Sunday was CFS/ME awareness day. I meant to write this then but didn’t quite get round to it.
I knew it was coming up but only remembered because I was scrolling through the BBC news app and very near the bottom was an article written by a young journalist in her early twenties who has suffered with CFS for the past 11 years. It’s an interesting read about her experiences with getting diagnosed, her challenges suffering as a teenager and then having to relearn coping strategies when she went to university. I think it’s great that she had the determination and support network around her to enable her to go. But I’m not writing this post about her experiences. No, it brought to mind two thoughts about the article and it being published.
- Eleven years ago, Dr’s shrugged these symptoms off as fake, that the sufferer was making it all up, that it’s all in their head. I’m sure this still exists today.
- Conversely, I think it’s great that this article was published here. But why wasn’t it higher up in the app? I guess it’s novel that the article was published so perhaps I should just be thankful for that.
So whilst there has been a great deal of headway in the acceptance that CFS is an actual illness amongst the medical profession, there is still a long way to go to make it something that you don’t have to explain every time someone asks what it is.
Take mental health. Five years ago there was never this much public awareness and media attention. Businesses now offer wellbeing sessions and celebrities talk openly about their mental health. It’s having a positive impact as the taboo surrounding the illness is gradually dissipating.
Yet with mental health you could argue it is easier and quicker to diagnose as it takes a short chat with a Dr for them to diagnose you with depression, to suggest therapies and perhaps prescribe medication. To be diagnosed with CFS, you have to have suffered with the symptoms and have had all the eliminatory tests before being diagnosed. You need to have suffered for at least six months. That’s an awfully long time without a real diagnosis, not knowing why you are in so much pain, have constant, extreme fatigue, of not being able to live your life. It’s no wonder then that CFS goes hand-in-hand with mental health problems.
But just like depression, there is no quick fix solution and for both illnesses, relapses happen. Just like depression, CFS/ME has repercussions on a person’s social, professional and personal lives. They are both invisible but both have a massive impact on the individual as well as those closest to them.
So here’s hoping that in five years time, in 2024, CFS/ME will have more presence on social media platforms, be in the limelight in the media on this CFS/ME awareness day. Here’s hoping that in 2024 there will more awareness of this invisible, chronic illness.