Saturday, 20 July 2013

School PE Struggle

When it came to sports and athletics, from a young age I felt my body was unable to do what the other students around me could. I was never the fastest runner, never had any strength, I always had pains but because I saw nobody else around me my age mentioning any pain they were experiencing I kept it to myself and tried as best as I could to participate. My body was like jelly and I had no muscle strength, as I got older and people started noticing how bad I was at PE I would just say 'I hate PE, I'm so not good at sports' and attempt to make a joke of it even though I knew it probably wasn't normal to be in so much pain during physical activity.

During Primary School, I just thought I wasn't as athletical as everyone else. Walking to school I would experience bad pains in my legs and would cry, but doctors told me it was growing pains. My earliest memory of a PE lesson was when I was age 6 and in Year 1. We were doing a gymnastics lesson. I personally love watching gymnastics when its on TV as I think it is incredible, even from a young age I wanted to be able to do it so bad. In this lesson, everyone had to run and flip themselves over a small/medium vaulting box by placing there hands down and using their weight to try to lift their legs over. I attempted this what felt like 20 times until I just ran round it because I felt like a failure that I was still stuck at the first hurdle and all the other kids had already completed every apparatus. However my teacher caught me and made everyone sit and watch me do it until I did it right. I never managed to do it right and got in trouble and shouted at for not trying enough and being lazy and therefore had to sit in at break time to practise my handwriting for not trying enough during the "fun PE lesson". From that day she was always on my back, and the dread I used to feel towards PE wasn't helping with the pain I was getting from trying to please the teacher.

When it came to secondary school, I was having to do 2-3 PE lessons per week like most schools. The activities got harder and more difficult and I just couldn't keep up. I tried when I could but everything seemed to cause me pain for days on end and was effecting my attendance. For as long as I can remember my mum would have to write me notes because I was experience incredibly painful stomach, joints and muscle pains daily. It was difficult enough to get up to go to school every morning with extremely bad stomach pains but I thought it was better to sit out of something vigorous like PE than to not attend school at all. My PE teacher started to get sick of this and told me she thought I was faking because I constantly had an excuse, she didn't think I was having the pains in my neck, back and knees like my letter stated. It was never an excuse, I was in very serious pain. She demanded that I'd need a doctors note, which I was able to provide but she still wasn't nice about it. She didn't think that a few stomach ulcers (which was the only thing I was diagnosed with at this point) could cause so much pain and make me unable to participate in PE. She told me that if I came in with another note for my next lesson I would be sent to the head teacher. I was a good student at school and always hated being told off so I did what she asked and was in an immense amount of pain. She thought during a circuit lesson I wasn't trying enough (I now understand all my tiredness was later diagnosed as chronic fatigue) so  she made me run (attempt) around the field in the rain for 40 minutes. When she felt I wasn't running up to her standard she would blow her whistle and make me do an extra lap. This caused me a week off school.

The final straw came at the age of 14, again I was asked to throw myself over the vault box except this time bigger (hello flashbacks). Knowing that this teacher had it in for me, I did it once and fell on my back with instant pain. I was asked to do it again and simply said calmly but could feel the tears in my eyes, "No, I really cant do it, I've hurt myself". This caused the teacher to flip out, screaming and shouting, humiliating me and making the whole room fall silent. My friends knew that I wasn't one to ever get in trouble and they couldn't believe what had happened when they saw me be sent to the head teacher for not being able to complete what had been expected of me. I then had to pay to go to a osteopath for a year as well as missing months off school because it felt like the whole of my body had been pushed out of alignment. In a way I thank that teacher, as rude to me as she was, it was after that PE lesson that I spent weeks in bed and was forced to give up school school forever. It was one of the instigators that got the ball rolling with appointments that lead me on the road to being diagnosed years down the line with something that answered my questions as to why my body felt like it was falling apart. Maybe if I wouldn't have experienced this much body pain they wouldn't have linked the internal and external pains of EDS together.

School teachers really need to be more aware of any chronic illness issues. I felt like I shouldn't have been expressing the pain I was feeling from teachers that were meant to have my best interest and care for a student. The letters from the professionals and my parents had been completely dismissed by the PE department. Maybe now I would be more assertive but as a child and wanting to be respectful its difficult to stand up for yourself even when being belittled.
I would one day love to be able to see PE departments and schools being educated on EDS and other chronic pain conditions.  
I would love to know if anyone else has experienced a tough time with Physical Education lessons. I've never heard from anyone who had a tough time with this!
Just want to apologise for lack of posts. Have been having a rough time but I will try posting as and when I feel up to it. 
Big thank you to everyone who has got in touch, I love hearing from you all.


  1. I had an awful time with PE at school. I was a dancer outside of school, but struggled with the pains in my back and neck. I managed to grin through it in dancing as I was so passionate about it. But I had the same hassle you had at school and eventually had to get a note to say I could no longer participate as everything was athletic based in high school and I couldn't manage. They weren't happy about this as they knew I danced. But that what they couldn't grasp was dancing wasn't using the same strengths and muscles as athletics. But like you I'm thankful as it started the long road to a diagnosis! Love Lauren Matthewson x

  2. You're so right Lauren, I hope EDS hasn't forced you to leave behind your dancing and if it has I hope you can still get some enjoyment from it in the future. They used to switch what type of activity's we did every few weeks at school too which was annoying just as my body was trying to adjust to one strenuous thing I would have to try something else but was becoming weaker and weaker. I also dislike that professionals who don't understand who think exercise makes you better, fitter and healthier don't realise it usually puts us in bed for a week x

  3. Ive been out of dancing for some time now. But my teacher was so good at adapting things for me once i was beginning to struggle. I do hope to go back at some point in the future, but at this point it's impossible! Like you the slightest bit of exercise puts me in bed for a week. I'm really struggling with physio and no matter how much doctors tell me it's good for me it seems to be causing more and more problems! X

  4. I had lots of problems in gym and would always get that "your faking it" look whenever I brought in another doctor note. It wasn't until I was diagnosed with eds that I was taken seriously. This year I had the most amazing gym teacher who was also an athletic trainer. She took the time to get educated on eds and when I was out of gym for a month with a hip injury she had me write an essay on eds instead so she could learn more of doing a lot of packets of busy work. I love reading your blog and would love to talk. My email is