How It Began… Part II

Not every case of ME begins in the same way… I know of others who have woken up one day and out of the blue, are unable to move their bodies, becoming bed bound for days, weeks, months or years and in the worst cases, for life. I realise that this sounds extreme but unfortunately it’s the truth and that’s sadly what so very few people understand, how severe ME can really be. With no gradual symptoms, which I now know are a warning sign, these ME sufferers seem to be the unluckiest ones. I hope more than anything that after reading my last post How It Began… Part I you will now recognise some of the signs and symptoms of ME as it begins to make itself apparent in someones life. I desperately wish that someone close to me had known about ME at the time I began to get sick so I could perhaps have been diagnosed sooner. The faster the diagnosis, the higher the chance of recovery and now I fear that it is too late for me.

August 2012: You are probably wondering how my diagnosis occurred after the constant set backs from NHS healthcare professionals telling me ‘there was nothing wrong with me’.  Our determination to find an explanation to my spiralling symptoms led us to changing GPs on numerous occasions until someone finally gave us an answer that justified our queries. I would like to say it was the answer we were looking for but I guess any diagnosis isn’t one you were searching for. My latest GP suggested that I may have ‘ME’ (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome ‘CFS’), which I nor my parents had ever heard of. She referred me to an ME specialist; a recognised immunologist (that’s someone who studies the immune system). Google became my friend, for the new terms I was faced with along the way.

I can’t remember much about that day but it is that day and that day only that haunts my life since I started “living” with ME. It was the turning point and whether I chose the wrong turn, ending with the dead-end I find myself in now; I am continuously debating. That day was a bit of a blur to say the least; less cloudy day, more hurricane storming through my existence sort of day. I successfully blocked it out for the first two years since the appointment, as it is only in the last year I have finally acknowledged what he said to me. ‘I am 100% sure you have ME. You are a classic case. You should not go to university. You will become extremely sick, much more ill than you are already.’ It took him 30 seconds, that was it, 30 seconds to diagnose me with this nightmare, known as ME.

I was done before he had barely even started. That was it for me. I didn’t hear anything else he had to say. I didn’t want to. How could this man, who didn’t know anything about me tell me what to do? Who the hell did he think he was, telling me not to go to university? I wasn’t going to throw my life away just because HE said so. I instantaneously detested him and everything he stood for, wow I was really going in on this guy! (In my head of course. His outlandish comments were met with cute smiles and grateful gestures in real life). Anyway I’d never heard of ME so how serious could it really be? Surely if it was that serious, a doctor would have picked up on it sooner? It is only now, 3 years later that I have had the wretched experience of knowing the answer to that question.

On a more positive note and we certainly need one… arrives my fashion story… my personal cinderella experience. Day-dreaming of fashion was something that has occupied my time since the early age of 11 when I would frequently scroll through catalogue after catalogue, dreaming of having some sort of tangible association to the shiny girls, in the shiny clothes, in those magical shiny pages. I guess I have my dad to thank for my dream, as he was the one who provided me with a vast array of catalogues (NEXT (oh dear) and Littlewoods (seriously OH DEAR) but the French charm of La Redoute was always my firm favourite. The only colours entering my wardrobe at the time were a strict palette of baby pink, lilac and sky blue, no other colour was deemed acceptable, apart from a knitted cream poncho I shamelessly wore EVERYWHERE, there was no stopping me. It wasn’t long after when I began to realise what I was going to do with my life. If there was one thing that I was put on the planet to do, it was to make my way into the fashion industry. At the age of 13, subscriptions to Vogue, Elle, Grazia and Look Magazine were my only form of access (before the internet and all, am I really that old?!). Almost 10 years later and the Vogue subscription is still going strong. Fashion wasn’t a hobby for me, it was a subject, something to study, learn and absorb. It was something to be good at and I wanted to be the best (Type A Personality here you go again). At 14 I would go through an entire issue of Vogue and name every single model in every single ad campaign, editorial and advertorial; the modelling world was the first sector I wanted to try out and 7 years later I got my chance when I scored an internship working for my idol, Sarah Doukas, founder of Storm Model Management, also known as the women who discovered Kate Moss (my other idol) at JFK airport in 1988. Here are a selection of my favourite Kate Moss for British Vogue covers, ranging from her latest, December 2014 to her first, March 1993. (images from vogue.co.uk)

Throughout Year 11 and 6th Form I attempted to worm my way out of school as often as I could during a specific four weeks, twice a year, ever year. Why? Fashion month. Day by day I blasted my face with a hair dryer (little tip there) and claimed I was ‘ill‘ until my mother left for work, which was when the fun really began. I lived my fashion life in secret, watching live streams of the fashion shows from New York, London, Milan and last but by no means least, Paris!!!.

When Christophe Decarnin opened Paris Fashion Week with this collection for Balmain, my adrenaline levels flourished. This show, is the one I will always remember, the standout moment when I became set on making my dreams into a reality.

Back then, very few shows were live streamed so my life revolved around the little access I had to these spectacles and the mystical realm I was consumed by. I never told anyone my little secret, I feared no one would understand as I had never met anyone with a love for fashion as deep as my own. Oh how it bothered me when others claimed, ‘I LOVEEEE fashion too’, when what they really meant is ‘they like clothes’ or more often ‘they like shopping’!!!! As you can see, fashion came first in my world, it always had and it always would, nothing would ever compare and to this day nothing has so when this so-called ‘doctor’ (I tried to convince myself that he wasn’t really a doctor and he was a member of a crazed cult uttering nonsense) told me to not go to university, he shattered my one and only dream. The path I had chosen to follow for my entire teenage life had led to this moment and the Fashion Promotion degree I was about to embark on (exactly one week after my diagnosis), I firmly believed was my only way in, or so it seemed. Which path would you have chosen? Would you have listened or would you have followed your dreams?