Michelle Wyatt exhibited flu-like symptoms throughout her childhood and teens but led a healthy life otherwise. At age 8 she was doing 6 mile walks, She always cycled to school and did both morning and evening newspaper rounds between the ages of 13 & 15. She started a weekend job at age 15 in addition to school. At age 16 she got 8 GCSES, four A grades and 3 B grades. She also climbed Ben Nevis. She then went to college and whilst doing her A levels did a cleaning job at the college after hours 5 days a week as well as cycling 4 miles a day. She also began a course in Buddhism on Saturdays.
At age 18 she went to live in a Buddhist community in the countryside. She volunteered to do bookkeeping there and was trained in accounting. On the scriptural study program she gained very high grades.
At age 20 she got a job as a cleaner in a city 15 miles away which required 2 hours travelling via public transport to reach. She worked Monday to Friday 2 hours per day plus 4 hours travel. She started to exhibit mild flu-like symptoms. She was then switched to working a Sunday only. This removed the travelling daily and the fluish symptoms subsided.
In order to be able to fund her life she decided to take on an additional shift in the summer of 1996. The shift would start at 8am Sunday and continue till 10pm Sunday with a 2 hour break between 2-4pm. She did this for 8 weeks. Each week the fluish symptoms came stronger & sooner. The fluish symptoms and feelings of illness would reach their peak on Tuesday to Wednesday as post exertional malaise.
After 8 weeks she stopped work and got into bed, hoping the damage would subside, but it was long term damage. Her body had changed in function over the 8 weeks and now exhibited post exertional malaise after an ever growing smaller amount of activity. Seeking medical help she was refused a diagnosis of ME. She was not told for 6 months about pacing & ME because the criterion was that diagnosis could not be made until the symptoms had remained for 6 months. During this time she resisted the situation and did many strenuous activities, increasing the damage. Friends suggested exercise & she followed their advice. She was also pressurized to carry on with responsibilities such as cooking for 50 people and attending classes.
At age 21 she moved back to her parents house when she reached the point that she could no longer walk to the toilet without getting fluish symptoms. Her father kept suggesting it was 'psychosomatic'. She got into bed & started a disciplined regime of eating pure natural foods, taking mineral supplements & intensive rest. Her abilities began to increase very slowly until she could use the stairs occasionally. After 6 months a deep depression started building & hysteria about the lack of stimulation of having to sit still, with no conversation or entertainments for most of the day. This escalated until she 'went for a walk' out of anger. This walk was approximately half a mile. After this instead of improvement there was a decline in abilities. This increased the hysteria & so she 'went out for a run!!' This involved sprinting for 1/2 a mile. When she got back she got into a bed & lay still. The effect came a few days later as a severe reduction in abilities. After this there was a slow decline over 6 years. It was slowed by correct pacing. Michelle led a very deprived life over these 6 years. She had bed baths and used a commode by her bed. She was unable to leave her room without experiencing post exertional malaise so she would shuffle along the floor on her bottom to get the relief of seeing something other than her room, which she was immensely bored of looking at.
At the end of the 6 years she could not chew her food or lift a mug of liquid. At this point she began the macrobiotic diet. Within 2 weeks her energy had doubled. Her health continued to improve at a painfully slow rate but she never broke the pacing rules after the 'run' consequences. She ate the macrobiotic diet for 8 years. No dairy, no fruit, no flour, no pastry, no breakfast cereals, no bread, no sugar, no alcohol, no processed foods, no caffeine, no meat, no spices or herbs, no stock cubes and 1 teaspoon of oil per day only for frying. Fish once per week, vegetables, rice, pulses, cooked with no oil.
By age 30 she could go out in an electric wheelchair and was able to visit the Buddhist community for the 1st time since she got ill. At age 32 she was well enough to attend a class once a week. She began to frequent cafes & met many skeptical people who said that people who can walk short distances shouldn't be in powerchairs. They should exercise or else they will develop fatigue. Also many new friends were suggesting exercise. She experienced public abuse from strangers who had been told she 'could walk' and that there was nothing wrong with her. At age 38 she started going for a meal once a week where she would walk from the disabled parking bay, stopping to rest a few time, to the nearest table to the door in a pub. This increased the accusations as her health improved, and comments became a common occurrence once she reached the age of 40. By pacing correctly Michelle looked vibrant & full of energy in her electric wheelchair & people could not understand why she would not try to walk around more. At age 39 she started to try some physical exercise in the garden and found she could do 1 hour per week safely. At age 42 Michelle considered euthanasia.
Between the age of 30-40 Michelle did many enjoyable things to make up for being in bed throughout her 20s. She went to beauty spas, fancy restaurants, Mecca bingo, the seaside & even dating. She travelled to many places in her powerchair via bus & train and went out every day. She could not stay indoors as she had been strongly affected by not being able to leave the house in the past. However despite doing many interesting activities, she experienced a growing depression about her limitations as she saw her friends leading normal lives, getting married, raising children. The constant messages of skepticism and the burden on the tax payer added into this to produce a growing sadness on top of her physical problem. At age 41 she experienced massive panic attacks & suicidal feelings that lasted 6 weeks. During this time she was subjected to abuse that she was faking her illness. Michelle is currently is trying to continue for the sake of her parents. Once they have gone euthanasia is something she is considering.
Michelle Wyatt is a user on #MEpedia under the username of Eternalricemuncher
post-exertional malaise (PEM) - A notable exacerbation of symptoms brought on by small physical or cognitive exertions. PEM can last for days or weeks. Symptoms can include cognitive impairments, muscle pain (myalgia), trouble remaining upright (orthostatic intolerance), sleep abnormalities, and gastro-intestinal impairments, among others.
myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) - A disease often marked by neurological symptoms, but fatigue is sometimes a symptom as well. Some diagnostic criteria distinguish it from chronic fatigue syndrome, while other diagnostic criteria consider it to be a synonym for chronic fatigue syndrome. A defining characteristic of ME is post-exertional malaise (PEM), or post-exertional neuroimmune exhaustion (PENE), which is a notable exacerbation of symptoms brought on by small exertions. PEM can last for days or weeks. Symptoms can include cognitive impairments, muscle pain (myalgia), trouble remaining upright (orthostatic intolerance), sleep abnormalities, and gastro-intestinal impairments, among others. An estimated 25% of those suffering from ME are housebound or bedbound. The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies ME as a neurological disease.
pacing - The practice of staying within one's "energy envelope" by interspersing periods of activity with periods of rest. ME/CFS patients use pacing to avoid or reduce post-exertional malaise (PEM). Some patients use a heart rate monitor to help with pacing.
somatic symptom disorder - A psychiatric term to describe an alleged condition whereby a person's thoughts somehow cause physical symptoms. The actual existence of such a condition is highly controversial, due to a lack of scientific evidence. It is related to other psychiatric terms, such as "psychosomatic", "neurasthenia", and "hysteria". Older terms include "somatization", "somatoform disorder", and "conversion disorder". Such terms refer to a scientifically-unsupported theory that claims that a wide range of physical symptoms can be created by the human mind, a theory which has been criticized as "mind over matter" parapsychology, a pseudoscience. Although "Somatic Symptom Disorder" is the term used by DSM-5, the term "Bodily Distress Disorder" has been proposed for ICD-11. (Learn more: www.psychologytoday.com)