Stories of Men

Issy Hamlett on living with Fibromyalgia

Fighting for inclusion while living with Fibromyalgia

Fighting for inclusion while living with Fibromyalgia

Living with Fibromyalgia

This episode of  Our Voices introduces Issy, a woman who is living with Fibromyalgia. She has a powerful imagination but has struggled to find her place in society.

Being different

Long before discovering that she was living with Fibromyalgia, Issy always felt herself to be different to others. One of the things which has distinguished her from other people is her propensity for mimicking sounds.

For example, if a seagull chirrups within earshot, her immediate response will be to squawk back. This instinctive response stems from a condition named echolalia. In Issy’s words: “It’s just so… it’s so bizarre. I don’t understand why I do it. It’s just a form of communicating.”

Living with disability: Issy's story

A powerful imagination

And then there is Issy’s imagination which, at the age of 8, gave birth to a three-wheeled clown car. “It had these sunflowers that squirted water coming out the wing mirrors. It was brightly coloured and had reds and greens and yellows and purples, like all the colours of the rainbow on it”. 

Describing the clown inside, she says “He wore high heels, and he wore a tuxedo jacket. And he had a top hat on. His face was human-like with wolf ears. He would drive around all day in his car. And he would beep at random people to come and join them on the weird car brigade.  And all of these people, they made their own cars. Some people had big giraffe looking cars that are really tall, like something you’d see Jeremy Clarkson make on top gear. And then other cars had these weird spirals coming from them.”

Wanting to be accepted

As you can imagine, Issy’s stories made quite an impression on her classmates but it wasn’t always a positive one. She describes how, while she wanted to be accepted, children would tend to keep away from her, which would cause childhood stress. “I wanted so badly to fit in. Because when people see that you’re different and treat you differently, they make you feel like you don’t belong to something, or you shouldn’t be the way that you are.”

Issy got involved in different activities to cope with being an outcast, for being different.

Pursuing her hobbies

In spite of Issy’s feelings, she didn’t allow other people’s perceptions to stop her from doing the things she enjoyed. She threw herself into drama clubs, dance competitions, swimming sessions and began taking horse riding lessons. 

She would make funny faces and noises to make her friends laugh and she also became a fierce protector of her friends when she felt they were being bullied. But this had a consequence. “Because of that, I made myself a target. People knew that they could tap into things that I was so insecure about.”

Experiencing bullying

Issy began to experience direct forms of bullying herself just for being different. She was called names and spat at. Some kids would even follow her home.

“I’d feel like such an outcast and an outsider that I became so angry.  I kept on wondering ‘Why me? Why do they treat me like this?’ ”

Acting out

In reaction to this, Issy began acting out, which only intensified the hostility against her. It was clear that the people around her just didn’t understand the suffering that Issy was experiencing. Talking about how people who experience life differently to others react, Issy says 

“We’ve tried to express how we feel through negative emotions, through feeling sad and crying and being upset. But in the long scheme of things, it doesn’t work and people don’t recognise that the way we behave is because of how we feel.”

Horse riding was one of the things that helped Issy with her childhood stress

Experiencing physical symptoms

As Issy became a teenager, her focus shifted from trying to fit in, she wanted people to accept her for who she was. The trauma of being misunderstood and ostracised began to have physical manifestations.

“At the age of 17, 18, I began to experience body and joint pain and extreme fatigue… and began to experience stomach problems and migraines.”

Pushed to drastic action

Issy went to see her doctor about these symptoms, he recommended her to speak to a clinician. But Issy was living with chronic pain. This eventually led to Issy taking a drastic action because she felt like no one understood her.

 “Just the weight on my shoulders was so intense that the only way that I could cope with it was to hurt myself. And there was one point in time where I ended up in hospital because I overdosed.”

Discovering a diagnosis

Following this, Issy realised that she needed to actively work out what was causing her to feel so bad. After a great deal of research and study, Issy returned to her doctor armed with facts about her condition. This led to her finding out that she had been living with Fibromyalgia

 “which is a chronic pain condition that is characterised by the way that our nervous system reacts and adapts to different things. And, one day, I can be experiencing such an immense amount of pain that I can’t get out of bed, but the next day, I can be feeling better.”

Struggling to work with Fibromyalgia

Knowing that she has been living with Fibromyalgia has helped Issy to manage her life much more successfully. Now, if she needs to cancel plans or take time off work due to illness, she understands why and she can make the best decisions in the interests of her health. Yet other people have not always been so understanding about Issy’s Fibromyalgia pain.

 “I’ve been in situations in previous job roles where I’ve been threatened with being sacked because I needed a day off here and there, or I needed some reasonable adjustments to be put in place… And at that moment in time, you feel so lost, and you feel so… so vulnerable. And you feel like the power that you have as a person has been diminished by the things that we can’t help as people with disabilities.”

Issy's fur baby who helps her during the times when he fibromyalgia pain gets worse

Fighting for inclusion

Issy has experienced a lot of emotional stress due to having Fibromyalgia. This has made it clear to her how unfairly and unacceptably people with disabilities are often treated by society. As well as living with Fibromyalgia, she has also experienced discrimination as a queer female.

As a result, she describes fighting for greater inclusion and diversity in society as being her “passion”. This was something that motivated her to apply for a position as a diversity and inclusion assistant. They asked Issy what she was proud of during the interview. In response:

 “I sat there, and I just cried. I said, I am just so proud of myself, that I have been able to ignore my inner saboteur and my inner demons and that I’ve got myself to a position where I can be interviewed for a job role that I am desperately wanting to do, and a job where people are gonna listen to me. And I’m going to be able to impact other people’s lives and make a difference and make a change.”

The passion that Issy felt clearly came across to the interviewers. She secured the role less than an hour after the interview had finished. 

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Laura is the mix engineer for the Stories of Men podcast. She has a BA in Music from Nottingham University and an Advanced Diploma in Music Production and Sound Engineering from Abbey Road Institute. Alongside working for Our Voices she is a freelance sound designer and technician. Her highlights include sound design for JK Rowling audiobook ‘The Christmas Pig’, and sound effects editing on The Outlaws, on the BBC.

For the Stories of Men podcast, Laura is typically provided with a Voice Over and interview. She then cleans the dialogue, integrates the podcast intro and outros, chooses the music that will add to the storytelling and pacing of the episode, then bring all the elements together in the mix, followed by mastering and then delivering the final edit.

Experience in Industry: 3


Favourite Food: Potatoes

Favourite Sport: Wild swimming

Favourite Show: Anything Marvel

Favourite Movie: Anything Marvel

Favourite City: London

Hobby: Music

Favourite Book: Northern Lights


I’m the community manager at Stories of Men. I spend most of my time focusing on the implementation of our marketing strategy, achieving goals and KPIs, and the rest of the time listening to the amazing stories of our guests. What I love most about working for Stories of men is the impact it has on peoples’ lives. It requires a lot of courage to tell your story out loud so I make sure these stories are heard by as many people as possible.

I was born and raised in Pakistan and I’ve been living in Hungary for over two years now. I have a Master’s degree in Marketing and I live for mastering the art of digital marketing.

Industry experience: 3 Years


Favourite Food: Biryani – introduced by the Mughal rulers in the Indian subcontinent; this dish is an absolute delight. Also, can never say no to a good burger – extra cheese!

Favourite Sport: Cricket – I grew up playing and watching cricket with friends and family.

Favourite Show: Stranger Things – I love how an odd group of friends fight against challenges bigger than themselves.

Favourite Movie: Harry Potter – The only movie I can watch over and over again!

Favourite City: Prague – Absolutely love the Baroque and Gothic vibe of this city.

Hobby: Netflix, Travelling, and Eating- I want to try different cuisines from every country once in my lifetime!

Favourite Book: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown – A fast-paced thriller that keeps you hooked from the first page to the last.


I run Fascinate Productions, the production company behind the Stories of Men podcast. I’ve had a wide variety of roles in media, from underwater videography, to live televised sporting events around the world. But since listening to my first audiobook in 2016, I’ve been all about audio and jumped in with two feet. Podcasts are enabling the world to democratise its most valuable information. They’re about spreading messages, and sharing ideas, and it’s my mission to help those holding the knowledge, to distribute it far and wide.

When Alex approached us with the idea of making a short stories podcast, with a big social impact, he got our attention. As the producer of the show, I’ve heard his guests’ highest highs, their lowest lows, and the moments of change that made them who they are – it’s been a privilege helping to craft their most intimate experiences into stories for you to enjoy.

 Experience in Industry: 5 years


Favourite Food: Ice cream. It’s just the greatest culinary invention.

Favourite Sport: Rugby. I played from the age of 5 until 26 when a dislocated shoulder put me out of action. Still like to watch now though.

Favourite Show: The 100 – I love those ‘what if humans nearly got wiped out?’ type shows.

Favourite Movie: Gladiator

Favourite City: London. As a country boy from Yorkshire, I never thought I’d enjoy living here.

Hobby: Listening to podcasts while on long walks with my dog Alfie.

Favourite Book: I love to read anything business/startup related… One of the most recent great ones was Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt



Richard Willan is the CEO of Fascinate productions, a podcast production and promotion company. Before starting Fascinate, he worked an audio engineer, mastering tracks for artists on major and independent labels.

He is an executive producer for ‘Stories of Men’ where he assists with production, creative direction of the show, and marketing strategy.  





Favourite Food: I love Indian food – My favourite dish is a Dansak. It’s a rich combination of hot, sweet and sour flavours, made from lamb and lentils.

Favourite Sport: I enjoy watching combat sports like MMA – Isreal Adesanya is my favourite fighter at the moment, due to his Tae Kwon Do base and speed. 

Favourite Show: Succession – an American satirical drama. The character development is incredible, and the writing is top notch. 

Favourite Movie: True Lies. I find it amazing that someone who can’t act (Arni) has so many great films.

Favourite City: London, because it is a melting pot of culture and the music scene is amazing. 

Hobby: Making music, going to gym and eating out. 

Favourite Book:  The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I love the world she created, and the incremental path the characters take into darkness. It’s amazing.


I am responsible for writing blog articles for the Stories of Men podcast. I have the privilege of listening to fascinating stories on the topics and issues regarding men that are of greatest relevance to our society today. Once I’ve done this, I create articles that provide an overview and description of the conversations in order to help spread them to the widest possible audience. My job is to make these articles as engaging as the conversations themselves.

As an English teacher who has worked with students from all over the world for over 10 years, I have got used to successfully communicating with those from different backgrounds and cultures. This has helped me to appreciate the value of connection across borders and boundaries. It has also helped me to appreciate that we are all able to learn from each other’s experiences.



Favourite Food: Chocolate. It’s an indulgence, I know, but it tastes so good. I particularly enjoy dark chocolate for its richness and smoothness. 

Favourite Sport: Football.Unfortunately, my local team (Nottingham Forest) is not in that top league but I hope that one day it will be.

Favourite Show: The Wire. 

Favourite Movie: The Godfather. 

Favourite City: Reykjavik. I had the pleasure of spending two weeks there a number of years ago and I loved the place for its beauty, culture and calmness. It’s rare that you can be in a capital city and experience genuine space and peace and quiet. There’s also a black sand beach to walk along, although, due to the cold, I wouldn’t recommend bathing in the sea!

Hobby: Watching films. I love films, foreign films, classic films, contemporary films, just all good films.

Favourite Book: “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer. 

I’m the Editor of Stories of men. I craft compelling narratives from the stories of our fantastic guests, editing their interviews and scripting the episodes. I’m a freelance journalist and audio producer from Northern Ireland, currently based in California. I cover social issues, health and gender – with reporting in The Guardian, Vice, NPR, Cosmopolitan and many others. My focus is shining a light on the communities and initiatives that improve people’s lives. I have a background in the nonprofit space, having worked in communications for a mental health charity, as well as an education start-up. I mentor young female writers and sit on the board of an NGO that empowers women in global supply chains. 

Favourite Food:  In a word, sandwiches. The possibilities are endless.

Favourite Sport: Show jumping. When I was little I wanted to be a professional horse-rider, and I still get a kick out of watching the pros in action.

Favourite Show: Fleabag: the writing and acting create a thrilling kind of intimacy I haven’t seen anywhere else.

Favourite Movie: Victoria is an incredible German thriller that’s all shot in one take – it’s a real trip. Plus it’s beautifully soundtracked by Nils Frahm.

Favourite City: Very hard to choose, but it’s got to be Barcelona. The food, the pace of life, the winding streets – there’s nowhere else like it. 

Hobby: exploring city streets on my bike – preferably while listening (safely!) to a podcast – is when I’m at my happiest. 

Favourite Book: Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other is a stunning, utterly unique portrait of womanhood, race, ageing and the principles we choose to live 

I am the host of Stories of Men. I help to find men that have a powerful voice to share and then I speak to them and help to tease the stories out of them that will have a positive impact on the listener. 

While running Swoosh English, an online English school from 2013 – 2021, I had the opportunity to meet men from all walks of life and many of these guys had incredible stories. This inspired me to start ‘Stories of Men’ because I wanted to give these men a platform to share their stories with the world.

I love the detail that people go into and how people craft stories in different ways. My dream and vision for the future would be countless people messaging to tell us how a particular episode has changed their lives!


Favourite Food: Avocados – an incredibly delicious fruit that can be used in so many dishes. My favourite is guacamole with nachos!

Favourite Sport: Boxing and football (couldn’t choose one!)

Favourite Show: 2 comedy series: Alan Partridge and The Office (UK version). I just love English humour!

Favourite Movie: Shawshank Redemption: An unbelievable journey full of twists and turns.

Favourite City:  New York – Living there for a year in 2008 changed my life. It made me believe that anything in life was possible if you want something badly enough.

Hobby: Football, boxing, reading, learning Spanish, travelling and watching fascinating conversations on Youtube.

Favourite Book: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts – a book about an incredible journey.