Published: 10:45, 24 July 2020
| Updated: 12:43, 24 July 2020
A Medway woman who wrote a book about her battles with ME, which she's had since she was 15, has said she's "so overwhelmed" at becoming an award-winning author.
Jessica Taylor-Bearman, who is originally from Cliffe Woods near Rochester has struggled with the chronic condition for more than a decade, won in the People's Book Prize last night.
The virtual ceremony was held online as Jessica tuned in from her living room excited to get dressed up for the evening.
Her memoir titled A Girl Behind Dark Glasses was published in 2017 - the same year she married her husband Samuel at her parish church in Upnor.
It details her journey stuck in a hospital bed as a teenager for years with tubes keeping her alive as she battled the most severe form of the condition.
The book was named the non-fiction book of the year at the awards – voted for by the public – and has received critical acclaim for Jessica's "inspiring" voice and "fascinating and moving account".
Posting on social media, Jessica - who now lives in Essex - described winning the award as "the most surreal evening that I have had for a long time".
She added just being nominated as a finalist "was enough" but was stunned by being named as the winner
Speaking to KentOnline, Jessica said: "It has been incredibly emotional. I wasn’t expecting it at all, it was just an honour to be a finalist with so many incredible authors.
"It has been such an overwhelming 24 hours. I just want to tell 15 year old Jessica, who was admitted into hospital and the doctors had no idea how to help me, that not only will her dreams come true and I will become an author, but it will be an award winning bestseller.
"It would have given me so much hope in a terrifying situation.
"To be a finalist was an honour, but to win makes me feel like ME sufferers are being heard. I know that the ME community have supported me so much, and I really hope that people take away the seriousness of ME."
The powerful story told in Jessica's own words reveals her daily struggles which robbed her of what many young people take for granted growing up.
But despite suffering myalgic encephalomyelitis, which causes her pain throughout her body and chronic fatigue, Jessica is now a mother to her one-year-old daughter, Felicity.
Jessica added: "My life has changed since having Felicity. She has given me a new purpose in life.
"When I first became pregnant, my ME did make some improvements, but over the past few months I have started to have more problems.
"My joints are problematic and I am now needing my wheelchair more.
"It is still better than it was in the book, but ME is a chronic health condition so it is long term and fluctuates all the time.
"I just want to thank anyone who has read my story."
The former Rochester Grammar School pupil previously spoke about the difficulties of her pregnancy and how she feared she would never become a mother due to her condition.
In 2006, Jessica was admitted to hospital and spent four years fighting for her life and was bedridden for almost 12 years and confined to a wheelchair.
As she slowly started her recovery and was forced to wear dark glasses to protect herself, her story reveals the highs and lows of the disease.
When she was able to speak again, she started recording her story through a voice-activated diary called Bug which provides raw and immediate emotion to tell her story and realise her ambitions of becoming an author.
Jessica founded the charity Share a Star in 2010 which aims to help young people and their families suffering health conditions who are regularly forced to be in and out of hospital.
She continues to work on raising awareness about ME and writes a blog on her website sharing her experiences and is planning a sequel for release in January called A Girl in One Room.
Helen Lewis, co-director of Jessica's Kent-based publishing firm Hashtag Press, said she's very proud of Jessica's work.
She said: "It is the most amazing feeling to know that all the hard graft of the past four years, starting a publishing house at such a difficult and competitive time, with no investors or in-house publishing experience, is finally paying off."