By Lorna Burford, professional blogger
I was diagnosed with the illness CFS / M.E 14 years ago after experiencing tiredness like I had never known before, plus muscle aches, headaches, sickness, stomach upsets, cognitive malfunctions and even temporary paralysis, just to name a few of my symptoms. There were some days where I couldn’t get out of bed as I felt like I had been hit by a truck. Since being diagnosed I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs but one thing I’m not afraid to do anymore is be open about my situation.
As a result of my condition I missed a lot of my last year at school.
Only managing to sit a few exams, most of my GCSEs were marked on coursework; thankfully I gained more than 5 passes. The impact on my social life however was significant; I lost a lot of friends since I wasn’t well enough to socialise anymore which sent me into a very dark, anxiety filled depression. I became house bound and developed severe social phobia; leaving the house caused me to have panic attacks. I couldn’t even understand people when they were speaking as I had problems with processing information.
I also developed a lot of food intolerances and digestive issues which meant I lost a lot of weight to an unhealthy level. As a result, I couldn’t hold down a job.
These were very tough times as I’d always been so creative, focused and career driven.
Luckily, around this time, I found an online forum which was all about denim (one of my passions). Joining the forum meant that I could socialise with people online without my health coming into it. It was a form of escape and if I didn’t have that, I truly wouldn’t be where I am today, so I’m very thankful for it.
About a year later I was asked to write for the forum’s blog on a part-time basis.
Writing and interacting with the readers developed a spark in me that I didn’t know I had. I became addicted to blogging and I loved it so much because it made me feel normal again, despite being ill. This was something that I could do from the comfort of my own home; whenever I was having a bad day it didn’t matter too much as it was a part time job, with the flexibility for me to submit articles whenever I felt well enough.
After a few years of writing about denim, I wanted to branch out and write about more personal things and try to connect with others who were passionate about the same things.
In 2010 Raindrops of Sapphire was born.
Raindrops of Sapphire was my own personal outlet for everything I wanted to share. It gave me a real sense of purpose. When I felt well enough I would share the outfits I was wearing, new styles and trends. I never spoke about my M.E or health issues though as I wanted a bit of normality and to not be treated any differently.
Over the past 6 years, my blog has grown into a huge website, it has won awards, been featured in magazines, on other blogs, and most recently got listed as number 11 in the top UK blogs - a real honour.
I can’t say achieving success has been easy and I never actually expected blogging to turn into a career, but once I saw that it could become my career I worked really hard to make it into what I wanted.
More and more people were relating to my posts and I felt like I had my own little community online. I loved blogging so much that I even created two other blogs; The Jeans Blog and The Fashion Supernova to share my interests outside of my personal life. I decided that since the response on Raindrops of Sapphire was much higher for my personal and lifestyle posts, I would keep it that way and use other blogs for fashion. Just over a year ago, I was open about having M.E on my blog as I felt it was the right time to share information about my condition, and the support has been incredible.
Over the past 6 years, I have had some setbacks with my health but things have mainly been on the up.
If I wasn’t able to work from home and build up a career for myself, going self-employed last year, then I truly don’t think I would be here. I decided to go for CBT therapy to help with my social anxiety, whilst it was one of the toughest things I have ever been through, it has helped me tremendously. I can now go out without panic attacks. I can talk to strangers, but I still can’t use the telephone as processing words just through a machine is extremely difficult for me.
The online world has opened so many doors for me, using email and typing is a great way for me to overcome my difficulties with having phone conversations.
I’ve learned to work with and work around my health issues rather than battling against them.
I want to encourage you to do the same. Yes, there will be plenty of challenging times but you need to try and stay positive and give yourself a focus. Having a disability need not stand in the way of you having a successful career. In fact managing a disability often makes us stronger as a people, so don’t underestimate what you can achieve!
By Lorna Burford
Raindrops of Sapphire