Living with Severe M.E. is incredibly difficult. 1 in 4 people with M.E. will be affected severely or very severely.
My days are full of unpredictability as I never know how my internal battery will last. Many people think that M.E. is “just about tiredness” but M.E. is so much more than that. M.E. affects everyone differently but for many of us, myself included it affects many parts of our body. M.E. affects my immune system, my cognitive function, my nervous system, my muscles, I experience different neurological symptoms, my autonomic system is affected and among other things my nutritional needs.
This years topic focus for Severe M.E. Awareness Day is on malnutrition in people with severe and very severe M.E. Though I’ve been fortunate to not need artificial nutrition such as from an NG tube because of my M.E. my M.E. has lead me to lose weight and be under a dietician and be prescribed supplement drinks because I struggle to eat enough. I’m also prescribed vitamins and other supplements. Often I find it hard to find the energy to eat and I lack an appetite and I can only eat small portions. Added to that my medication and symptoms such as pain and headaches/migraines make me feel nauseous making me feel less like eating even more, even though I know it’s important to have meals and snacks. Sometimes I’ve also needed my carers to cut my food up for me, and occasionally when I’m really not well feed me when I’ve been unable to do so myself (a task I find difficult but I’ve always been given as much dignity and choice as possible when I’ve needed help with eating) and also assistance with drinking, again difficult like with eating but always done with care. I also have allergies and intolerances which have increased since I became ill and I rely upon my PAs or carers to make my meals and often my drinks too. Ideally meals need to be cooked from scratch but with my current care situation this isn’t always possible meaning I don’t always get the nutrition I need.
Unfortunately there is a huge lack of misunderstanding around nutrition and malnutrition in people with severe and very severe M.E. When I was under the dietitian for my weight loss the dots weren’t put together between the difficulties I was having with eating enough nutrition, my weight loss and my M.E.; even I didn’t join the dots until I started to see others with M.E. also struggling with nutrition and with this years Severe M.E. Day campaign. Due to this gross lack of understanding people with M.E. are being poorly treated; passed off as having an eating disorder when they don’t; denied the care they need such as artificial nutrition and supplemental fluids because they are too unwell to eat or drink. It’s now time that healthcare professionals understand the difficulties people with severe and very severe M.E. have when it come to their nutrition before it’s too late. Also social workers need to give adequate time in a person’s care package for meal preparation, shopping trips and even time for carers to help a person eat and drink such as by assisting them to drink, cutting food up or feeding a person if needed. Assistance with eating and drinking requires extra time, like a lot of things for people with M.E. you can’t rush tasks, plus who wants to be fed quickly gobbling down food when you’re already struggling to eat in the first place?!