First of all I’d like to thank Jo Best for asking me to contribute to this months Movember for Invest In ME. Second of all I’ve always struggled with growing a beard so mine would look pretty much the same after 4-5 weeks of growing! So I thought I’d share a recent pic of when I let it grow long (for me).
I’d like to now share my story of my journey with this terrible illness. I was previously a very active person who enjoyed all sorts of sports varying from football to wrestling to ice skating, I’ve always been very ambitious setting high targets for myself.
I’d never heard of ME before the summer of 2012. My friend at the time had this illness which I’d never heard of, in fact I didn’t know she had it until I started meeting up with her. I began to ask her questions out of curiosity and because I always try to show empathy towards others. she starting describing her symptoms and it made me stop and think, I instantly knew that this was what I could be suffering with. Throughout my studying years I always struggled with fatigue. I would need to sleep during the day as well as night, my concentration levels were non-existent however hard I tried and there was always discomfort in my muscles which I never took any notice of. I’d been to the doctors many times about these things but every time I was turned away made to feel like a hypochondriac. A lot of it was either put down to my diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome or depression which I’d struggled with after leaving high school. However, I always knew that it was something more than that.
After I had graduated university in 2012 I went straight to a personal training academy for 6 weeks. In the midst of this I had been to the doctor and she agreed to refer me to a consultant at the Liverpool Royal Hospital. I was exhausted by this point but in the back of my mind I thought I would be ok as I’d managed to cope with fatigue for many years, plus I didn’t want to lose for money I’d paid to enrol on the course. I went ahead with it and very quickly I knew it wasn’t the right thing for me. I really struggled with the practical side of the assessments despite having been a gym goer since the age of 14. The discomfort in my muscles increased each day and it got to the point where I couldn’t do any aerobic activity without a lot of pain. The theory side of the course was incredibly difficult too, my concentration levels were deteriorating by the day but I persisted with it. It all felt like a massive coincidence and that it was probably a phase that would pass.
I started working as a Personal Trainer very shortly after my course and only lasted for 3 weeks. I had to go into hospital as my leg pains had gotten to the point where I couldn’t function properly because it was so overpowering. A few days later I was taken back in with gastroenteritis where I had to stay in hospital overnight, I’d lost a lot of weight and blood and never returned to work after this.
That was at the end of 2012. We’re now at the end of 2015 and I haven’t been able to work for the past 3 years. My ME has gone from mild to moderate and I’m at the point where I feel lucky if I have 2-3 good days a week, by this I mean the average chilled out day of a “normal” person with nothing too strenuous. Some weeks I’m only able to get 1 shower and some week I spend the majority of my time in bed. I attend Cognitive Behavioural Therapy at Broad Green hospital for a couple of years though there's only so much it can do. I was recently discharged and I've not long had my first session at a local pain clinic.
I could go on for hours about my daily struggles but then I know the majority of people reading this will be going through very similar things. I’m 24 and day by day it feels like my hopes are fading away. However, I know that life won’t always be like this and I (try to) remain positive about the future. Smiling hasn’t always been a strong trait of mine but I’ve been told it’s infectious so here it is…
During the last 3 years there are positives to be taken from it. I discovered a new hobby in singing which I wouldn’t have found without this diagnosis. I’m currently working towards my grade 3 and slowly but surely I’ll get there. On and off for long periods I’ve been studying theology which is a big personal interest for me as my faith has kept me going through these difficult times. I’ve also managed to write a couple of books about my experiences to try and help others. I’m not the best writer in the world and I can’t see myself ever making a career out of it but it’s been a very positive thing for me and I’ve met some amazing people through it. My first book “A New ME” has raised £175 for this charity which I’m very proud of. I also have a blog which I update when I can which focuses on my journey: http://barrysme.blogspot.co.uk
Thanks for reading and if you'd like to check out the charity then click here: http://www.investinme.org/about.htm