ME Awareness:
        What’s the difference between Covid-19 and ME?


It is hard not to see many glaring differences between the attitudes to the illness I have struggled with for years and the latest public health threat.

Covid-19 is generally accepted to exist, considered to be serious, and widely discussed and researched.

ME hasn’t been widely accepted in the medical world or by the general public, even by our friends and families sometimes. Understanding is patchy and research underfunded.

Covid-19 can be avoided by self-isolation and shielding. Or by wearing personal protection, using lots of soap & water & sanitiser and avoid touching your face.

ME comes uninvited, without warning, though it could have been avoided for some if the medical profession had given advice not to push themselves following a virus.

Covid-19 – the population is told we’re “in it together” for the good of all.

ME people, along with people with other disabilities, often feel on the margins of society, isolated and not seen.

Covid-19 treatment advice is fairly clear and consistent. Plan A: self-isolate with fluids, rest; take pain relievers. Or Plan B: call 111 if it gets worse.

ME affects people in different ways and fluctuates, so our coping strategy changes. A, B, C – are there enough letters in the alphabet to describe all the things people try, hoping to feel better, to avoid a relapse?  So called experts can’t agree. Exercise – don’t exercise. Resist unhelpful illness beliefs – accept and adapt. Medication – no medication.

Covid-19 lockdown support has grown when needs were made known: priority delivery slots, food parcels; prescription deliveries; furlough; mental health check-in calls; help from banks, insurers, mortgage companies etc. etc.

ME – being housebound with ME does not trigger the same concern and practical support.

Covid-19 – everyone is encouraged to stay in touch with those self isolating and in lockdown, and to keep an eye on others’ physical and mental health, as well as their own.

ME – it has been hard to make people understand how difficult it can be to manage a complex health condition and how isolated and invisible we can be for months or years on end.

Covid-19 restrictions will come to an end and life will return to normal.

ME is for life, for most of us. There will be no return to normalcy, just constantly learning to adapt to the limitations of our bodies and brains.

Covid-19 can kill if given the chance.

ME rarely kills, but can be a living hell.

It is reassuring to see how understanding, proactive and caring our society can be. I hope these positive attitudes and support structures can be absorbed into our future, and become part of the ‘new normal’ for people with ME on a long term basis.

PF, Wales

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