knew what was wrong with me and I started to learn about my symptoms and more importantly how I could control them. There was one thing standing in my way: my job. So in August 2015, I made the huge decision to leave teaching. It was hard for me, but I realised that my health had to be more important than my job and I was living to work. I had just got married to the love of my life and I wanted to build a life with him and not have him on the side while trying to struggle with my job being the priority. I found a job which was still in education but removed the home workload and slowly I started to see an improvement. I had to give myself a good talking to and realise that just because I had to change careers didn’t mean I had failed at teaching.
The next stage was the food thing. Again, I sat myself down and thought “when I die, will people really remember me for how much I weighed?”. The answer is no. People will remember you for being a nice person, helping others, your achievements but certainly not what your body fat percentage is or the fact that you ate that cake last Tuesday. I started to eat properly and this also helped my symptoms as I had more fuel.
Although I like my new job, it is 30 miles away and I am now finding that I am struggling with the travel. But again, that’s ok. I have a job, I have supportive colleagues and managers and am also regularly submitting job applications closer to home. I know that if I’m patient, like I had to be with my illness, in time I will find something ideal for me.
I find with ME, you need to take the Rocky Balboa approach: one step, one punch, one round. Take your time, don’t let the relapses get you down, and most importantly never give up.