Wednesday 16 January 2019

My illness stole my life, says ME sufferer

Ruth Flood talks about her chronic, debilitating illness

Jenny McCudden

There are days when Ruth Flood does not have the energy to 'open a packet of crisps.'

The 33-year-old from Sligo has been living with the debilitating condition Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) since she was 20.

Despite having little energy to carry out the daily tasks we all take for granted, she is determined to host a screening of an award-winning documentary about ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome when it comes to Sligo next week.

Speaking to the spirited young advocate you cannot help but admire her resolve and sense of purpose even after her 'chances of a normal life were taken away.'

Ruth recalls: "I first discovered something was not right in my first year of college in UL. I started experiencing unusual symptoms; one side of my body was stiff and sore, I was very tired and I had swollen glands."

The Media and English degree student was admitted to hospital in Limerick for a series of tests. "I was bounced around the services for a year with no diagnosis," she says.

It was only when Ruth came back to her GP in Sligo that she was told she had suffered Glandular Fever, which medics believe could have prompted her ME.

It took a visit to Sligo University Hospital to get the diagnosis of ME as Ruth explains: "I made it to second year of college but I was seriously struggling. I had no energy. It was very hard in terms of my mental health. I came home and was admitted to Sligo, where they kept me for two weeks for tests. I was lucky there was a consultant there who was familiar with ME. Everything else was ruled out and I got my diagnosis."

As a young student anxious to complete her degree, Ruth was unwilling to accept her illness. After two months bed rest, she attempted to finish her course:

"I tried to finish it. I made it to fourth year, but the ME took over. I pushed myself too hard which is the worst thing to do when you get ME," says Ruth of the life-long debilitating condition.

"If you rest a lot in the first couple of years you can retain functionality," explains Ruth.

Unfortunately Ruth stresses that she did the exact opposite: "It was a relief to get a diagnosis at last. I thought 'there is a name for this.' I didn't realise that this is something I have for the rest of my life. This is something I cannot push through or fight. You feel like you are in a continual grieving process for the things that you are losing."

Those things include quality of life, friendships, working and socialising. "I still find it hard to accept that the illness stole my life from me," stresses Ruth, "You do not expect to wake up one day to realise the last time you did something, like go to a party, read a book or write an essay was really the last time you would ever do those things again. ME dominates your life. For every physical activity there is payback, you have to consider if it is worth doing or not. I suffer a crash and I know after hosting this film, that my whole summer could be gone." Ruth is willing to take that chance to raise awareness about ME.

Sligo Champion