How does mental health impact on M.E.? *

The last couple of weeks have been tricky – I lost one week to M.E., which is never nice and seem to have taken a little longer than usual to recover. It’s been a curious combination of cold weather and reaction to revisiting past trauma, I think.

The cold weather is simple to understand – like loads of people who experience joint and muscle pain as soon as the weather turns cool and damp the pain in my limbs shoots up. It stops me sleeping and makes moving, showering etc. tricky. I’m used to it, don’t like it and think it’s yet another reason I should move to live in Abel Tasman.

The impact of my mental health is something I’m still coming to terms with. For a long time, I’ve fought against this idea, simply because a common derision of M.E. is “it’s all in your mind” (it’s not. if it was, I’d have scooted it out long ago). My EMDR therapist last year gently mentioned this and I felt very defensive – after the year of treatment though I noticed a difference. My symptoms were still present, but it was easier to find and stick to a baseline. I’ve also noticed that my symptoms increase at certain flashpoints (October through to Christmas is always hard) . So what’s caused this latest flare? It seems to have been my lovely poetry course – it’s called Telling your Story and touched a few trigger points for me. My first thought was “oh the therapy’s not worked” but I realised it has – it’s just not complete. The fact that I can recognise and take steps to minimise damage show that my instinct to survive is stronger than my instinct to destroy. There will always be triggers (just like for everyone) the difference is I know what to do, even if it takes a while for me to get there.

What does this have to do with M.E.? I don’t know is the honest answer – it’s just a connection I’ve made and that seems to hold up. There’s theories that past pain is stored in our bodies, theories that people with M.E. have developed a particular personality type that is the result of trauma. The idea of whole body health isn’t new, and each time I fall into this I realise that making time for good mental health practice is as important as making time for good physical health practice. I’m a bit rubbish at both, but I am getting better!

The other inescapable impact is the fear and chaos around every corner. I feel ill placed to talk of the current situation, but it feels wrong not to. I’m vehement in my belief in equality and at this moment that means supporting BLM – I can do very little other than educate myself and acknowledge my own privilege. This concept is something that seems to make people extremely uncomfortable – but you know my nan did it for years – she called it counting her blessings. Being aware that circumstance has given me opportunities that have been denied to others doesn’t denigrate the society I was born into. Not fighting to make sure everyone has the same opportunity to be the best they can be does.  

*this is my own personal experience – everyone with M.E. has different symptoms and stories. This is why we need research.

Thank you for reading, stay safe, speak up and wash your hands. I’d love your feedback and as ever if you like, comment and share on social media it helps beat the algorithm and raise my profile as a writer. Normal poetry musings will resume next week.

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