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Jessica Taylor-Bearman was born in March 1991, at Maidstone Hospital in England. She grew up in Rochester and Canterbury, Kent, where she attended Rochester Grammar School for Girls. At the age of 15, she became acutely unwell with an illness called Myalgic Encephalomyletis (M.E). She was continously hospitalised from 2006-2010, suffering with the most severe form of the condition. This included her being bedridden, unable to move, speak, eat and more. She began to write in her mind, and when finally able to speak again, she began to write through her audio diary 'Bug'. In 2009, Jessica began to teach herself to paint through the movement of laughter. She realised that through balancing a paintbrush in her hand, laughter caused it to move, creating a new form of art that she called a 'Laugh-O-Gram'. Her first collection was exhibited in the Canterbury Art Festival 2009. All her pieces have been exhibited since then. In 2010, whilst still in hospital, she founded a charity called Share a Star, to help seriously unwell youngsters. It is now a registered charity that she continues to run. Since she left hospital, Jessica's journey with severe ME has continued to be very challenging. She is currently still mostly bedridden, twelve years after it began. She writes a blog called The World of One Room and made a YouTube video of the same name that has reached tens of thousands of people in multiple countries. Jessica has also featured in a film called Unrest. The aim which of both of these is to raise awareness. Jessica's ambition has always been to be an author.
A Girl Behind Dark Glasses took me on an emotional journey, reading about a teenage girl trapped in her body, barely able to move or communicate, drifting in and out of consciousness. Most people have heard of M.E. (myalgic encephalomyelitis) but don’t realise how severe it can be. Jessica Taylor-Bearman was struck down by an unusually severe form of M.E. at the age of 15, the disease impacting on every aspect of her life. In her book, she writes from the heart about what was going on inside her mind as she lay motionless in hospital, her eyes protected from the light by dark sunglasses – all of her pain, frustrations, fears and confusion spilling out on to the pages of her digital diary, ‘Bug’. Her strict treatment programme seemed like a punishment, as doctors puzzled over the best way to manage her symptoms. Yet her only ‘crime’ was to catch a virus and then become seriously ill. From the devotion of her family and friends as they tried to nurse her back to health to the mishandling (and abuse) by nursing staff and other healthcare professionals, she preserved her memories to follow her dream to become an author one day. A Girl Behind Dark Glasses isn’t an easy read. But it is a lesson to us all – cherish what you have in life and don’t take your health for granted. This is a story of strength and resilience amid all of the despair – and ultimately, a story of love, survival and passion for life. Jessica’s experiences made me angry and made me weep but, above all, made me hope – that one day doctors will find a cure for this devastating, cruel disease.