I made a film from my bed to show my illness is real

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Jason Frank

Five years ago, Jennifer Brea was struck down by ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis), and found herself bed-bound, a prisoner in her own body. Now, she has invited the world on an intimate journey into a condition that some deny even exists, interviewing fellow patients from all over the world – from her sickbed. She spoke to the BBC’s Natasha Lipman.

As the opening credits roll on the documentary, Unrest, we see filmmaker Jennifer Brea lying on the floor of her bedroom, eyes glazed over, as she stares apparently peacefully at the camera. Then, with arms shaking, gasping for breath, she tries to pull herself up, managing only a few inches before she collapses back on the floor. Eventually she is able to crawl slowly to her bed, before dropping the camera, collapsing with relief and fatigue.

Episodes like this initially came as a shock for Brea. Seemingly out of nowhere, she would suddenly lose all muscle force, unable to move her body, or even lift her head. She struggled to get words out, let alone form sentences, and even the smallest exertion would have knock-on effects that lasted for days, weeks, or even months.

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