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Fighting a legal battle with very few resources

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Pie chart explained at  the end.


It feels like most of this year has been taken up trying to deal with 2 very big problems that have occurred as a consequence of my Bankruptcy. Which is dealing with legal and financial “debt” actions for bills and charges relating to one of the flats I used to rent out. In Motherwell.

Both the council for the area and the factors that manage the property want me to pay for things that have arisen or been charged after I went bankrupt in Sep 2014. This is why I referred to “debt” in inverted commas – as it is debts I haven’t run up myself. And no reasonable person would expect to be liable for these – as the properties had all been handed over to a Trustee In Bankruptcy in 2014.

My Trustee In Bankruptcy (say) they have repeatedly explained my situation to these 2 organisations (particularly the factors) over the last few years – ie, I am bankrupt, went bankrupt because of health, gave all assets away on becoming Bankrupt, have no income or savings now. And can hardly manage to deal with anything because of my health. Which is WHY I opted for Bankruptcy. Sorry, I know this is the 1000th time I‘ve mentioned this . . . . !

I have also made (been forced to make) some efforts at explaining all this myself to these organisations – usually in long emails. At great cost to my health every time, as even small exertions usually make me more ill. And can cause me to crash/relapse even further for days, weeks, etc.

Trying to think and type out an email will usually take me hours and is a very big exertion with my level of health and ability (or disability).

Again, this is why I went Bankrupt.

But these 2 particular organisations don’t care a jot about this. They seem determined to push on for their pound of flesh.

Some of this stuff I’ve probably written about in earlier posts – sorry about this. And for maybe repeating stuff.

But I desperately need to try and pour some of this out – as it is all keeping me very ill indeed. It feels like it has consumed most of this year. And it is consuming me. My physical health and my mental and emotional health too. Nightmares all the time, increasing this year – with all this worry.

Oh, and the Bankruptcy itself is still ongoing.

Still being administered.

Still dragging on.

Some other flats still to be sold.

So for me, being “discharged” from Bankruptcy in Sep 2015 has meant absolutely nothing. I have no idea what benefits there are from saying a person is discharged. Not that I expected any benefits as such – I just mean what is that actual point of the statement saying you are “discharged” when you were a landlord with various properties ? Because they don’t get disposed of overnight. And it is also pretty unlikely they will be disposed of within 12 months either. (By “disposed of”, I mean sold or repossessed.)

Given that one mortgage lender has taken almost 3 years to repossess an empty flat. A flat that was not tenanted, was unoccupied, ie. vacant – in Sep 2014. And well before that too I believe.

Yes, you read that correctly – 3 years . . . .

This of course, is the flat that has produced the bills I am now having to “fight” these legal and financial battles for.

I put “fight” in commas too, because I have so little ability to fight this.

As well as all the pages of physical symptoms I have with Severe ME, the awful cognitive dysfunction (AKA brain fog) prevents me being able to express myself or remember things when I most need to. Well, it causes problems for me all the time of course. Its very frustrating not to be able to remember stuff I have just read in a book, or having to re-read an email 5 times, or cannot digest something just heard on TV perhaps. It is miserable actually – but not essential in the way it will be in a court case.

The legal battle the firm of property factors are waging against me – is now in the 2nd part.

This firm (I will call them Apollo Property – not their real name) are suing me in 3 stages for factors bills, charges and “estimated” bills for communal maintenance/repairs. The total I think, adds up to somewhere between £9000 and £10000.

I think the reason they are doing it in 3 parts is so it comes under what is called the Simple Procedure in Scotland. It used to be called something like Small Claims. Either way, it is dealt with by the Sherriff Court. And I think the legal charges for the person bringing the action are cheaper than a normal court case. And the top limit for these types of cases I’m told are £5000.

So I am assuming that is why Apollo are doing it in this way.

It makes no difference to me really – as I have no funds with which to pay any of this. And would never have expected to be liable to pay these things. No reasonable person would surely ?

As I mentioned in this post, IF the flat had still been tenanted – the tenant’s rents would have been taken over by the Trustee. But I would still be liable to pay bills like these factors bills – from fresh air .

No reasonable person would expect this to be the position.

And I still don’t know for sure if this actually IS the legal position.

The previous solicitor I had requested to send or email me the specific legislation relating to this, ie. The Act and section, paragraph etc, where this is stated and detailed. So I could read it myself – as it seems so unbelievable.

He hasn’t replied.

But then he has been paid. (You have to pay the legal fees in advance and ongoing for this type of legal assistance. You do not get a bill at the end.)

 

For this 2 nd Stage – Apollo are claiming approx £5000.

For “estimated” bills for communal repairs and maintenance.

I don’t understand how it can be estimated – you would think they must know what they have paid out exactly ?

And is legal detail not meant to be accurate and specific ? I thought that the whole essence of legal stuff was the preciseness of the detail ?

So I am baffled by this.

 

Ironically, the whole communal area where this flat in Motherwell is located had, as I understood, been allowed to go downhill. And this was probably a result of the previous factors failing to carry out any maintenance or repairs over a period of a few years. (They eventually went into Administration and the current factors Apollo took over.) And of course, this would be why the letting agent I used said they just couldn’t get any decent tenants for the flat. And it had sat empty for quite some time before 2014.

No landlord would just choose to have a property sitting empty. Just saying . . .

At this particular scheme where my flat was – there are 3 small blocks of flats. Each with 11 flats in them.

They would all have needed similar work to mine I am pretty sure. So anything I am being charge for can be multiplied by 11 for definite. And then by 3,  as 3 blocks.

Very recently it also came to light these factors Apollo are also charging the mortgage lender a sum of £16280 which they want paid to them from the sale of the flat.

(The lender finally repossessed it in March this year, and it was sold in July. )

The only detail Apollo seem to have given the bank’s solicitors is vague descriptions like “essential maintenance” and “charges”.

So that means the total of these repairs for my flat = £5000 + £16280

= £21280

And for the full block (as communal works)

X 11 flats = £234,080

And for the scheme of 3 blocks :

An absolutely whopping £702,240 . . . . !!

These figures seem astronomical.

I didn’t mean to type so much detail and make this into such a long post. But my head is spinning with all of this . . . .

And how to fight it with so little energy.

 

The pie chart in the picture at the top is a screen shot I took from an app called ME/CFS App. I try to record my daily energy use on it – in the hope of it helping me in the future. Or maybe as a visual aid perhaps to show a GP of how my life is.

I’ve been doing this off and on for a few years.

The dark blue is the amount of time I am either sleeping – or completely disabled.

Possibly resting or recovering from doing stuff, but certainly unable to “do” anything at all. Not even listen to soft music, certainly not read.

Just totally non-functional.

And this is at least 80% of my life.

Probably more actually – as you fill in the areas of “activity” in 30 min boxes. Nearly everything is a high or medium energy activity for me. A low energy activity may be listening to meditation music lying down. Or maybe eating food.

A simple text message might take me 20 mins to type out – but I would probably fill a 30 mins box for this on the App. So I tend to overstate my time being active.

I imagine my actual level of functioning is around 10 % .

Which is a pretty shit life – lets be honest.

10% is the figure the App keeps telling me is my baseline. I don’t even know what “baseline” means, as haven’t had enough spare energy to read all the instructions in 2 or 3 years.

So anyway – I’m trying to fight this legal battle with Apollo Factors while being functional only 10% of the time.

Not to mention the firm of Debt Collectors now employed by the Council for Motherwell as well.

I don’t feel very hopeful.

But its good to vent . . . .

And if the sheer effort of typing all this gets some of this horror out of my head, and reduces the number of nights a week I have exhausting nightmares – then it has been worthwhile for me.

Sorry its such a long read.

 

 

 

 

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Crashing badly now . . . and scared 

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Trying to put this post on my blog in a hurry.

As I can feel myself crashing badly. And I’m fearful I won’t be able to communicate at all with anyone for a while. Not that I do communicate with people very much. Apart from my husband, I don’t think I have seen or spoken to anyone for months. But I do manage to keep in touch with a couple of friends by text message. Even this is hard for me with so many ME symptoms to contend with. Finding it painful to tolerate the brightness of a mobile phone screen is just one difficult symptom.

For the last while – maybe almost 2 months now – I’ve been pushing myself regularly way beyond what I can safely do. Which is frustratingly very little anyway.   I haven’t had any choice in this – see last blog post for details.

A combination of lots of emails and maybe 3 quite long legal phone calls has finished me off.  Every email or phone conversation I only “managed” by somehow summoning up a huge amount of adrenaline (God knows where from).  Because of the importance of the communications. And every time I crashed miserably afterwards.

Every time the crashes have felt worse. More symptoms, worse severity.  But I had to keep pushing against this – because of the situation.

I feel so angry about this whole situation. All of the last 3 years. And now this legal fight – to cap it all.

But I can’t do anymore just now.

I feel as though this last 2 months extra-big  surge of stress, exertion, confusion, worry, etc has caused one crash too many.  Too many extreme type symptoms have started again, or feel worse, eg. can’t tolerate much light at all, or sound, or movement/vibration near me. All the usual symptoms are worse.

Trying to type this thru severe headaches and the agonising brightness of the screen is really really hard. And my brain feels like its plugged into electricity. I feel so horribly wired and over stimulated. Thoughts of the last 3 years of Hell all racing round my head.

I have had to spend a lot of 2017 so far in bed. Not all of it – but far too much of it. It is a rubbish life. Although there are many people with ME who are much worse than me. I know this. And I usually try to focus on being grateful that I’m not even worse. I read about one young girl who wasn’t able to sit up in her bed for 9 years.  9 YEARS . . . .  not weeks or months. And people who have lost the ability to speak. Or swallow food.

And I’m quite frightened now that I could deteriorate even further.

The last 2 months have been too much.  Its as simple as that.

I need to rest completely.  Even if this means bowing out of any communications with the outside world for a while. And avoiding any stimulation.  Or thinking.

Just breathe . . . .

Media nonsense about ME and exercise

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This article has been re-blogged from the Blog http://www.uttingwolffspouts.com which is written by Claudia Gillberg and Geoffrey Jones.  I had to reblog this as it concerns a very important subject that has often been misunderstood concerning the impact of exercise on people with ME or CFS.  The dreadful article on the front page of a major newspaper this week prompted a justifiable outcry from many sufferers of this illness. And it was no wonder – our lives are hard enough without having to contend with this rubbish. The Telegraph article is here http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/11959193/Chronic-Fatigue-Syndrome-sufferers-can-overcome-symptoms-of-ME-with-positive-thinking-and-exercise.html  (if anyone wants to read it).

The blogpost speaks for itself – and I love the title :

” THE SCIENTIFICALLY CHALLENGED UK MEDIA STRIKES BACK “

” When I first heard The Telegraph had featured an article concerning a follow-up study of the notorious PACE trial I was inclined to ignore it1. I’ve long become used to the appalling coverage of ME by the British media2 and felt I didn’t need to read any more disinformation disseminated via the Science Media Centre. However, I cracked and had the misfortune to read an article written by Sarah Knapton that is the worst I have seen in the thirty years I have been ill with this disease, which considering the competition is an impressive achievement1.

The article clearly implies ME is a non-illness, the suggestion in the headline that a bit of positivity and exercise could cure sufferers merits no other interpretation. One wonders what spin was put on the latest study by the SMC, as the results of this research bear no similarity to its reporting in the press. Indeed, flawed as the PACE trial is, at no point do the researchers suggest GET or CBT cure ME, as claimed by Ms Knapton in her inaccurate and mendacious article1.

Most in the ME community are aware of the substantial problems with the PACE study, including the selection criteria, the self-reporting and lack of objective measures, a flawed methodology, which have been outlined in detail by various authors including Angela Kennedy, Professor Malcolm Hooper, Tom Kindlon, Jane Colby, the late Dr Elizabeth Dowsett and, most recently, David Tuller in the US. Unfortunately the UK media continues its obsession with treating ME as a non-illness affecting lazy people whose only problem is their inability to pull themselves together and push through their fatigue, which seems to be the only symptom the media acknowledge.

To start Knapton states:

‘Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is not actually a chronic illness and sufferers can overcome symptoms by increasing exercise and thinking positively, Oxford University has found’1.

Not a single word in that opening paragraph is accurate. The study included a large number of participants who probably did not have ME as the primary criteria for participating was fatigue. Despite this the PACE trial was only able to establish that some participants showed mild improvement while undergoing GET and CBT (though these were self-reported, subjective results). Participants remained ill and severely limited in their ability to perform normal daily activities.  To repeat, any positive results revealed by the trial were barely notable yet according to Knapton,

‘The new study found that graded exercise therapy (GET), in which sufferers gradually increase activity levels, as well as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which encourages positive thinking and behaviour, had a dramatic impact’1.

A definition of dramatic: sudden and striking, impressive3

The PACE trial in no way justifies such an adjective, a more accurate description would be, ‘a negligible impact’ though this would not have supported the slant of Knapton’s piece.

Her next paragraph aggravates matters,

‘The finding is important because many CFS sufferers believe that exercise will make their condition worse.’1

Sufferers do not believe, ME is not a religion (the proponents of the psychosocial model and their media acolytes exhibit cult-like behaviour but that’s a separate issue). ME sufferers know exercise can make their condition worse through first hand experience of the damage it can cause, something supported by scientific studies illustrating physiological damage(4,5).

Two more paragraphs in the article were particularly disturbing:

‘But gradually increasing exercise and therapy to remove patients’ negative thoughts that they would never get better seemed to work. Prof Sharpe said the study was likely to prove controversial because a “minority” believe that CFS is either caused by a virus or is chronic and cannot be alleviated.’1

In what other chronic illness would sufferers be accused of contributing to their illness due to their ‘negative thoughts’? A more clear case of blaming the patient is hard to imagine and to make such a statement with zero evidence to support it, is unworthy of an academic. Suggesting that only a minority believe a virus triggers the disease and that it is chronic is not only untrue, there has never been any suggestion that ME is an acute condition, but a use of language designed to offend ME sufferers. The following paragraph continues in the same vein,

Prof Sharpe added: “It’s wrong to say people don’t want to get better, but they get locked into a pattern and their life constricts around what they can do. If you live within your limits that becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.”1

There is no science to substantiate anything the professor states in this sentence and I can think of no other illness in which a researcher would speak of sufferers in such a fashion, it is immoral, breaches the Hippocratic Oath and constitutes abuse of a vulnerable group of patients.

Another point to make, highlighted by John Cohen in Science6, is that the basis of the original trial’s supposed success has been undermined by this latest study. The PACE trial claim that GET and CBT were the best treatments for ME is demolished by the finding in this latest study, which revealed that all therapy options produced the same results. To quote John Cohen,

After analyzing the responses, the researchers concluded that the benefits reported in the original study, which assessed participants at 1 year, were maintained for at least another 1.5 years. But the participants randomized to receive the two interventions that initially did nothing also improved, and there “was little evidence of differences in outcomes” when compared with the people in the other treatment groups’5.

Sharpe et al try to explain this by claiming that participants undergoing other therapies switched to GET and CBT in the intervening period but there is no evidence to support this conclusion. I’d also like to query what condition participants are in now, as the suggestion that any improvement was maintained for ‘at least another 1.5 years’ implies their health could have declined after this period of time.

Knapton’s article provides a list of ME symptoms, which exclude post-exertional malaise (PEM) arguably the defining symptom of the illness. It also includes a link to a video featuring Martine McCutcheon talking about the lightning process, telling you all you need to know about the malicious intent behind this article.

‘These are not magic cures’ says Sharpe. Apparently Sarah Knapton disagrees.

A final comment from Professor Sharpe:

‘It’s sometimes quite hard to understand what motivates the very vocal minority that gets upset by this apparently benign bit of moderately helpful treatment’1.

Perhaps some of the headlines in the British media this morning will enlighten the good professor as to why so many in the ME community are upset by his ‘treatment’.

1) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/11959193/Chronic-Fatigue-Syndrome-sufferers-can-overcome-symptoms-of-ME-with-positive-thinking-and-exercise.html?utm_campaign=Echobox&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter#link_time=1446019914 (Accessed 28/10/2015)

2) http://uttingwolffspouts.com/2015/02/14/chronically-fatigued-the-uk-media-and-the-recently-released-iom-report/

3) http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/dramatic (Accessed 28/10/2015)

4) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23813081 (Accessed 28/10/2015)

5) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25990639 (Accessed 28/10/2015)

6) http://news.sciencemag.org/health/2015/10/criticism-mounts-long-controversial-chronic-fatigue-study (Accessed 28/10/2015)

A Long Slow Road

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image

Everything is very very slow.

HEALTH/ME :

Trying hard to get a bit better health-wise.
But it’s like walking such a fine line with ME.
Do just that bit too much and the payback is punishing. You crash, so many symptoms go thru the roof, and it feels like back to square one again. Then you rest to recover, try to build up a bit, feel a bit better, physically stronger, some more energy. And you try to do something big – like just go out!
Then wham and crash – all over again.
This condition is such a nasty piece of work. And I have to manage it on my own.
No medical help at all.
Last weekend I managed to get out twice – late on the Friday and also the Sunday afternoon. This was marvellous and I enjoyed both so much. But then “crash” – and I had to spend most of the last 6 days in bed again. I’m not even going to bother detailing all the different symptoms as I’m so sick of them.
But its not easy.
And painfully slow.

BANKRUPCY STUFF :

This is painfully slow too.
I don’t mean the waiting to be discharged from bankruptcy. This can happen after 1 year – or it may take up to 3 years. And of course is on your record for ever. Well, 6 years I think is technically correct. But as good as forever I feel.

That’s not the problem.

The problem for me is the amount of mail, phone calls etc that I still get from people like mortgage lenders, etc. And the adverse effect it has on me every time.
Last week alone my husband posted off 3 big A4 size envelopes stuffed full of letters, demands, threats, etc to our Trustee In Bankruptcy. We try to send any mail on every week. Last week was admittedly worse than usual – but even then.
It’s not ideal.
And this is maybe 18 months after we first took advice from the bankruptcy adviser.
And later decided to proceed. My health had totally crashed to my lowest ever level of functioning in Feb 2014 so I really felt this was the best, if not the only option.
All this time – and still it all goes on and on.
Nobody seems to even acknowledge that we are Bankrupt. The Trustee say Yes they tell everyone. But still I am being pestered.
Getting to the stage (again) that I don’t even want to switch on my mobile phone. Because of missed calls, voicemail messages, etc. This isn’t good because I still want to be able to use text messages at times, or maybe listen to calming music on the U Tube app in the phone. Even if I can do very little else some days.

I think I have said this before – this process has been torture for me. And has had the effect of worsening my ME overall. I have more symptoms now than when it started.
Plus recurring nightmares over the last 18 months.
My automatic stress response to this stuff is very heightened now. Very over sensitive. The smallest of things sends my nervous system into orbit some days. And this triggers off so many debilitating symptoms (eg, the severe headaches). It’s automatic and just happens without any thought about it. Or choice. And it takes ages (sometimes days or more) for me to “come down” again. And for the symptoms to lessen.

Basically, my whole nervous system feels like it is in shreds.

And the point of the Bankruptcy (the WHOLE point) was to give away all control of everything to a Trustee In Bankruptcy. So they would deal with everything and everybody. Most especially all the properties and all the mortgage lenders.
That was what we were told would happen.
If I was able to continue to do stuff like this – then I wouldn’t have chosen voluntary Bankruptcy in the first place.

If I had a pound for every time I’ve said this over the last 12 months . . . .

I do realise that people may read this and think – yeah, but you must have been in a big mess financially ?

And yes, of course debts had accumulated. I had been hemorrhaging money over a few years leading up to Feb 2014 because my health had been getting even worse. I mentioned this in a previous post somewhere.
BUT – if I had been able to keep going then these would have been cleared in a few years by selling maybe 2 or 3 properties. But I couldn’t keep going – as there was no way of getting a reasonable break from everything.
ALSO – if it was just about financial reasons then we could have sold our home ourselves. Rather than handing it over the the Trustee. They sold it at a cheap price (as expected). And within just a week.
And the profit made (or equity released) was approx £150,000.00. No small sum.
Plus our 3 mortgage Endowments were taken from us and cashed in. (This was a total shock.) Producing over £40,000.00. Again, no small sum.
So we “gave away” almost £200,000.00 in “available assets” to the Trustee.
My business debts (property debts) when my health crashed early 2014 were nowhere near this sum. And at this point everything was being paid ok, nothing was in arrears, no missed payments or anything like that.
I was even still getting 0% balance transfer offers from a few of the credit cards that I was using for business cashflow and expenses.

So the issue wasn’t the amount of debt being carried – but more the fact that I could do no more. Physically (and mentally) I had nothing left.

So everything given up in return for Bankruptcy = a Trustee taking over and dealing with everything = total rest and peace of mind for me = the chance of my health improving.

It has been nothing like this.

I have no idea what’s going on. And it’s very hard to get anything in writing.
From day 1 – I begged for everything in writing. From the bankruptcy adviser and then from the Trustee In Bankruptcy.
(Because of my health and most especially the brain fog.)
But it just doesn’t happen.

But I know the only way thru this – is to go thru it.
And short of medicating myself into a stupor with perhaps very strong anti-depressants – I just have to take it.

GP PROBLEM :

After 10 months of trying – I’m not much further on with getting an ME friendly GP or any help or support.
The health centre I was trying to join – I had to admit defeat. And give up. A GP there had been mentioned as being good. But the staff (a nurse and 3 different medical receptionists) had no knowledge or time for people with ME. They just kept telling me to do things I wasn’t able to do. And were abrupt and totally lacking in any understanding or patient care. Every interaction I had (one appointment and 3 phone conversations) resulted in just making me more ill with the upset and stress of it.
These people are being paid salaries to treat people like this.
So it was 9 months of time and energy wasted for me.
As I’ve said before – you need to be much more well to be able to cope with this sort of stuff.

However, I think I am now successfully registered with a new small GP surgery.
I say I think – because I haven’t had any card from the health board or anything in writing to confirm this yet. The receptionist said I should get a card to confirm after a few weeks. Hasn’t arrived yet. But hubby phoned and the receptionist said it was OK.
This surgery is small with just one GP. But there was no in-person appointment with a nurse or GP required to apply to join. Just a form which was fairly simple. OK, it still took me ages to complete with the brain fog, headaches, etc. But fairly simple by most people’s standards.

The only thing is – I have no idea what the GP’s view and attitude towards people with ME is yet.
I will just have to hope for the best . . .
Anyone reading this who has no experience of ME may think I am over-worrying about this.
Here are just 2 examples from folk on twitter very recently of how it can be :

example 1
A sufferer’s GP told her father that he “didn’t believe in ME” and that it was “a charter for malingerers” .
This resulted in a long standing family break up. As it presumably resulted in the person’s father disbelieving his daughter and giving no support.
Which to be honest is absolutely unforgivable. But the GP did terrible damage here.

example 2
A male sufferer changed to a larger health centre to try to get better treatment, more respect.
There were 8 GPs in this health centre.
Over time (probably a long time) he found out that 7 out of the 8 GPs did not believe in ME. And only 1 did.
At least there was one.
But that’s a rate of 88℅ who would treat you poorly at that centre. And just 12% who would be likely to give you any support at all.

I do hope this isn’t reflective of the nationwide average . . . .

– – – – – – – – – – – –

Ok, thats all for now.
Incredibly exhausting to write all this. Much longer than I planned.
But it is therapeutic.

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