If one of your students has been diagnosed with M.E. or shows classic symptoms – such as peaks and troughs in health and energy levels, muscle pain, headache, problems with concentration – they need your support.
People with M.E. do not necessarily look ill – it’s referred to as an “invisible illness” for a reason – and the severity of symptoms varies from person to person and on a weekly, daily or sometimes even hourly basis.
Severe and persistent fatigue or exhaustion most, or all of the time, is one of the main symptoms of M.E. This feels very different from ordinary tiredness. Simple physical or mental activities, or combinations of activities, can leave people with M.E. feeling utterly debilitated. They can also experience an increase in other symptoms.
The impact of this may be felt straight away but it can typically take a day or two to kick in, and is not significantly improved by resting. This is a key feature of the way M.E. affects people, and is known as post-exertional malaise (sometimes called ‘payback’).
So it’s really important to remember that if your student appears better (or worse) at a given moment this does not necessarily indicate a change in their overall condition.
Because everyone with M.E. experiences different symptoms, it’s best to speak to your student about how you can best support them as an individual. They are their own expert, and shared-decision making is the most effective way to help them move forward.