For decades, people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome have struggled to convince doctors, employers, friends and even family members that they were not imagining their debilitating symptoms. Skeptics called the illness “yuppie flu” and “shirker syndrome.”
I've run into precisely one skeptic in my bout with this, a resident I saw in an urgent care clinic. My doctors, employers, friends, and family have seemed convinced that the illness is real from the beginning.
I'm also lucky that this supportive group has stuck it out. My ability to maintain friendships has definitely diminished; I am frequently too tired to talk or write, my response time to e-mails and phone messages (never good) has become embarrassingly long, and if you do track me down quite often all I do is drone on about how hard my life is--but not one person in my life has yet put into action this advice (from a great page with a terrible name on the cfids.org website):
If you have doubts about your ability to continue your friendship, examine the reasons for this: Fear of contagion? Anger about postponed plans? Tired of hearing about complaints and symptoms? You may be able to solve these problems together and continue the friendship with mutually agreed-upon changes.
If you are unable to continue your relationship, express this in a straightforward, yet caring manner, rather than simply disappearing. Let the person know that he or she is not the problem; the illness is.
I couldn't do this alone. How lucky I am that I don't have to.