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Chronic fatigue: I was 'held hostage by ME'

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Media captionNewsbeat documentary: M.E. and me

Hi, my name is Lizzie and I'm known in my town as the girl who got ill.

You see, I was given that label when I was diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) aged 16.

I'd gone from a bright, bubbly girl to being exhausted and having my personality sucked out of me.

For those of you who don't know (and I'm guessing you don't, I certainly didn't) it's a horrible illness that makes you feel tired in a really extreme, abnormal way.

It's so much more than that too because you get digestive problems, headaches, nausea, muscle pains, spasms and you become sensitive to light and noise.

Image copyright Lizzie Mitchell

Crawling home from the bus stop

I had just finished my GCSEs when I got ill. I noticed I was getting worn out uncharacteristically quickly.

Despite trying to push on and keep going it became unavoidable and one day I had to crawl home from the bus stop because my legs were like jelly. I physically couldn't walk.

After that, things went downhill rapidly and I ended up being bed-bound for a couple of years - it felt like I was a prisoner in my own body.

Held hostage by ME, the biggest punishment of all was the social isolation, having to watch as my friends went through their rites of passage.

Image copyright Lizzie Mitchell

Unfortunately, myalgic encephalomyelitis can often be missed by the medical profession and it took 18 months to get a proper diagnosis.

While I followed some of the treatments suggested by my doctor, I was also lucky to be in a financial position that allowed me to try some alternative, private things.

It's really important to point out that no two cases of ME are the same - what works for one person might not work for another. Every sufferer has to find their own way to recovery.

For anyone suffering or who thinks they might be, there's no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed.

I'm now 22 - studying and learning to drive with a great social life, so there can be a way out of ME.

What is ME?

  • ME - also called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - is a medical condition characterised by profound and disabling fatigue
  • Symptoms include: loss of muscle power, debilitating pain, difficulty sleeping and cognitive dysfunction affecting memory and concentration
  • The cause of ME is unknown, but many patients contract it after a viral infection
  • Women are four times more likely to have ME than men
  • The health watchdog in England is currently reviewing its guidelines on diagnosis and treatment

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