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'Don't call my M.E. yuppie flu or laziness', says Rachel

Wednesday 11 May 2011

From UK newspaper This is Staffordshire:


Rachel Lindan
Rachel Linden has suffered
from chronic fatigue
syndrome for more
than four years.
Picture by Wesley Webster.

'Don't call my M.E. yuppie flu or laziness', says Rachel

8:00am Saturday 7th May 2011

AT HER lowest, Rachel Lindan admits she has felt suicidal.

The 21-year-old, who suffers from depression and chronic fatigue syndrome, is virtually housebound and struggles with everyday tasks.

She envies other people her age who are at university or in work, and are out having fun with their friends

"With chronic fatigue syndrome the tiredness is indescribable," says Rachel.

"It's concrete exhaustion. It's not that you don't want to get out of bed, it's that you can't."

Rachel lives with her mum Linda, aged 52, and her brother Sam, aged 19, in Ironbridge Drive, Newcastle.

Much of her schooldays were blighted by bullying.

"When I was growing up I was never pretty or super-bright," she recalls, "but I'd always got good grades.

"I was kind of an awkward, bookish kid, and was probably just an easy target."

She has blocked out much of the bullying, which she describes as psychological rather than physical, from her memory.

"I seemed to go from one bully to another," she says, "but I didn't really tell anyone what I was going through."

Rachel was diagnosed with depression at the age of 16.

"Suddenly everything became very difficult," she says.

"I was so tired all the time and I just wanted to sleep."

Rachel kept her feelings to herself and didn't even confide in her mum.

And while Rachel has never harmed herself, she has contemplated walking into a road to end her life.

"I just didn't want to live anymore," she says. "Everything was exhausting."

She was prescribed anti-depressants, but the counselling she was given was of little help.

Meanwhile, she'd started studying for A-levels in English language, English literature and philosophy at Fenton Sixth Form College, but caught chicken pox at the start of the course.

"I never seemed to get better after that," she says. "The exhaustion never went away.

"I had a continual sore throat and felt like I had flu."

Although she didn't know it at the time, she was suffering from myalgic encephalomyelitis (M.E.), also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, which was finally diagnosed when she was aged 17.

"My muscles and joints were painful," she says, "and I had headaches all the time.

"But the most annoying thing was the brain fog, which left me constantly lost for words."

Before M.E. Rachel devoured books, but now struggles to take things in.

"Depression and M.E. share a lot of symptoms," she explains, "but M.E. is classed as a physical problem with the brain as opposed to chemical.

"There is nothing you can do for it, really. Everyday things are so hard. I can't hold a hairdryer because it hurts my arm and half the time I'm too tired to have a shower."

Rachel's only job was as a waitress in a cafe one summer.

"It was only for two days a week," she says, "but I was so tired I had to quit."

Despite very poor attendance, Rachel completed her A-levels, gaining two As and a B.

It was Rachel's dream to go to university, but after moving into halls of residence in Wales, it became clear she was unable to cope on her own.

"I was there for about five months studying English and creative writing," she says, "but I couldn't look after myself, let alone go to lectures. I had to cook and clean, which was so exhausting."

Her parents split up when she was two years old and Rachel only has "sporadic contact" with her father.

She relies on her mum, who has given up her job as a teacher.

"She's my unpaid carer," she says. "I couldn't survive without her."

Rachel still takes anti-depressants and every couple of months she doses herself up on caffeine tablets and Lucozade for her great passion – rock band Manic Street Preachers.

"Live music has always been a massive part of my life," she says, "and when I'm at a gig I have to ignore the agony of standing up for so long."

She has had two serious boyfriends, but finds people struggle to understand M.E.

"It's the same with friends," she says.

"They may not mean to fall out of touch and drop away, but they do."

A source of great support is the Association for Young People with M.E. (AYME).

Rachel says: "It's really helpful to have that link with other young people who have the same thing as me."

And she is determined not to let the depression and M.E. beat her and will be starting an art course in September.

"I'll be spreading a one-year part-time course over two years," she says, "and while it will still be hard, art is a great way to express myself."

Rachel feels there is too much misunderstanding about M.E. and not enough support for the people who have it.

"People seem to think M.E. is 'yuppie flu' or laziness," she says, "but it's a life-wrecker.

"I've tried so hard with everything and I'll keep trying."


The above originally appeared here.



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