We use necessary cookies that allow our site to work. We also set optional cookies that help us improve our website For more information about the types of cookies we use, visit our Cookies policy and manage your preferences.


Hannah B’s story

9th July 2024

Hannah, then 30, contracted meningitis in October 2020. It started with an ear infection, which turned into viral, and then bacterial meningitis, and she spent two weeks in hospital, during which time she had a lumbar puncture and was left with a CFS leak (spinal leak.) Doctors told her she would be okay, but she was left with persistent, debilitating headaches. She could barely walk or even stand, and she spent several months ‘lying in a dark room, all day, all night, on a lot of morphine’. She wondered why, if her ‘medical’ problem of meningitis had been solved, she was still in chronic pain, as she tells us here.


“It’s changed who I am completely. But I do see that as a positive. It's been a very tough, steep learning curve.”

“I thought, okay, so I have had meningitis, there is no dispute about that.

“But why did my body respond so aggressively to an ear infection? Normally you get an ear infection and you'll be fine with some antibiotics or something. What else was going on at the time? The more I read, and the more I learned, I realised that there was a huge element that needed to be addressed.

A lot going on at the time

“I realised there was a lot going on at the time I contracted the ear infection. I was living through the Covid pandemic, an unprecedented and enormously stressful event. I had been locked down separately to my partner, and had also had to postpone my wedding, which had been due to take place the previous month. My work had also become unbelievably stressful. At the time, I didn’t fully realise how much pressure I was under, as I just kept going in fight or flight mode.

“It was only later, when I began to do my own reading and research about stress illness, that I reconsidered what I had been through. By then, I had been living with chronic pain for almost a year. I had been prescribed antidepressants and painkillers, and told that many people live with pain, 70% in the UK, and I should just get on with it.

Became a shell of myself

“I sort of became a shell of myself. It was very much a lonely period of time. I didn’t know anyone else who was living with chronic pain.

“Then, alongside other treatments, I started working with a pain therapist. We talked about who I am as a person, and what my values and beliefs are. Consequently, I developed some urgently needed boundaries, and learnt to understand myself and other people more. This is work that will protect me for the rest of my life.

“I now feel like my usual self, ‘give or take’. I am starting to return to the sports I used to love, including running, and hockey. I am, in a very odd way, grateful for my experience of chronic pain, as it has taught me a lot about myself, including how to develop boundaries and protect myself.

Tough, steep learning curve

“It was a life changing experience but in a funny way, one I feel positive about. It’s been a very tough and steep learning curve.

“I am now 80 per cent pain free. I am partly deaf in my left ear and inject myself monthly with a headache drug. I could say that in my unluckiness I am lucky – I survived, and my injuries and after-effects are manageable. I also have a flawless forehead due to the amount of Botox.”