What has helped or inspired you during your recovery?
A couple of weeks after my diagnosis the BBC broadcast a nature show, Springwatch live on BBC 2 for three weeks. It was as if the world opened out for me again. The show has brought comfort and solace for me over the years connecting with nature and bringing the outdoors to me in an accessible way.
For the first couple of years after I became ill I found that I couldn’t go outside and watching wildlife from my window brought a huge amount of joy and pleasure. At a time of intense physical and emotional pain, being able to watch wildlife from my window became my only way to connect to Nature – and to the World outside. Seeing the birds, foxes, spiders and more from my bed was an anchor to life and hope.
Though my life had narrowed, the rhythm and details of nature opened out for me, by watching wildlife in this way. Now having co-created #WildlifeFromMyWindow with BBC Springwatch I continue to be inspired by nature lovers with chronic illness or disability who use the hashtag.
What kind of support did you experience?
As a young writer with chronic illness I found the BBC Earth team (Laura Thorne, Anne Gallagher, Lindsey Chapman) extremely supportive providing accessible opportunities for me, co-creating #WildlifeFromMyWindow with me. The National Lottery Heritage Fund does an outstanding job promoting inclusion and creative opportunities for young and disabled people. Lush have been a brilliantly flexible employer for me as a writer.
In 2014 I contacted the digital team at the BBC’s Springwatch programme to talk to them about the importance of accessible Nature. I had become acutely aware of the isolation that severe illness can bring, and had seen online how many people felt shut off from their former hobbies and pastimes because of a debilitating illness. The Springwatch team’s response was so positive and so we came up with the idea of #WildlifeFromMyWindow, an online campaign encouraging social media users to take a moment out of their day to enjoy and share Nature, whatever their personal circumstances.
The campaign was launched on M.E. Awareness Day in 2015 – and within 24 hours, it had over two and a half thousand responses on Facebook, reaching half a million on Twitter.
The #WildlifeFromMyWindow community are incredibly supportive of one another, offering advice, friendship and strength.
Do you have a favourite song, book or podcast?
Song: Jessie J – Big White Room
TV programme: Springwatch, Autumnwatch, Winterwatch and Wales: Land of the Wild
Book: I wrote a piece for Winter: An Anthology for the Changing Seasons edited by Melissa Harrison. This book is a beautiful collection of nature writing and I would really recommend.
Is there any advice that you would give someone going through M.E.?
Life is not a race, go slow. Be kind to yourself. Recognise the little pleasures in life, even in the darkest of moments – the dawn chorus, the sound of rain on the windowpane, the colours of the sky through the window.
Have you learnt anything that you otherwise would not be aware of?
The beauty of the natural world is all around us. From co-creating #WildlifeFromMyWindow with BBC Springwatch I learnt that social media can be an incredibly powerful and positive tool for raising social awareness, for uniting people in isolating situations and for lifting people up. Also how strong, brave and generous people with M.E. and other chronic illnesses are.