Is it physical or mental – or a combination of the two? And why are treatments for CFS hotly disputed? In an extract from her book Cure, Jo Marchant tells the story of Samantha Miller, one sufferer of the controversial condition.
It was like being buried alive,” Samantha Miller says matter-of-factly, fixing me with blue eyes as she munches on falafel. “I was exhausted, with terrible joint pains. It was like having flu all the time with no certainty of recovery. I couldn’t do anything. I was trapped.”
Today, she looks vibrant and younger than her 46 years. She is immaculately dressed in 1950s-inspired floral pinks with a fluffy beret and bright lipstick; her blonde hair is twisted prettily and fixed with a white carnation. We’ve met for lunch in a Turkish restaurant in north London and, as we talk, she seems energetic, fun and very sharp. It’s hard to believe she has spent several years fighting her way back from hell.
In the late 1990s, Miller was living in Hampstead, north London, and teaching art at a “short-staffed, under-funded” secondary school. She found dealing with kids tiring. Children still have “the invincibility of youth”, she says. “They haven’t been crushed by anything yet.” She was also a keen mountain biker and swimmer and led a hectic social life. If something needed doing, she would pick up the slack. And she was always striving to be perfect.
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