Whether you’re filling out a social media profile, submitting an application for a job or simply explaining yourself to someone new, finding the right words to describe yourself can be hard. Putting your personality and experiences into a few short sentences can feel like trying to stuff a full-size person into a tiny sock. But it’s important to have a good “me” description, because the impression you give people could affect their opinion of your ability or worth.
Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is an unpredictable, complex and disabling condition that causes debilitating levels of fatigue and other symptoms. It can affect people of all ages, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds, but is most commonly reported by women. In many cases ME/CFS develops gradually over months or years, but in some it appears to be triggered by infection. Herpesviruses, enteroviruses and bacterial infections such as COVID-19 have been linked to ME/CFS. It is currently not known what causes ME/CFS, but research into gene expression, cellular signalling, immune system function, gut bacteria and activity levels in the brain are ongoing.
There is no specific diagnostic test for ME/CFS, so it’s important to see a doctor who understands the condition and can recognise the pattern of symptoms. ME/CFS is diagnosed using criteria, which must include post-exertional malaise (PEM). It’s also important that your GP rules out other conditions that may cause similar symptoms.
ME/CFS can have a profoundly negative impact on the quality of life of those affected by it, with 25% of people becoming housebound or bedbound. It is thought that ME/CFS results in a significant decrease in the body’s ability to use energy, so people can often feel like they are constantly running out of battery power. For this reason it is important that those with ME/CFS are referred to a specialist ME/CFS team, which should have medically trained clinicians with expertise in ME/CFS assessment and management, including rheumatology, rehabilitation medicine, infectious diseases, neurology, endocrinology and general practice.
A comprehensive, personalised care and support plan is essential for those with ME/CFS, as it can help reduce the severity of symptoms, prevent flare-ups and increase functional ability. This should be based on a holistic assessment, and include a range of healthcare professionals such as physiotherapists, exercise physiologists, dietitians and clinical or counselling psychologists.
If you’re struggling to find the right words to describe yourself, try asking friends and family for their opinions. They can be a great source of inspiration, and it’s also important to ask for feedback from those closest to you as they are the most likely to have seen your behaviour over time. You can also take online self-assessments, such as the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, to discover how you see yourself and the types of situations in which you thrive or struggle. You can then apply this knowledge to the way you interact with others and recharge your batteries. The MBTI will give you a list of “traits” and “preferences”, giving you an indication of how your personality traits relate to your functioning in different situations.