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​How can I support a friend who has M.E.?

Having someone who understands the impact their illness will be so valuable to your friend with M.E.

The best approach is to be yourself. Your friend is still the same person underneath their symptoms. They are still interested in the same things, still thinking about their other friends and still want to be your friend. At the same time, don't pretend the M.E. isn't there. 

To understand a bit more about what it's like to live with the condition, you could watch one of our short films, such as the Hidden faces of M.E. Alternatively, Christine Miserandino's Spoon Theory is a great way to understand what it’s like to live with a chronic health condition – Christine has lupus, rather than M.E., but the same issues apply.

Now that they are ill, your friend might need different things from you and your friendship. If you don't know what they are don't guess or assume – just ask. Make a pact to be open and honest with each other so that you both know where you stand. If you're unsure about something you must be able to ask, and if your friend feels unwell they must be able to tell you.

Try to listen to your friend, understand their limitations and learn from it. If you are out with your friend and you ask them if they're okay, they might say they are "fine" because they don't want to admit otherwise. So rather than asking them how they are, try to be more specific. You could ask things such as whether they're OK with the crowds or the noise, or if they would like a rest. They might say they do, which you wouldn't have known otherwise. And remember friendship still works both ways – if you've got a problem, you can still ask your friend for their advice. They may have M.E., but they haven't stopped caring.

Don't desert your friend just because they can't take part in things like they used to. A quick text or phone call to say hello will be appreciated. Even if your friend can't use the phone, knowing someone called can make a huge difference. Offer to pop round for a short while in the evening if your friend can manage it. If not, try again another time, but keep offering. Try not to take offence if your friend can't see you. 

If your friend is well enough, plan an evening in with friends, or just you at the home of your friend with M.E. Host the evening yourself so that you do all the work and your friend doesn't have to. You can choose different themes to keep it interesting.

Don't feel guilty about not staying for hours and hours; your friend will be glad of your company but might also tire quickly. Remember, you might not be able rely on your friend letting you know when they've had enough because they are enjoying your company so much. So it's a good idea to ask at the beginning of the visit how long it should be.

It's OK to talk about things you've done even though your friend can't do them any more. Your friend will want to hear what's going on in your life. Even if you think you've been doing nothing, it's likely to be more than your friend with M.E. has done, so they will be interested to hear about it. You can talk about everyday things such as school and shopping, cinema, other friends or holidays. Take photos of people at school or outings your friend couldn't go on, and take them with you when you visit. Your friend will enjoy being included in these things even though they can't actually be there.