A Whitstable mum whose battle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (M.E.) leaves her bedridden and in serious pain, says more needs to be done to raise awareness, after even her GPs said she was “just tired, like any mum”.
Jo Hardstaff, 31, was first diagnosed with the condition at the age of 17, after suffering with severe fatigue, and insomnia for six months. At the time, the condition was so bad, she had to postpone plans to go to college, but says her GP and doctor at the time were “fantastic”.
She said: “She had me referred to a specialist as soon as she had exhausted all other possibilities. It is only since my relapse in 2013 that I have had trouble with not being taken seriously by GPs.
“[Since then] there has been little to no help from the medical profession. They’ve seen my notes and decided there is nothing they can do.
“One GP even went as far as to say that any mum she sees is tired. Another GP told me it was all in my head and that I needed to take antidepressants.”
After her initial diagnosis, Jo recovered enough to take a job backstage in theatre, where she met her husband. The two got married, and now have two children, who are six and four respectively.
But, after their birth, Jo began to relapse, and found that members of the public, and her new GPs, were less supportive the second time around.
The return of her condition means Jo rarely goes outside, and she has had to turn down certain play dates and appointments for her children.
She said: “M.E. is very misunderstood by Doctors as well as the general public. You get a mixed response from both. The general public reaction can be sympathetic though generally not knowing much if anything about the illness.
“These days most will know “it makes you tired” but not much more. Some will still make a joke about “yuppy flu”, or comment I wish I could stay home all day, not work, etc.
“It’s real, it isn’t a joke, it is a lot more than being ‘Just tired’, that people who suffer might not look sick, but we become masters of hiding our illness. It is a chronic condition with no cure, and very little funding into research.”
Mrs Hardstaff was speaking in support of M.E. Awareness Month (May).