Swimming for M.E
Beth French suffered from M.E from the age of 10. At 17 years old, she was reduced to life in a wheelchair, giving up A-levels, an outdoor, sporty life and at that time hope of a fulfilled life. This is not an uncommon story for those touched by M.E; a much maligned, very misunderstood syndrome that affects mind and body alike.
M.E is a psycho-neuroimmunological syndrome that attacks any system of the body at different times. It is largely unique to the individual suffering, in that we all have different triggers, often related to our reaction to coping with various perceived stresses in our lives. It is debilitating and as soul destroying, as it is difficult to diagnose and treat, although extreme fatigue is a universal symptom. Whilst wheelchair bound, Beth read widely on the mind-body barrier, M.E and self help, Meta physics and physiology. She also spent much time daydreaming when reading was too much effort.
Over time, these fantasy futures distilled to a wish list of possible life events: reasons to hope. Bit by bit, she regained strength and confidence in her understanding of health. This was part and parcel of her travels abroad and quest for her own personal culture of health. It forms the backbone of her work at Marlborough House today – a unique holistic approach to the workings of the body and its relationship to the personality driving it!
Becoming a mother and turning 30 – two milestones worthy of contemplation – she looked back over her life and realised that most of that wish list had been inadvertently attained. She had swum with wild dolphins, built her own house, lived in a monastery, walked on warm lava and had a baby. To all intents and purposes, a full and fulfilled life. At her local pool, she stumbled on a swim challenge that re-ignited her lifelong ambition, and an item on the wish list, to swim the English Channel. For as long as she can remember, she has had the compulsion to walk straight out into the sea and swim out until she hits land again. So, she booked her dates to swim to France with the Channel Swimming and Pilot Federation. She is now halfway through her training and has completed her qualifying swim of 6 hours in water, less than 16°C, wetsuit free! She is lucky enough to have formed a fantastic support team, helping her with nutrition, training advice, therapeutic treatment and kayak support and assistance whilst out swimming in the sea. The personal challenges faced and overcome along the way are proving that achieving life’s ambitions are definitely about the journey.
She is swimming to raise awareness of M.E both in the wider community and to give hope to those suffering that there is every reason to hope and dream of a bright and fulfilled future. It is also, of course, a huge personal challenge – as much mental as it is physical – and in some ways, proof positive that she is utterly recovered and can live without M.E. It is also for the love of swimming and the joy in the ability that she can. Few people experience having that ability taken away wholesale – then regaining it. It instils a profound sense of gratitude and wonderment in the body’s capacity for recovery, movement and life in general.