While people up and down the country have been forced to cope with coronavirus social distancing, for 2,200 people in Cornwall isolation is something they face every day of their lives.

Two women from Porthleven and Redruth have now shared their story in a bid to raise awareness of the serious neurological condition Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, usually referred to as ME, as part of an awareness month this May.

It often leaves those who have it unable to meet a friend for coffee, go to their favourite restaurant or travel on holiday and their job even becomes uncertain.

Sarah Smith, 51, from Porthleven, discovered she had ME just over four years ago following gastric bypass surgery.

She said: “I felt amazing for two years as I lost 14 stone in a year. Energy levels were on 1,000% then I literally bombed to 0%.

“Symptoms change daily and the days when you have a spring in your step could be fleeting and far between. We beat ourselves up for not achieving what we want.

“I wish for people to realise the battle we have, we don't want to be this way. If only they could step in our shoes and realise the massive weight we carry on our shoulders and in our hearts.”

ME affects the way people’s bodies and their brains can recover normally after any activity, physical and mental, and however small.

Charmaine George, aged 46, of Redruth, has also shared her story with UK charity Action for ME.

Falmouth Packet:

Charmaine George

She said: “I was very active and bubbly. I was an outgoing person with a huge zest for life."

This all changed when Charmaine was diagnosed with ME seven years ago.

“It’s still very hard getting GPs to understand the full impact this has on my life. I need a lot of rest. ME is crippling and isolating," she added.

On top of the daily challenges that the fluctuating condition presents, in recent weeks those with the condition have found much of the support and services they have come to rely on – such as supermarket deliveries or carers providing personal care – have disappeared overnight, as a result of the pandemic.

Sonya Chowdhury, chief executive of Action for ME, said: “We have been contacted by people with ME in truly desperate situations.

“So we set up our new Crisis, Support and Advocacy Service to meet this urgent need, sourcing practical local assistance such as help with shopping and picking-up medications, connecting people with peer-support, and advising on the ongoing changes to welfare benefits.

“So far, we have seen a three-fold increase in requests for urgent support – all at a time when our income is expected to drop by at least 50 per cent.

"Like many other organisations and charities, we made the difficult decision to furlough several staff. We are continuing to make critical decisions to ensure we are here for people with ME, now and in the future.”

For ME Awareness Month throughout May, the charity is encouraging people with ME to share their insight and experience when it comes to living with uncertainty and isolation, with the aim of shining a spotlight on the hidden condition.

Charmaine said lockdown was nothing new to her.

“The biggest change is not working. I work part-time and that is also my social time as I don’t have the energy after work to go out.

"Being at home is very much normal for me," she added.

Anyone living with or caring for someone with ME, of any age, can contact Action for ME’s Crisis, Support and Advocacy Service by email at questions@actionforme.org.uk or calling 0117 927 9551.