Confined to one room for 5 years, Amelia Hill shares her inspiring story.
By Amy Crawford
Every now and then you hear a story or meet someone who makes you stop and reflect on your own circumstance; makes you realise how very fortunate you are and inspires you to be a much better version of yourself.
Every one of us has a story; so many are facing daily challenges and battles we know nothing about. But it is the manner in which so many choose to deal with these challenges, using their situation to lift themselves higher, to shine a light for those they inspire, that really makes you stop, and think.
About a year ago I stumbled across Amelia Hill's Instagram feed and started following her story, inspired no end by her incredible positivity, her zest for life in the face of incredible adversity. Amelia's story is quite extraordinary. Once a sought-after fashion and interiors stylist, writer and fashion designer, Amelia is now confined to just ONE ROOM, one empty glass room 24/7. Yet, regardless of what she endures day to day, Amelia's brave voice is one of unstoppable optimism. There is no victim here, just a shining light who reminds me (and many others) to be a better human, every day.
Hi Amelia, welcome to THI. We are so happy to have you. Your story is immense! Could you tell us a little about your life, past and present, and how you have come to be where you are today?
Hello! Thanks so much for having me!
At age 14 my health took a nose dive. Struck with severe fatigue and respiratory problems, I struggled to walk, talk, eat and breathe. Doctors had no idea what was causing my symptoms. Probably Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) they guessed.
A few years passed and eventually I recovered to the point where I was able to finish school, move out of home and later on through my twenties & early thirties, chase my career dreams as a fashion designer with my own label, photographic stylist for advertising campaigns and as an interior stylist and writer, producing house features for national glossy magazines like 'House & Garden' and 'Real Living'. I loved my colourful and creative life and had big plans for my future.
My health was never 100%. I battled with daily bouts of fatigue, shortness of breath, and weird unexplained ‘sensitivities’ to everyday things like foods, cleaning products, smoke and places like furniture and carpet stores and newly renovated houses. But, over a hundred 'experts' later, there was still no real diagnosis.
Five years ago at age 33, my health suddenly crashed. Virtually overnight, I was unable to sit up or dress myself. My hypersensitivity sky-rocketed. Everything seemed to make me sick, food, supplements, books, magazines, home furnishings, clothing, bedding, dust, mould, television, wifi technology, people, the tiniest whiff of fragrance. My body was rejecting the world.
Finally, I have a diagnosis of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), also known as Environmental Illness (EI), along with Electro Hyper Sensitivity (EHS) and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). People with MCS are made sick by the exposure to very small amounts of chemicals & other environmental triggers found in everyday life.
As a result of this illness, I have been housebound for the last five years and for the last two years, I have been confined to one single modified ‘safe room’, stripped bare of all furnishings, possessions and all potential environmental triggers, basically just a small fold-out bed on a tiled floor. I speak to people through a glass wall. My Mum is my full-time carer. It’s a stark, isolated, austere and challenging existence, but I am now on a quest to regain my health, and I will do what ever it takes to get there.
By sharing my story and what I have learned, I hope to not only raise awareness for these often misunderstood and misdiagnosed illnesses, but also hopefully inspire others to stay focused on their own dreams, no matter what obstacles they might face.
What have you most leant from this life changing experience? What is the message that you most want to share?
Without doubt, serious illness is always a game-changer. No other experience will require you to require so much of yourself. Confined to one room, minus possessions and the comforts of home, managing a constant stream of debilitating symptoms, too sick to sit up or read or watch TV, speak on the phone, hug a friend or even visit a doctor. The emptiness was palpable. I was afraid. My life had been ripped away from me. I didn’t know how I would survive, or what would happen next.
But somehow, alone within that emptiness, I dug deep and discovered something unexpected, an inner strength, courage, wisdom and clarity I had never known before. I found me.
So, you may be facing your own game-changing experience, an illness, unthinkable circumstance, emotional heartbreak, a difficult decision or an enormous mountain to climb. If you are, know this, it's only when you walk THROUGH the fire, navigate THROUGH the harsh wilderness, sometimes without a map or a compass, when you FACE the things you think you cannot face or DO the things you think you cannot do, it's only then, do you REALLY understand what great things you are actually capable of, and the vast resilience of your own fighting spirit.
The positive energy that you put out into the world is so noticeable, how do you stay focused on positivity when life gets a little tough?
Many people ask me how I seem to stay so positive. Well, it wasn't always this way.
This has been the most challenging experience I could ever imagine. No one just wakes up and decides to try serious illness on for size. Relentless suffering, heartbreak, isolation, seemingly endless obstacles and setbacks, confined to one room for five years, separated from all the things I ever loved and longed for. Oh yeah, where do I sign up?
I carried the heavy burden of depression and anxiety for a very long time. In some ways, no one could blame me for that. Things were bad. I mean, things were really bad. Giving up seemed like the perfect fit.
But, about two years ago, I made a decision. This was NOT going to be how my story ended. Even though I couldn't see a way, I would somehow find a way. I would not give up. I would choose to believe that all things were possible and that the biggest dreams I ever dreamed for my life were still on the horizon. No matter how long it took, I would reach my goal of wellness.
So, every day, I choose to believe that it's not a question of IF, but a question of WHEN, and it's within this daily choice to believe, that my positivity resides.
Could you tell us about the 'Mod Green Safe Pod' you are constructing?
People living with EI/MCS can become hyper-sensitive and allergic to a wide range of everyday substances, objects and common chemicals. Many of these toxic offenders are found in our home’s building materials, interior fittings, furnishings and electricals. Many sufferers find it difficult to locate safe housing.
In the right environment, free from toxicity, the body has a chance to find its balance, to detoxify and to heal.
My Mod Green Safe Pod or as my Mum has tagged it, 'Amazing Amelia HQ', will feature safe, inert materials and specialised construction methods. And, after living in ONE room for so many years, it will also provide me a larger footprint and greater independence.
We’ve all heard about building ‘green’ but my little Mod Green Safe Pod, will not only be eco and planet friendly, but healthy for my body as well.
We have been talking about food intolerances here quite frequently of late, how your diagnosis affected the foods you eat?
In a massive way. Five years ago my food choices got shaky. I had to be cautious. But about 2.5 years ago things took a turn for the worse. My food hypersensitivity suddenly increased and I began reacting (severe breathing problems, total muscle weakness) to healthy, nutritious and seemingly 'safe' foods as well. Apple, pear, zucchini, beetroot, sweet potato, rice and more. This happened fast. With barely a dozen foods remaining I was backed into a corner. I had no choice but to design a strict rotation diet. Rotation Diets are sometimes used to stabilize and/or eliminate food allergies, intolerances/hypersensitivity.
The most common version, is a 4 Day Rotation, meaning you can only eat each food once in a 4 day period. For example, if you eat apple on day 1, you cannot eat apple again until day 5. Strict diets like mine, also abide by food families and also only allow foods to be eaten one at a time. For example, breakfast for me may be a bowl of carrot puree. Lunch, a bowl of lentils. Just ONE food per meal. To minimise reactivity, produce is cooked for 2-3 hours and is certified organic.
When I lost all my protein sources, I was forced to try exotic meats to try and find some kind of nutrition my body would tolerate. A vegetarian for most of my life, I hadn't eaten red meat since my teens. But weak and in need of calories, I tested anything I could to survive.
I used to make my own cashew butter, sprouted essene bread, grow my own wheat grass & throw back a few shots for breakfast. I even catered for several weekend yoga retreats.
Now, I eat the same puréed foods one bowl at a time, day in day out. I have lived like this for more than 800 days. My five core foods are banana, carrot, pumpkin, tuna, lentils. The things I really miss and my heart and stomach aches for? Fresh green vegetable juice, a drizzle of olive oil, a handful of macadamias, a juicy peach. One day I will have them back. One day.
Your Instagram account is a true testament to your amazing powers of visualization. And visualization can indeed lead to reality. Which location you would you most like to ‘go’ next? What do you see for your future?
I invest a great deal of time and energy cultivating my 'Future Self Vision'. Future Self Amelia is healthy, glowing, full of life. Her eyes sparkle and she smiles the whole day long. She can go anywhere, tackle anything, she lives without limits. She travels to distant locales, devours delish meals and plans to smash every last thing off her bucket list.
It's no secret that Future Self Amelia spends a lot of time in New York City. She hangs at Mad Square, trawls the Sunday Flee, shops on Fifth and takes long lazy strides down 'The Mall' in Central Park (her fave). She knows every inch of The Big Apple like the back of her hand, yep, there she's right at home. The more I tend to this vision, the details, the light, the breeze, the subtle sounds, the more vibrant it becomes. And I know without doubt, that the distance from where I am now and where I want to be is shrinking at a steady pace. One day it will be so close, that I will be able to step right into my new life. Future Self Amelia will be me.
Finally, if we want to follow your updates on social media, where can we find you?
I love to connect with others - please stop by and say Hello! xx