Emily Hustwick

I first began experiencing symptoms of Myalgic encephalomyelitis in 2019, and though I had never previously suffered with my physical health, it came as no surprise that I was beginning to experience debilitating levels of fatigue.

At the time, I had been diagnosed with depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and anxiety. My mental health conditions were described by healthcare professionals as being ‘complex’, and unfortunately, no therapy or medication could support my needs. As you can probably imagine, this particular period of my life was stress inducing, especially because I was simultaneously trying to keep up with the pressures of school as an undiagnosed autistic teenager.

In an attempt to find a place in this neuro-typical world, I masked my true identity, preventing people from being able to understand the extent of my suffering. Eventually, I turned to revision and schoolwork to suppress my overwhelming feelings of depression, but this ‘coping mechanism’ is what I believe ultimately led to my development of chronic fatigue syndrome. Each morning I would wake up at 5am to complete 14 hours of revision, allowing myself no breaks in between. My goal was to appear studious to draw attention away from the fact that I was incredibly isolated. So long as I was a high achiever, my wellbeing didn’t matter, so I guess my plan was successful, right?

Unfortunately, my compulsive need to study coupled with my deteriorating mental health led me to where I am today- unable to fulfill the life that I had once imagined for myself. Over the past two years, my physical health has declined rapidly, to the point where I am now using a wheelchair to leave the house. Whilst my symptoms of ME were once controlled, they are now utterly debilitating, thus impacting my ability to continue in education.

I am aware that everyone will have a unique experience with this condition, but for me it manifests itself in a multitude of different ways. During a relapse, it is common for me to be physically sick, resulting in me losing oxygen and consciousness, causing my lips to turn blue. I can’t describe how frightening it feels to lose control over your body, but I’m sure that you reading this will be able to relate in some way. After all, chronic fatigue is so unpredictable. One minute the symptoms can be tamed, the next minute we are drowning in the depth of crushing exhaustion.

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