Richi Watson will never forget the incident that led to him being diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) when he was just 17 years old.

He was on his way to the bus stop to get to college when bam – he suddenly felt as if he’s stepped into an energy-draining vortex.

Now 35, Richi explained: “I was just walking up the road and I felt like every ounce of strength was taken from me. I stumbled and hooked my arm over a wall to the side of me trying to keep myself upright, but slowly I slipped to the floor.

“I was so determined to get into college that for around 20 minutes or so I think, I stared defiantly towards the bus stop at the end of the road, willing my body to move.

“At some point I fell into a kind of feverish delirium, the next thing I remember was my mum helping me up and into her car. Lucky for me she’d happened to drive pass and see me lying there.”

He was taken to hospital and then eventually anME diagnosis was made.

He says: “After that I could be completely debilitated at times, and at other periods I’d be working towards good health, but any cold, flu or bug could set me back for many months.

“I had some tough times climbing stairs. I remember once I collapsed at the top and was stuck there for hours until my mumgot home from work.”

ME is an illness shrouded in mystery as doctors don’t know for sure what causes it.

Though recent research shows around two thirds of all cases are preceded by a viral infection of some kind.

Richi believes his ME began after he got a life-threatening bout of gastroenteritis at eight months old which saw him lose almost 8lbs in weight. He then suffered a severe reaction to penicillin when he was two years old and from then on he suffered with chronic debilitating illness throughout his life Growing up feeling so ill, so often clearly had an impact on Richi.

He says: “The big challenges were emotional ones.

“It was difficult socially being in and out of school and in my adult life it was hard not being able to followmy dreams or even create some stability for myself.

“I couldn’t hold a job down for more than a few months until there was a big transformation in my late twenties.”

It was then that Richi began to make changes that would lead to him massively improving his health. But it started with a positive attitude.

He says: “First and foremost I had to discover a mental approach to my circumstances which helped me overcome them.

“If we make ourselves a victim, we’re defined by outside circumstances, rather than being the defining influence over our experience of them.”

So Richi, who is now a dad and has a young daughter, introduced natural wholefoods and juices into his diet, as well as regular detox programmes, which he charts as the key to his recovery.

He says: “Part of the solution was in cultivating an inner-sense of wellbeing, the mind-body connection is well established scientifically and underpins all our efforts towards our wellness goals.”

For years ME carried a unfair stigma of being the illness of the work-shy or the “cant-be-bothered” but Richi says that was down to a lack of understanding.

He says: “I’m not sure there’s too much of a stigma anymore as we have a deeper understanding of what's going on for people.

“I think the misunderstanding came from the key symptom being described as ‘fatigue’. People hear that and think ‘well I’m tired all the time too, what’s the big deal?’ “But it can be like having all the strength in your body just sucked out of you, to the point where standing at the bottom of a set of stairs could feel like you were about to embark on a marathon.

“I can understand why sufferers would feel upset at being marginalised and dismissed, but I’d encourage them to gently remove their attention from that stuff and focus on what serves them.

“For me, I’m in a wonderful position to be able to be of service to others, and my focus just stays in that place of appreciation and helpfulness.”

Richi’s mission is to now help others in the same boat. He recently organised his own ME positive event in Southend called the Wellbeing Now Seminar. The seminar, held over two days even saw TV presenter Linda Barker making the trip to the town to take part.

Richi said: “It was my hope to create a big London-style event, which was far more accessible for people and which would be a genuinely life-changing experience.

Echo: Star supporter – Linda Barker with Richi Watson

“We ended up booking the most incredible line-up of best-selling authors and internationally renowned speakers, and the seminar became a landmark event!

“The highlight for me was so many of the guests and speakers eagerly asking me to make this an annual show.”

That’s just what Richi plans to do and he’s already organising the second Wellbeing seminar to be held in Southend again in April.

“I realised then we’ve created something special which I feel proud to bring to the town I was born in and that am now raising my daughter in.

“My organisation 'LifeWell' has been collaborating with other projects around the UK for the last few years and now I'm passionately focusing those efforts in my local community.

“I’m working with Squeeze Cafe in Leigh to offer wellbeing evening's once a month, we’ll also be hosting monthly workshops with different leading experts.”


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