Anyone who knows me or who has read my article ‘Melting to Death in the Sun: Life as a Reverse SAD Sufferer’ will be very surprised to hear that I am dreaming of scorching hot climes. I do not like summer, or hot weather at all. In fact, right from when I was a child I used to say I wanted to travel around the world living in perpetual autumn and winter. Then what is it that has me dreaming of scorching hot climes? My health of course.
Like most people with ME different seasons and weather conditions affect my health and symptoms in different ways. Since I became ill in August 2001, there have been three times that I have been almost entirely freed of the shackles of ME symptoms, and even then one of those times I still experienced them, but the symptoms were reduced in their severity and I was able to manage them. The other two times were when I visited Portugal and Egypt.
I visited Portugal at the beginning of summer back in 2003. London was already hot and humid by the time I left. I had swollen joints and aching muscles and I was barely functioning. Some friends had arranged a trip to Portugal and they had invited me. We’d booked everything several months earlier, before the heat had struck. My friend later confessed that she was really worried I would not be able to make the trip or if I did that I would not be able to do anything while we were out there. But I made it and we headed down to the Algarve, in the south of Portugal. It was already blistering hot by the time we got there, but the hot, dry climate had a magical effect on me. In the one week we spent there I found myself feeling like I had not done in almost two years; the swelling was gone, my joints were pain free and flexible as were my muscles. I felt so good and at that time I had not been diagnosed with ME so I was convinced that all I needed was a break and that the old me was back to stay.
I arrived back in London happy and optimistic, convinced the nightmare was over. A couple of hours later, I was more ill than when I had left.
The same thing happened when I visited Egypt; the transformation of my body was miraculous. It’s not just that the muscle and joint pain disappears, or that the swelling disappears, but other stranger things like food intolerances just did not exist! I know because the five star hotel we were staying in had an impressive array of fresh breakfast rolls each morning and I just could not resist and I was fine, absolutely fine! I found myself eating so much and I lost over half a stone in one week! I even managed to go swimming. More than any of these, it was the mental clarity that really rocked me. When you have ME, you get something called a foggy brain, and us sufferers just get used to living with cotton wool for brains. I didn’t even realise this until the clarity returned.
I did think about moving to a hotter country permanently. My parents were looking into buying a second home in Portugal, but for whatever reason, it never transpired. Then I had that brief period where my symptoms got better, and then I started my slippery slide down again and here I am dreaming of scorching hot climes again.
I know I am exaggerating how wonderful I felt when I was in Portugal and Egypt; it’s not like the illness totally disappeared. Plus I can recall sleeping A LOT and I didn’t even get to trek around Giza too much, as I was bushed, but I did feel considerably better. I’ve often thought it’s because the dry heat in those countries means there is less mould. I’ve been to Mumbai and Goa in India and the severe humidity in those places left me considerably more ill than I am at home.
I love London and I love winter here, but I find myself trying to remember what it felt like to feel well in my body again, and it’s becoming almost impossible to do so. I need to feel well in my body again…even if it’s just for a week or so.