Living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

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Charlotte Harding talks to a Seaford woman about what it’s like living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

When Zoe Power took six months off work after a bout of flu she never expected to not return to work.

One of Zoe's prints

One of Zoe's prints

“I got the flu and it never went away,” she recalls.

“I was always extremely tired so I took time off thinking I would get better but six months came and went and I was no better than I was before so I decided to give up work.”

At the time she was managing a team in the research department at a university in Oxford, a role she had been in for about ten years.

After blood tests revealed ‘nothing sinister’ Zoe undertook her own research as to what could be wrong and discovered that her symptoms pointed to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

One of Zoe's photographs

One of Zoe's photographs

“It feels like a flu without the head cold so aches and pains and extremely tired,” reveals Zoe.

“Some days it can be hard to get out of bed, whereas other days I just get the aches in the background and can get on and do things.”

The disorder impacts people in different ways and people find what works for them might not work for others.

“I find moderate exercise helps and I have a dog who I take out for walks but I know for some people just walking from the bed to the sofa can be challenge,” explains Zoe.

“I also do yoga every day, and practice mindfulness it just helps me to keep in the present.”

After her diagnosis a few years ago Zoe and her husband moved from Oxford to Seaford.

“We have both always wanted to live by the sea,” she smiles.

“So we did a crazy tour of the UK to find somewhere. We loved Cornwall and Devon but couldn’t find the job opportunities

we were after.

“We also looked at Brighton as that was where the jobs were but it was expensive and we felt as if we had done our city dwelling.”

After falling in love with the coast between Seaford and Eastbourne, they packed up and moved down.

Although not currently working full time Zoe loves photography, and has had a camera since the age of eight.

“My dad was a professional photographer and I think this had an influence on me in my early years,” she reveals.

“Photography has continued to be a really important creative outlet for me throughout my life.”

At the moment Zoe hasn’t taken on many commissions but licenses her images for others to use, including one of her beach huts in Littlehampton which was used in the June edition of Vogue.

“I am hoping in the future to take commissions if people want images of particular places or things,” she says.

“As I don’t know how I will feel one day to the next at the moment taking on events would be difficult, but if I have a few days where I need to take a picture of a place I think I will be able to do that.”

As well as the photography Zoe also taught herself brush lettering and creates inspirational quotes which she sells through Etsy.

“I think it is important to try and stay positive,” she says.

“I just always think do what you can with what you have where you are which is one of the quotes I use.”

Even though it is not known what can bring on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Zoe has an idea.

“I think I was pushing myself too much and my body just ran out of reserves,” she explains.

“It couldn’t do it anymore so it just stopped, I have noticed that people who are very driven tend to get it but that maybe because they push themselves too much.”

Zoe’s advice to anyone who finds themselves diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is to not dwell on the past and what they used to be able to do, to pace themselves and do what works for them.

“It is hard realising your body has changed,” she explains.

“But the important thing is to take each day as it comes.”

To view Zoe’s blog, visit www.beautifulsimplicity.co.uk

She is also on:

Instagram @zoepower

Etsy zoepower.etsy.com

Facebook @ZoePowerPhotography

Twitter @zoepower

What is Chronic fatigue syndrome?

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a long-term illness and is also known as ME, which stands for myalgic encephalomyelitis.

CFS/ME can affect anyone, including children. It’s more common in women, and tends to develop between your mid-20s and mid-40s.

The main symptom of CFS/ME is feeling extremely tired and generally unwell.

Symptoms vary from person to person, and the severity of symptoms can vary from day to day, or even within a day.

The main symptom of CFS/ME is extreme physical and mental tiredness (fatigue) that doesn’t go away with rest or sleep. This can make it difficult to carry out everyday tasks and activities.

Most people with CFS/ME describe their fatigue as overwhelming and a different type of tiredness from what they’ve experienced before.

Other symptoms of CFS/ME include muscle or joint pain, headaches, flu-like symptoms and feeling dizzy or sick.

From the NHS Choices website - www.nhs.uk

This first featured in the July edition of etc Magazine pick up your copy now.