Saturday, 22 December 2012

ME/CFS book review: ‘Verity Red’s Diary: A Story of Surviving M.E.’ by Maria Mann

'Verity Red's Diary' is one of those books that will always stay close to my heart. I will never forget the way it made me feel or the way it resonated so exactly with the way I was feeling.

At the time, I had been suffering from severe symptoms for over 4yrs and had only been given a diagnosis of ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) a year earlier. I had spent that year in denial; no way could I get ill! I would beat it the way I beat everything, so I had tried every treatment I could to get better without actually stopping to acknowledge that I had a serious chronic illness or accepting the changes I would have to make. I just wanted my life back and I was going to do everything in my power to get it back! Of course, all I succeeded in doing was getting increasingly ill. I was fed up; I was ill, depressed and almost totally socially isolated as I just couldn't handle trying to explain the inexplicable to anyone anymore. I needed to know that I was not going crazy, that there was at least one person out there in this big, crazy, scary, alien world who understood what I was enduring.

Cue Verity Red!

"I was a busy speck of dust once, milling about with other specks in the great living room of everyday life. Now the great yellow duster of chronic illness has flattened and trapped me, and like a duster that's all used up I've been thrown in the washing machine to go round and round in circles. At the end of my cycle I'm all limp and screwed up."

"Cleaned the kitchen floor. Well; not exactly the whole floor, half of it; about a quarter really. And it wasn't a proper clean with a mop and Flash and me standing smiling proudly at a job well done, the tiles sparkling, the enamel on the cooker twinkling, the sun shining through the window on to clear polished work surfaces and saucepans you could use as a mirror to do your make-up. The only flashing being done was my knickers showing through a big hole in the bum of my leggings, as I crawled on my hands and knees using damp kitchen roll (lovely autumn leaf pattern) to wipe muddy paw prints near the cat flap and crumbs near the cooker and bread bin area. I now have the energy to keep the filth at bay, I'm so fortunate. Must remember to lay fresh sheets of Adscene by the cat flap every time I pick up the dirty soggy pages, which isn't very often..."
- Extracts from 'Verity Red's Diary'

What initially drew me to this book was that firstly, it was the diary of a person who had M.E.; someone who was also trying to 'survive' and secondly the name 'Verity Red' (Veri tyRed) hinted at the author being someone who had managed to retain her sense of humour; something I was afraid I was rapidly losing!

I was not disappointed. This book was a turning point in my life. Verity Red was that friend we all need; she showed up when I most needed her, to make me laugh, to share my tears and just to get downright silly at times! Maria Mann manages to accurately show the sadness, the madness, frustration and even the blank boredom that make up the lives of M.E. sufferers by taking us through a year in the life of Verity. She puts into words what most of us with M.E. only just have enough energy to feel. So often I'd be reading a part and it so eloquently summed up exactly how I was feeling that I'd find myself muttering "That's me! That's me!" while I actually cried tears of relief!

The diary of a M.E. sufferer could so easily be full of despair and gloom, but not in the capable hands of Maria Mann, who brings magic and humour to lighten and brighten the story while not losing any of the genuine emotion.

Even if you're lucky enough to live a life untouched by M.E., you'll still laugh, cry and enjoy the illustrations! After all, there's a little bit of Verity Red in all of us!

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