Many people with M.E. lose their career and income and may become dependant on state benefits. They may struggle to take care of themselves and their home and some need help with basic living needs. Simply managing day to day can become a challenge creating anxiety and frustration and the future can look bleak and frightening.
The majority of respondents in the M.E. group who want counselling think this would be useful to explore in counselling and is clearly a concern. Those who received counselling, both in the M.E. and MS groups gave very mixed ratings for this item. The prognosis for people with M.E. who become severely ill or remain ill for more than a few years is poor ( Effective Health Care 2002, p.2). M.E respondents remarked:
>my future became a void of uncertainty.
>I faced an unkown future. It has been a future that has robbed me of my career and much else
And a respondent with MS wrote:
Especially for those like me who "look so good" and have "invisible" MS but suffer, nonetheless, from diminished capacities and a scary, uncertain future.
People with M.E. can face a very uncertain future and may be feeling that their security is beyond their control. Donoghue and Siegel (2000 p. 97) observe:
One of the greatest challenges for the person suffering with ICI [invisible chronic illness] is to live in the present moment, to keep her focus on today. Today might be immediately painful, might tax her limits of endurance, but she can cope if she does not allow an imagined future to add its weight to her burden and overwhelm her.
Exploring fears about coping and the future in counselling could be useful for some people with M.E. Addressing these fears may raise existential issues such as powerlessness and aloneness and could be valuable in coming to terms with chronic illness. Grieving for losses caused by illness could include grieving for what might have been and a future that now appears completely different and uncertain.
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