Debbie lives in the UK with her partner. She started having symptoms of fatigue in 2003 and got diagnosed with ME/CFS two years later. A decade later she considered herself recovered, but was still at 60% capacity. It took another 5 years to get to 100%. She knew she was there when she climbed Mount Snowden, one of the highest peaks in the UK, in 2018. Although having ME/CFS took away more than a decade of her life, she now lives a very different, much more fulfilling, life. If she could wish for one thing, it would be that she didn’t have to go through the agony of ME/CFS to get there.
What is your advice to people who are just diagnosed?
To people who are just diagnosed I would say, don’t let any negative advice stop you from doing something to help yourself. I was told that there was only a 10% chance of recovery, that I would never get my old life back and that I’d just have to learn to manage it and live with ME/CFS. I was already feeling vulnerable and depressed and this advice didn’t help me in any way.
Who is/ are your biggest supporter(s) and what did they do?
My biggest supporter was my partner Marcus and my close friends. Together they helped me with practical tasks like shopping, giving me lifts to appointments, coming with me to try new alternative ways of healing. Being open to anything I suggested and supporting my ideas, however unusual.
What were the key elements for your improvements/ recovery?
The key elements for my recovery were:
- All things nutrition including taking supplements and eating ‘clean’.
- Looking at my limiting beliefs, working to change them and then setting healthy boundaries in my relationships based on my new beliefs.
- Using Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to help me process my emotions.
- Healing unresolved trauma.
- Using techniques to help calm my nervous system, including meditation.
What do you do when you have a bad day, or feel one coming up?
First of all, I stop. I doesn’t matter what I’m doing. I take some time away to be by myself and go back to basics of clean eating, meditating regularly, and days with nothing that I ‘have’ to do until I feel my energy/pain changing.
What good thing has your illness and journey brought you that you would not have had otherwise?
A new me and a new life. Before, I was consistently putting other people’s needs before my needs. I tolerated being treated in ways that were unacceptable to me. I was living my life through other people. Now, I live my life, my way, and I consider my needs as well as other people’s needs.
What is your go-to comfort food?
Luckily, I love soup. So when I’m needing comfort, a home-made tomato or chicken soup does it for me. I also love mashed potato, especially when it has cheese mixed in. Neither of which helps my low carbohydrate dairy free diet. So I only have it when I really need it.
What is the best and worst movie or series you watched while you were ill?
I wasn’t able to watch much TV while I was ill as my concentration span was severely limited and anything that was too fast or loud had a negative impact. A good friend lent me the series Scrubs which was ideal – short episodes and humour which was a bonus particularly when I need a lift emotionally.
Can you share a quote, cartoon or inspirational message that cheers you up?
A friend sent me this quote from Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace which I find powerful.
In the closing scenes Pierre says ‘…When our lives are knocked off course, we imagine everything in them is lost. But it is only the start of something new and good. As long as there is life, there is happiness. There is a great deal, a great deal still to come.’
If you have to come up with a metaphor for CFS what would it be?
I don’t have a metaphor for CFS but I know what ME is an abbreviation for: ‘ME Magnifies Everything.’
Please share a picture of you in your happy place
Debbie has written about all the aspects of her recovery in booklets which can be found on Amazon: Amazon.co.uk : my journey to recovery ME/CFS. You can find out more about Debbie on her website: Myjourneytorecovery.online