I have a friend who has ME, whose mother died several years ago. He called me at the time with the news, and was in terrible distress, so I rushed to his side, as I was concerned for him. My instinct is to offer hugs and reassuring pats and back rubs when someone is in emotional pain. I completely forgot how his condition affects him and kept touching and hugging him. I meant well, but I didn’t appreciate the physical pain I was inflicting upon him. It’s difficult to understand how even the lightest touch can cause so much agony to some people.
I have since been diagnosed with my own neurological disease and, over the last decade, I have come to learn for myself just how painful the simplest touch can be. I’m only sorry that it took my own lived experience to fully comprehend what I inflicted upon my friend all those years ago. The old adage about walking a mile in another man’s moccasins is very true indeed.
Criminologist and Co-Director of Centre for Gender Studies at University of Sussex