"I had been ill for over 6 months when I received my diagnosis of ME/CFS. It was having a profound impact on my life at the time - I was unable to work, unable to do any exercise other than short walks, my social life and relationships were compromised, I wasn't able to live independently and look after myself properly so I moved back in with my parents.
Once I had my diagnosis of ME/CFS confirmed I was fortunate enough to be referred to a CBT specialist (Gabriela) where I started a programme of CBT. I have worked with Gabriela for 8 months where we created a programme tailored to my recovery. Firstly, we understood my baseline of activity, rest and sleep and sought to increase (e.g. exercise) or decrease (e.g. sleep) where appropriate. We also explored my thoughts, feelings and behaviours that were contributing to maintaining the condition and how to challenge these.
The process wasn't easy - there were lots of tears, despair and a lot of hard work but I trusted in the process and I trusted my specialist. She guided me, challenged me, and helped me reframe my condition, focus on progress and what I could do versus what I couldn't. Exercise, improving sleep quality (rather than quantity), challenging assumptions about what it means to have ME/CFS and sustainably increasing activity in a controlled way have helped me make a lot of progress with recovery. Unfortunately, you don't get a 'day off' or 'holiday' from ME/CFS, so following the programme consistently everyday was the hardest part but I believe was also key to the progress I've made and to avoid any kind of boom and bust e.g., I dragged myself off the sofa to do the 'couch to 5k' when I felt so tired that I couldn't put one foot in front of the other, got up at the same time every day despite wanting to sleep until noon. I also had a lot of help from family and loved ones who were there and able to best support me once I knew how to articulate what I needed from them (i.e. they would help hold me to account).
I am now back at work (after a phased return over a number of months), I jog 3 times a week, and am back living independently with friends and am living as 'normal' a life as possible in a global pandemic. I am focusing on keeping the good habits engrained, maintaining boundaries and not panicking if I have a few days where my symptoms are worse. I would not have believed I would be in this position a year ago, and want you to know it is possible that things can get better."
Clare, Management Consultant aged 30, presented with ME/CFS in 2020.
Name changed to protect patient confidentiality