Kirsty Young discusses her chronic pain condition on her Desert Island Discs return

Kirsty Young recalled how having to abstain from publishing for several years due to her chronic pain condition made her question her own identity, saying that “you’ll lose your sense of self.”

The 54-year-old actress hosted nearly 500 editions of BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs from 2006 to 2018 before leaving the show to seek treatment for fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis.

In a special issue of the castaway show aired on Christmas Day, Young told MC Lauren Laverne that she feels “so much better” now, reflecting her experience of returning to the air after the hiatus.

Kirsty Young on Festive Desert Island Discs

Kirsty Young on Festival Desert Island Discs (Amanda Mango Benson/BBC)

Young explained that he actually spent a year meeting with different specialists trying to figure out what the nature of his condition was, until he found a “brilliant” rheumatology professor who diagnosed him.

He also said he warned him that if he wanted to get better, he had to take his condition “seriously” and reduce the stress in his life, in addition to medical treatment.

“It was said with extreme kindness, but it was a moment of absolute truth and clarity, and I remember pulling my car over and doing a good old greeting (cry) to use a good Scottish word. ‘Right, those are facts and you’re going to have to really think about it,'” he said.

“I’m very aware when talking about it, people are sitting in front of doctors and getting diagnoses that are much more serious than I’ve ever been, but it’s a very painful thing and I was in pain and a chronic long-term pain condition to deal with a state of absolute pain, literally and figuratively.

“It grinds you down, you lose your personality, you lose your sense of humor, you lose your sense of self. There are all kinds of things that come with it. This is terrible. So if I was going to get better, I had to take it seriously. I did too.”

Young admitted that he felt “very shaky” as he had to leave the broadcast job that he “absolutely loved” and planned to do until they left him.

He added: “If I’m not him, I thought, what am I in for? What is Kirsty for? I felt it.

“Obviously that was ridiculous, because if we use that worn-out ‘Cracks are where light gets in’ and a whole lot of other things happened that were good things.

“In that moment you lose yourself. And when you have chronic pain, you already somehow lose yourself, so there is a lot going on.

Desert Island Discs

Kirsty Young interviewed 496 survivors during her time on BBC Radio 4 (BBC/PA).

Fibromyalgia, also called fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), is a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body, according to the NHS.

Rheumatoid arthritis is defined as a long-term condition that causes pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints.

After a hiatus for several years, Young was able to return to a BBC broadcast earlier this year of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, as well as the closing moments of the late monarch’s funeral at St George’s Chapel in Windsor.

The broadcaster said he wanted to find the right words to end the show and summarize the historic day’s magnitude, but admitted: “I really had a moment. It was emotional.”

The special also marked the end of Desert Island Discs’ 80th anniversary, with Young interviewing 496 survivors during his time on the show.

Thinking of the appeal of the program, he said: “I once defined the program as a kind of hammock-like quality (to have) just to fit it around the person who was there.

“So if this is some kind of Premier League football player or an astrophysicist, the music and the time you spend talking to them, as well as the ways in and out of the museum, can be sorted out.

“So people come into the studio and are surrounded by their own furniture and music, so they enjoy that familiarity, and also whatever they choose gives each program a unique flavor.”

The full interview with Kirsty Young on Desert Island Discs will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Sounds on Christmas Day at 11.15pm.

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