Well where do I start? there has been so much written about M.E. especially over the last decade, (see Books) as it was pushed more into the limelight so to speak. Thanks in part, or should that be "unfortunately" because it has affected some famous people or members of their family, and the media being the hungry wolf that it is, clamoured for their story.Now this doesn't mean that you are in any way wiser as to what M.E. is, I have found that most of these reports actually skip the real issue of what M.E. is and how it affects peoples lives, but at least you may through these reports at least be aware of M.E. Is it a new disease? does it affect a certain age group? how do you "catch" it? is it catching? is it a brain disease or physical disease? is it life threatening? do Dr's actually know what it is and what causes it?. These and more I will try to answer here.
What exactly is M.E. then? Well it's many things depending on the individual, what can start in some people as a feeling of fatigue and sore muscles, or maybe they have just had some sort of illness and are not recovering like they should, can deteriorate into many other symptoms. These can be allergies, where before they were never allergic to anything in their life, an irritable bowel, though there were never any problems encountered before, fair enough some medications people are given could help contribute to that, but I think worry and stress are the most likely culprits here. The inability to walk any distance is quite apparent in many M.E. "victims", some can walk short distances but it takes it's toll, it is not a case of they can't walk, it is just very difficult if every step makes the pain in your leg muscles worse. Others just cant walk any distance because when they try they get about 50 yards if they are lucky and their legs just go from under them, or they cant walk far because they have dizzy turns or giddy spells, both common with M.E. Or maybe they suffer from severe chest pains and with every step these pains get worse, and they just cant go any further, it could be a mixture of these reasons, and there are some who can only get about thanks to a wheelchair.
Most people with M.E. find it hard to concentrate for any length of time, where once they would read a book from front to back in a day, they are lucky now if they can manage a chapter in a week, this like all other M.E. symptoms seems to vary from person to person. Short term memory seems to be another common problem, ask me what I did twenty years ago and I'll tell you, but please don't ask me what the heck I was doing twenty minutes ago as I haven't got a clue. The one thing for sure that unites most people who have M.E. is fatigue and pain, having no energy to do even the most mundane task, anything physical usually results in putting them right back at the bottom of their attempt at recovery. It's a nasty situation to be in, the temptation is to get up and do something when you are having a "good day" but this can be like grabbing a double edged sword, if your lucky it will only have a minimal effect on your health, but for many it is just as likely to put them right back at square one.
What do people class as a "good day"? well I personally grade my days from "1" to "10". The way I class this is "1" being the worst of days and "10" being the idea of perfect health (I wish). If I get a day of "5", that is a good day, a "6" is a "hey no pain day" a "7" is a "I just know I'm going to suffer for this day" (a "7" day is very rapidly followed by "5,4,3,2,1", days, mostly "7" straight to "1") and an "8" day is, well if I ever have one I will announce it here. So what causes M.E? personally I think the person who comes up with the answer to that one is going to find themselves very famous overnight. There are lots of theories about what causes M.E. but I don't think anybody really knows. Some ideas of thought are that it is a virus already present in peoples bodies just waiting for something to trigger it off, could this be why M.E. seems to start after some sort of illness? It seems logical and makes a bit of sense but it is still just a theory. A lot of recent research has mentioned breakthroughs in the research of M.E. and some type of virus is usually highlighted as the cause. But no sooner do these reports come out another one will come out casting doubts on that research. So unfortunately after all this time we still don't know the cause.
One of the annoying (speaking for myself) theories is that it is a psychological illness, but as far as I can make out it is usually only psychologist (people who listen too much without really listening) who have that line of thought. They may think they are right but I don't think anyone who has M.E. will ever entertain that thought. Not because they don't want to be tagged with the label, but purely because all the symptoms are physical. Yes you may need psychological help at some time when you have M.E. but this is not the cause of the illness, it is more likely to be the result of the illness, it's very hard to cope with being fit and healthy one day, then the next day your whole world collapses. Not knowing what the hell is wrong with you, not seeming to be getting any answers, feeling that nobody is listening, the worry, the anxiety. Have I got some terminal illness? how will I cope with no work? how will I cope with no money? you get depressed some even feel suicidal. So yes it may appear to be psychological, but it's only after you have endured it for a while, and it all gets on top of you. It is not the cause.