Relationships can be affected in many ways by M.E. Relationships with family and friends can change and some may feel the pressure of social roles and expectations they can no longer meet.

Graph/ Relationships

39% of the M.E. group and 48% of the MS group who received counselling rated this item 5 or higher. A substantial majority of respondents who want counselling felt that exploring relationships would be useful. Some M.E. respondents found that counselling could help in various ways:

>It has helped me in more ways than I can ever explain and my relationships are much better now as a result.

>I learned to better cope with the enormous restrictions, my childhood conflicts, my present relationships, my self-esteem etc.

>I started the counselling off to make sure I didn't get depressed with the CFS, but it turned out after about six sessions that I started to explire more 'existential' issues and problems with the past, my family and relationships etc, which has definatly helped my emotional life.

>I find that counsling gives me an outlet to complain about my problems, which takes pressures off of the other relationships in my life, particularly with my husband and my parents. Without counseling I feel very isolated in my illness, ( I don't know anyone else with ME) and tend to take my frustrations out on others around me.

>She kept treating me, to help me deal with CFS, and my mother (to help us deal with the resulting carer-patient relationship)

>I sought counselling to help myself deal with the emotional aspects of living with chronic illness - I felt depressed, isolated, angry, sad. It was very helpful to have someone to talk to about my experience with illness. Although I have a very supportive husband and friends, I didn't want to over-burden them by constantly talking about and analyzing my illness. It was a huge relief to talk with the psychologist about all of these issues.

A person with M.E. who would like to receive counselling wrote:

I am mostly interested in how to cope with chronic illness and how it affects relationships, especially with my spouse and family members and then friends.

Many aspects of M.E. can affect relationships. People with M.E. may be unable to sustain contact due to their incapacity. For those that would like company it can be too exhausting. Family and friends might find contact distressing because of the changes that they perceive. Issues of trust, understanding and belief can all have an impact on relationships, as observed above. In their research on CFS, Clark and James (2003) remark:

After living with CFS for a period of months and then years, sufferers established a calculus of friends and family. Some had been loyal, others had not. Loyal family and friends were cherished; others lost or replaced. One person reported that his engagement ended. Others said that they just could not keep up with the activities of their friends any longer. Some participants now began to evaluate relationships differently. They questioned the quality of the friendships that they had before they were ill.

This might be very significant regarding how some clients with M.E. engage in the counselling relationship. A client who has M.E. might evaluate the relationship by criteria that are not readily apparent to the counsellor. Some respondents mentioned how they appreciate relatives and friends:

>I beleive I do not need couselling, due to the supportive environment I live in which includes family life, work and peers. If I did not have this high level of support, I beleive counselling would have a role and be valuable.

>Could I use occasional talk therapy? Possibly, I do occasionally have "freak-out" periods where it all gets overwhelming. When those moments do occur (maybe once per month), I reach out to an incredible support network--family and friends.

>The valuable lessons I learned in counseling weren't earth-shattering. Most of what helped was the realization that all of the important stuff in my life was still there. Despite CFIDS, the things that are important to me - my relationship with my husband, kids and family, and my ability to contribute something to the world - are still satisfying.

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