Kirsty Young: Wrong medics made my battle with life-changing illness worse

·3 min read
Kirsty Young - Steve Parsons/PA Wire
Kirsty Young - Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Kirsty Young has revealed that her fibromyalgia left her struggling to drive and cook, a situation worsened by the “wrong medics” sending her down “blind alleys”.

Speaking publicly for the first time about her condition, the former Desert Island Discs presenter described how she was left in pain so bad that it felt like she had been hit “with a baseball bat”.

In an interview with The Sunday Times Magazine, Young said that “the wrong medics and the wrong medication” had sent her down “lots of blind alleys” in her quest for recovery.

The 53-year-old was diagnosed with secondary fibromyalgia, a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body, as well as rheumatoid arthritis. The condition inflicts extreme tiredness on its sufferers.

“It’s like somebody had drugged me, like you’d taken a sleeping tablet at the wrong time in the day and you were completely losing it,” she told the magazine.

Quitting Desert Island Discs was “clearly the only option”, added Young, who was succeeded by Lauren Laverne. Out of sadness at losing the show, Young said she has not listened to it since.

Lauren Laverne
Lauren Laverne

“Because there was a degree of sadness when I stepped away – I don’t want to overstate that or be melodramatic about it but that’s how it felt – it was like, ‘I’m sad I’m not doing my job right now’, so it would’ve been uncomfortable to listen,” she said.

“Then I got into the swing of not listening to it, so I don’t listen to it.”

Over the course of her ordeal, Young felt depressed: “Yeah, I definitely did. I’m not a medic, I don’t know the difference between low mood and depression, but I remember talking to my specialist about that.

“He said, ‘Well, of course, if you’re dealing with a chronic pain disorder, that’s absolutely a symptom’.”

Young is married to Nick Jones, the founder of the Soho House members’ club. They have two children and two step-children and she described keeping the illness from them.

She said: “I just thought, soldier on. You don’t want to admit defeat, do you? I was shovelling down the painkillers.”

Nick Jones and Kirsty Young - Richard Young/Rex Features
Nick Jones and Kirsty Young - Richard Young/Rex Features

Young added that with the help of a specialist and a pared-down lifestyle, she has come off most of her medication.

“That’s four years. That’s how long it’s taken,” she said. “And I did all the things that I was told to. I’m an absolute boring nut about my gut biome now. I could bore the knickers off you on that!”

Young had initially wondered whether she would work again but has agreed to host the BBC’s Platinum Jubilee coverage.

“It’s a unique moment. We’ll never see it again, certainly in our lifetimes and maybe never, so I couldn’t resist,” she said.

“I feel like somebody who hasn’t even done the school run in four years and somebody said, ‘Do you just want to pop into this Formula One car and do a round of Brands Hatch?’ But I hope the motor skills will come back.”

The job will entail four days of live broadcasts. Young said she did not know whether her comeback would extend beyond them.

“It’s a beautifully self-contained thing,” she said. “I’m going to see what it feels like. It’s not like I’m committing to a two-year contract. I’ll see if I make a good enough job of it and what other people think.”

Discussing the many people she interviewed over the course of her time on Desert Island Discs, Young revealed her favourite: “Nobody even comes close to Sir David Attenborough. All hail the mighty Sir David. He’s a laugh, he is something of a flirt.”

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