A MOTHER and daughter from Thornbury have been talking about the effect ME has had on their family.

Helen Wood, 20, was diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) in 2005 at the age of 14.

Since then Helen has had to watch her peers sit exams, finish school, get jobs and move out of home, but unfortunately for Helen none of this has been possible.

She said: "I feel very lonely and wish I had more friends that care. I really hate my situation and I feel ashamed that I can't even go out to work. I wish more people would take more of an interest in me.

"I am not a normal 20-year-old who can drive, go out to work or go to college or university."

ME is a long-term, fluctuating illness, also known as chronic or post viral fatigue syndrome. Symptoms can include exhaustion, muscle pain, headache, unrefreshing sleep, poor memory and concentration and digestive problems.

In the UK there are 250,000 people with ME and 25 percent of them are affected so badly by the illness they are housebound or bedbound.

ME Awareness week runs next week, from May 9 to 15, and has been organised by leading charity Action for ME.

Helen’s mum and carer Liz hopes more people will begin to understand the illness that has robbed her daughter of a normal life.

Liz said: "What most of us take for granted in everyday life, Helen has to pace herself in everything she does day to day.

"I have to wash and dry her hair, she can't have a bath too late in the day as it affects her night time sleep and her moods as well.

"Too many people who don't understand ME and what it is all about may think Helen's life is very boring, but having ME Helen is very limited in what she can do each day."

Helen is hoping to encourage other young ME sufferers in the local area and find herself additional support.

She said: "I hope people who are reading this realise how lonely and sad I feel and the more friends I have the better.

"People out there need to know exactly what I am going through and if there is anyone out there of my age who is in the same boat as me then please realise that you are not alone and get in touch."

Action for ME offers information and support to people with the illness and their carers, online or through helplines. Go to www.afme.org.uk or call 0845 123 2380 for information.