HOW do you go from a high-flyer to a bed-ridden zombie who finds even speech a soul-destroying struggle?

To find out, you need look no further than Joe Green, a once hard-working financial director who reached the pinnacle of his profession only to plummet to unimaginable depths.

Joe had been a divisional director and experienced independent financial adviser employed by the Clarke Roxburgh broking group in Malvern, where he worked on behalf of 1,500 clients for 30 years.

It was during this time that Joe, of Colwall, near Malvern, was struck by a deeply misunderstood condition that turned his life upside-down.

He soon found it difficult to get out of bed, let alone go to work, and the harder he fought against it, the weaker and more helpless he became.

This crushing condition is chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

But how did Joe find himself in such a dark and empty place?

The answer eludes him, though he has his theories.

Joe is a self-confessed perfectionist and this perhaps put pressure on his body and mind, triggering CFS.

His traumatic story began in March 2003 when he began to feel exhausted at work.

Joe would fall asleep in his office with his head on the desk and decided he desperately needed to take a week’s holiday even though he usually had his holidays much later in the year.

He managed some heavy lifting and gardening work and felt fine but that evening he felt terrible, as though he was developing flu.

He was shaky, feverish and weak.

He struggled to keep his balance and even crawling into bed was an effort.

Joe now describes himself as being like a battery that cannot recharge.

He said: “It was just a wipe-out, like having continuous flu. Your head just feels under pressure – you can’t even do a crossword. You don’t want the radio on or the TV. It’s almost like a vegetable state, quite zombie-like. It did feel a bit like a living death.

“I went through a traumatic time and seem to have finally regained some life but I have no answers. I do not understand what happened to me. I do not understand what laid me so low. I do not understand how I was unable to recover.

“All I know for certain is how very ill I was for so long, and it seemed nothing I could do would change that.

Perhaps the only real healer is time.”

When he was diagnosed with CFS by his GP it became clear he was not well enough to go back to work and doctors provided him with notes to cover his continued absence.

After three months the pay cheques stopped coming in and problems with health insurance payouts meant he was struggling to keep up to date with bills and his mortgage.

Other symptoms were poor shortterm memory and he struggled to find words to express himself even though he was extremely emotional at times.

There was a continuous ache at the front of his head and aches also developed in his knees and elbows and cramp in his toes, feet, calves and leg tendons.

His throat was constantly sore and his headache often left him feeling physically sick. Even getting out of his pyjamas was a colossal effort.

Sufferers of CFS and its linked condition, myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), have in the past accused others of not treating the condition seriously enough. Joe was not exposed to any of this.

He was so ill he became a virtual recluse – he wanted no one to see him in his weakened state.

Joe had the support of his wife, Pearl, who stood by his side when he was at his lowest point.

He has now managed to return to work on a part-time basis for Malvern Independents independent financial advisers, and the job is aiding his slow recovery and helping to restore his confidence.

There is support for people like Joe thanks to the Worcestershire ME Support Group which has been helping those with the condition and their families for the last 25 years.

Ian Logan, aged 61, of Martley, the chairman of the group, has not been to work since for 20 years because of the condition. He was a selfemployed engineer but the condition left him unable to work.

Ian has found the lack of support and research deeply frustrating.

Specifically people with ME/CFS want more biomedical research, more recognition and support from GPs, more care from Worcestershire Primary Care Trust and more recognition from benefits agencies.

Ian said: “It can make you suicidal.

It can cause depression. You can be so fed up with it you want to cut your throat.”



Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) is characterised by a range of neurological symptoms and signs, including muscle pain and intense mental and physical exhaustion and cognitive disabilities. It is classed by the World Health Organisation as a neurological illness. The term chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is used more and more often.

However, experts are divided about whether it is the same condition as ME.


Nobody knows for sure but experts say there is unlikely to be a single cause. It has been suggested that ME is triggered by infection. But other traumatic or environmental factors may be to blame.


About 150,000 people in the UK are thought to be living with the conditions. Most sufferers cannot work to full capacity and 25 per cent are severely disabled with some house-bound/bed-bound.

People of all ages and backgrounds suffer.


If you have any of the symptoms described the Worcestershire ME Support Group suggests you ask your GP for a referral to Dr Mark Roberts, lead clinician of the CFS/ME local multi-disciplinary team at Worcestershire Royal Hospital. You can also contact the support group directly through co-ordinator Jill Pigott on 01905 455187 or chairman Ian Logan on 01886 888419. There are monthly meetings in Worcester, Droitwich, Malvern, Pershore, Kidderminster and Bromsgrove where sufferers can get support and advice.