‘Social network saved my life’ – ME sufferer finds hope and inspiration | The Ham&High | 17 January 2013

From the Hampstead and Highgate Express, 17 January 2013 (story by Rachael Getzels).

Frustrated with the neurological disease that causes extreme exhaustion – its full medical name is myalgic encephalopathy – Mrs Lewenstein took to the Internet to find some companions and has had an overwhelming response.

Using social networking website Streetlife, 60-year-old Mrs Lewenstein appealed to people in West Hampstead who suffer from chronic illnesses and would like to share her interests, which include art, literature, folk music, textiles, swimming, walking and nature – or simply a chat.

She now has regular lunches with a woman who has cancer, has offered advice to a young mother with ME and is struggling to look after her son, and has introduced a housebound woman to her embroidery group.

“It just came to me one day,” said Mrs Lewenstein, who lives in West Hampstead and worked for the Alzheimer’s Society for more than a decade.

“For three years it has been difficult for me going out and doing things and it was nice to be able to do that and I wanted to share it.

“The idea is to get people in touch and to make some new friends who can help each other.”

She said that she had felt “woolly headed and like a zombie” for so long that she was never able to make contact with people on a list of sufferers in the area provided by the ME Society.

However, Streetlife, a social network specifically for local communities, was more accessible.

“For some people social networking is too much,” she explained.

“But with Streetlife it’s nice and easy to use and also it’s just people in the area, which makes it cosy and comfortable.”

For Mrs Lewenstein, her new friends have been a lifeline as old ones have drifted away since her condition spiralled downwards.

She explained: “Particularly with ME, you just feel so isolated from friends you had before.

“They don’t have the time or patience because you’re not functioning as you used to.”

She added: “People eventually stop understanding when you say again that you can’t make it today because you’re shattered.

“They just give up, but with people in the group who had similar conditions, they really understand.”

To find out more, sign up to www.streetlife.com

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