Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or M.E is an illness which affects over 250,000 people in the UK. Despite the amount of sufferers, there are many misconceptions surrounding it. From the ‘yuppie flu’ label of the 1980’s to the ‘lazyitis’ label of today, it is an illness which is often misunderstood.
The effects are wide ranging. The most severely effected are bedbound and unable to feed or care for themselves, whilst others are housebound or wheelchair bound, and others are able to manage their daily life around the limitations and effects of the illness.
It affects people of all ages and backgrounds and yet for many is ‘invisible’. This is because it is not obviously seen. A sufferer may ‘look okay’ despite the debilitating effects of the illness on their body.
The severity of symptoms varies from person to person and can fluctuate on a daily basis. The main symptoms are: severe and debilitating fatigue, painful muscles and joints, sleep disturbances, severe headaches, poor memory and concentration, sensitivity to noise and light, cognitive problems, sleep disturbances, swollen glands, problems with temperature control and gastric disturbances.
The majority of sufferers were fit and well prior to the onset of the illness but the combination of symptoms and their effects bring a drastic and debilitating change. For children and young people, education can be severely disrupted, and for those of working age, employment may become impossible. Social and family life become severley restricted and daily life is an insurmountable challenge.
Running on Empty
This photographic series was created to highlight how sufferers are affected and to bring visibility to this ‘invisible illness’. Through collaboration with sufferers and their families, health professionals, ME Specialists and Charities, it seeks to create new understanding by breaking down misconceptions of this often misunderstood illness.
Through interviews with sufferers, their families and health professionals, common threads of symptoms, misconceptions, the effects, and the struggles of living with the illness became clear. These are highlighted throughout the work and hopefully bring new and fresh perspectives.
ME sufferers are not lazy hypochondriacs, but are strong determined people, trying to live their lives in a positive way, whilst battling with a debilitating illness.
My thanks go to all the sufferers, their families, health professionals and charities who have been involved in helping to create this series. You are an inspiration!