When friends turn away
When you have M.E., friendships can be difficult to maintain – particularly if you’re housebound. Here, we look at how to cope with losing friends, and the ways that some people with M.E. are managing to build new connections.
“M.E not only takes away your health and energy but also your social life.” – Ally
“People give up when you have to decline invitations all the time. Honestly, I don’t have the physical or mental energy anyway.” – Sally
“I have no friends now.” – Tim
As the quotes above demonstrate, many people with M.E. struggle with the deterioration of friendships. This can lead to feelings of loneliness, isolation and abandonment, on top of the difficulties coping with a debilitating physical illness. We asked people with M.E. to share how they learned to coped with a diminishing friendship circle and find new ways to fill the void. Here’s what they said…
Gill: Such a big part of creating new friendships is being able to build shared experiences. Realistically, for me, that can no longer happen. So, I have come to treasure the people that remain in my life far more than I used to. Also, I pay far more attention to the little interactions I once might not have counted as important – with neighbours, the medicine delivery man, medical staff, even the postman! Tiny exchanges that I try my best to make positive. Not deep, not ongoing, but often filled with kindness. As the amount I can manage decreases, it’s the little moments that have to supply the joy and that, with a bit of a mental shift, is not such a bad thing.
Ann: I lost a lot of friends as had to keep cancelling on them, but having the cats in my life for the last four years has been emotionally lovely. Without them I would have shut down emotionally completely. In the same way as assistance dogs, I would like to have my cats’ status as official and necessary to my health and wellbeing.
Eleanor: Facebook has helped me to make new friends, some of whom also have M.E. or other chronic health conditions. We love chatting online. I also joined a new church three years ago and got to know some lovely, supportive people. They know I can’t go every week, but care about me.
Carolyn O: It was joining a local writers’ group which proved to be most beneficial in making new connections. I have the chance to meet people face to face when well enough but, as happened this year, when months go by when I am unable to attend, I am still able to feel part of the group via their online community; this has proved vital and I have now established a new group of friends.
Sophie: When I’m not well enough to study it’s hard to make friends with similar interests to me. Everyone my age is away at university. There’s a social group for young disabled adults in my area and it’s honestly the best!
Gary: I moved on and anyone that didn’t want to deal with my illness, well it’s their loss. I have all the same problems but managed to get out (with the help of my fantastic boyfriend) and start making friends in the holistic health sector. These are people that just want to help and understand what I’m going through.
Carolyn W: Our son lost all of his friends from school and childhood. However he has made a wonderful new one through online computer gaming. His energy is limited for spending time online, but this friend just “gets” him. I believe he has been a lifesaver, quite literally. Feel so blessed to have him, otherwise there’d be nobody.
Vicky: I have managed to start a romantic relationship since my health has taken a worse hit. It’s not easy to find someone who is willing to put up with the challenges, but there are people out there who do understand that your illness does not define you.
M.E. Friends Online
“The forum is brilliant and I have had many cherished conversations on there. Thank you!” – Jo Bruce
Our M.E. Friends Online forums are open to everyone affected by M.E., including carers. Click here to register.