'I burned the candles at both ends - and ended up with Chronic Fatigue'
Working hard and playing hard, Angie Potter lived life to the full in every way and even when she was ill with a cold, she would force herself to work through it.
But around four-and-a-half years ago, Angie’s lifestyle was suddenly hit by a stumbling block.
Angie, 40, who lives in Longridge, near Preston and works at Gold Medal Travel on Preston Docks, explains: “I was burning the candle at both ends.
“I was working really hard and I was doing lots of training too.
“I was really into fitness and sports and was going running three or four days a week, going to spinning twice a week and doing three gym workouts a week.
“On top of this, I had a very busy social life too.
“I think I burnt myself out.
“Then one day, I just couldn’t do it any more.”
Angie went to the gym as normal one day and suddenly found she did not have the energy to do a workout.
“So I eased off thinking I was coming down with flu or something.
“But instead of getting better, I gradually got worse and had no energy at all.”
After about a month, Angie went to see her doctor and blood tests were carried out to rule out other conditions.
Her GP then told her he suspected Chronic Fatigue but that he could not diagnose her for six months.
As Angie was covered by BUPA through her work, she went to see a specialist who confirmed she had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or ME.
Angie was recommended by the doctor to take two or three months off work, but she decided against doing that.
She says: “For me, I thought by cutting out work completely, it would be harder to go back.
“So instead, I cut down from working a full-time 40 hours week to working 30 hours a week.
“I was OK at work and managed, but I was in bed for the rest of the time.
“My life was like that for a year.”
Angie says she coped with the help of her supportive family. Together, they thoroughly researched the condition and Angie changed her diet and began taking various supplements.
She went on a waiting list for the NHS service and was seen eight months later.
Angie recalls: “By that time, I was a little bit better, but not massively.
“I think having someone to listen helped.
“It is such an isolating illness.
“You are absolutely exhausted but it is so different to a normal tiredness.
“When you are tired normally, you feel better in the morning after a good night’s sleep.
“But with chronic fatigue, you don’t feel better but feel constantly tired. It is a bit like flu.
“It is not just physical tiredness, but mental tiredness too like brain fog.
“I suffered from physical tiredness of my body and mental fatigue and ached all over.
“My attitude was always that I could beat anything.
“If I had a bad cold, I always thought I could work through it.
“With this, I initially tried to fight it in the same way and that is the worst thing I could have done.”
Angie read about the North West Fatigue Clinic on Garstang Road, Preston in the Lancashire Evening Post and contacted them for support.
The clinic, which has now been open a year, is run by Lesley Pickering and Joanne McLoughlin, specialist occupational therapists. Lesley suffered from severe chronic fatigue herself.
Angie saw Joanne and with her help, she has slowly re-introduced activities to her life in moderation.
Angie explains: “When I first went to the North West Chronic Fatigue Clinic, I was managing work and my duties at home, but I was doing nothing socially.
“It really helped me going to the clinic.
“For me, the most important thing was the understanding.
“Talking to someone who really understood ME really helped.
“When you talk to most people, they think it is just ordinary tiredness and that you should just get on with it.
“With chronic fatigue, there is a fear of having a setback. I do not want to feel like that ever again.
“I was able to talk through what the implications were of doing things.
“You have to slow down completely and change your lifestyle.
“My lifestyle is completely different now and not necessarily in a bad way.
“When you sit back and realise what you were doing before, you realise you were pushing yourself too hard.
“With the help of the North West Fatigue Clinic, I have managed to go on holiday to Mauritius and Dubai this year and I also went away with work to the Maldives.
“This was the first time I went on a work holiday in six years.
“I am a Preston North End fan and I can now go on night games which I haven’t been able to do for five years.
“I have started doing exercise again such as pilates and more high tempo exercise.
“I went spinning again for the first time a few weeks ago. I missed it so much and it was great to do it again.
“I will never go back to what I doing before but it is nice to get that buzz back.
“I have been slowly bringing things into my routine without overdoing it.
“It is about building up in moderation.”
• For more information on the North West Chronic Fatigue Clinic based in Preston, visit: www.northwestfatigueclinic.co.uk