I Beat ME to Get Top Marks in My A-Levels - Thanks to the Wonders of Cognitive Therapy

Article excerpt


WHEN I got my A-level results from Boswells School in Chelmsford, I was apprehensive because I had to miss so much schooling in my sixth form due to illness.

But I was thrilled to find that not only did I get straight As in law, business studies and general studies, my law result also put me in the top five among 6,000 pupils who had sat the exam.

As well as the usual stresses of exams, I'd had to battle with a greater enemy.

I was struck down at the age of 14 by Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME). No one knows the cause, but it has been linked to several viruses. ME is such a nebulous condition that many doctors still don't believe it exists. Luckily, my GP has always been supportive.

And now I have started a radical treatment programme that I believe will mean a full return to health.

Before I fell ill, I was very fit and had been an ice skater for several years, even representing Great Britain. I also ran 1,500 metres competitively and played tennis.

I loved sport so much that I chose PE as one of my GCSE choices at my mixed comprehensive.

I had a lot of homework by then, so I had to cut back on the ice skating, but I still managed to fit in as much as possible.

Looking back, I wonder whether I almost overdid it and pushed my body too hard.

All I know is that in the summer of 1999, when I was 13, I began a cycle of falling sick, recovering briefly then relapsing.

I felt shattered all the time and nauseous, although I did not actually vomit. That December, I got the flu - and I simply never recovered from it. I always had a bit of a temperature, was left feeling achy, tired and with a sore throat, and it became incredibly difficult to get out of bed.

A series of blood tests did not show up anything so my GP referred me to a paediatrician but said it would take several weeks on the NHS. Luckily, as my father had private medical insurance, I went to the Springfield Medical Centre in Chelmsford, where ME was diagnosed.

When the consultant explained that at my age it was common for the symptoms to last three years, I burst into tears.

AFTER I returned to school, I forced myself to try to do what everyone else was doing, but sometimes I hardly had the energy even to sit up.

I would get home and see that I had written down what the homework was meant to be, but I couldn't remember learning anything about it in class.

Although I had chosen to take ten GCSEs, I just didn't have the strength to go to all my classes and I ended up missing a lot.

Luckily, my boyfriend Tom, who was in many of the same classes, would go through with me what he had learnt that day. With his help, I managed to get three As, five Bs and two Cs in my GCSEs.

But it wasn't just the academic work I had struggled with. I missed out on having a normal teenage life because most of my peers couldn't understand what it was like to be so exhausted that sometimes you could barely speak. So I didn't have many friends.

The more tired I got, the less I wanted to leave the house. Two years ago, my GP suggested I use a wheelchair.

Both Tom and my family have been very supportive. …