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Separation from the world that I had known...

… and how this separation started a process that would change my life for ever.

When writing about oneself, one must strive to be truthful. Truth is more important than modesty." Roald Dahl, Boy: Tales of Childhood

I have been working on the content for future workshops to educate and help those who are affected by M.E., chronic fatigue syndrome or post-viral fatigue syndrome. The workshops will be to help patients, carers, family members and the wider medical profession, because I understand only too well, having had M.E. for 8 years and now recovered, just what a confusing condition it can be. The symptoms can differ from patient to patient and how each patient reacts to the condition can be at odds with what others may think will happen, particularly when it comes to starting on the road to recovery.

As with other serious life-limiting conditions, one of the first stages I went through when I was unwittingly becoming ill, was the stage of separation. I knew something was wrong, but I just couldn't put my finger on what or why. I felt something was changing in me and also the world around me and I felt separated from the life I had known, but I had no idea what to do because I didn't know what it was. All I did know was that I was feeling ill a lot of the time, with symptoms of irritable bowel, three chest infections in a 6 month period and I was also crying a lot. I would find myself unable to control my emotions both at home and work and, when I did cry, that didn't actually seem to make me feel any better; I was suffering with depression but didn't realise it.

Separation from the world I had known for so long was a strange place to be. Others, however, had started to notice that I didn't look myself, but of course I denied it and said I was absolutely fine. You see I had a variety of “masks” that I used to wear, without even realising it, to try to show that everything was “fine”. I was trying to be “perfect” for the world to see which was tiring and being the “perfect person” for many people was absolutely exhausting. I sometimes ask clients now, when I am coaching them, “who are you when you are on your own?” “who are you when you are with your partner in life?” “who are you when you are with your wider family?” “who are you when you are at work?” and “what is the difference between one who and the others?” If there are many differences, which I found there were in my situation, then something needs to change as it did for me. The only thing was that I needed to go through M.E. and all its symptoms to start to recognise that. This is why I can be grateful to M.E. Yes I lost a lot with having the condition, for example my health for 8 years, my job (which I had loved) and my life as I had known it, but I also gained a huge amount as well, and one of those gains was perspective. I gained a true perspective about who I truly was and who I am today. I had built up so many shells and masks around me that I don't even think I knew who I was myself, so I was genuinely pleased to meet the real me and she is all that I am now. In fact, if I find myself in a situation these days where, in the past I may have felt it necessary “put on a mask”, I am unable to do it. Neither my mind nor my body will allow me to and, because of that, people only see the true me now, without any masks or shells. This can mean that they see a person who can be many things from happy and loud to vulnerable and tearful, but that is OK, because being me is all I have and all that I want and I am proud of who I am and what I have achieved in the 8 years to recovery and since.

In thinking about separation I found a fantastic recipe for a Lemon Torte (which also happens to be gluten free). It is from a lovely recipe book by Sophie Dahl called Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights ( and, as it is Roald Dahl Day today, what better recipe to share with you than one by his granddaughter! The reason I have chosen this recipe in talking about separation is that not only are the eggs separated when making this cake, but the cake batter also separates and appears curdled. The end result though is a beautiful lemon curd effect on the top of the cake once it is removed from its tin and turned over! I was actually a little concerned when I was making it, as the separation of the solids from the liquids did appear quite alarming at the time, but I needn't have worried because the resulting cake was delicious, especially when sprinkled with icing sugar!

Capri Lemon Torte

Serves 6

150 g butter plus extra for greasing

225 g caster sugar

6 eggs, separated

zest and juice of 4 lemons (unwaxed if possible)

300 g blanched almonds, toasted, then finely ground

115 g potato flour, plus extra

Preheat the oven to 200℃ and grease and line a 9” springform round tin.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, add the eggs yolks all together, the mixture will separate at this point but have faith, and then add the lemon zest and lemon juice. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks (they shouldn't be able to move at this stage of whisking) and fold these into the lemon mixture. Fold in the ground almonds, carefully, plus the potato flour.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 10 minutes at the temperature above and then reduce the oven temperature to 150℃ and bake for a further 40 minutes.

The cake should look lightly browned on top and be slightly springy to the touch. Cool on a wire rack and, when cooled, turn over to serve. Lovely dusted with icing sugar!

Enjoy and take yourself to the Amalfi Coast while you eat it!

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