Chronic Illness Tip: Pick your support system carefully

One of the things I find that applies to the majority of those of us living with chronic illness is that we have a tendency to feel alone in a world of healthy people. Our friends and our coworkers, and even our families, don’t necessarily understand what it is we are going through.

It is important to understand that isolation is detrimental to your health and it can be very easy to isolate yourself when you constantly feel sick and moody. Supportive friendships and relationships are central to your wellbeing when you suffer from a chronic illness. Finding supportive and nurturing friendships isn’t an easy task especially when you constantly feel sick and your mood is down. This is something that does not happen overnight but your determination alone will help you to develop friendships with people who understand the extent of your conditions and also share your common interests. It is something that is worth the effort.

What I have learned from my own personal journey with chronic illness is that people can really surprise you. Friends and people who you weren’t close with will actually be the ones to step up and the ones you thought you could count on won’t be there for you. These become the people that you can open up to about the extent of your condition. If they ask how you are doing, tell them the truth. If they are there for you when you need them the most, that says a great deal about their friendship. For those outside of that support system, when they ask how you are doing, lie, tell them your fine and simply change the subject. Too often those people don’t want or can’t handle the truth, so don’t waste your time and energy on them.

Last, if someone offers to help, accept their generosity. That is one of the most valuable lessons I have learned on my personal journey with chronic illness. First, it is okay to accept help and secondly, accepting help is a gift to the person giving it. At the same token, trust that one day you will be doing the giving.

Supportive friends can help you through some stressful and tough times whether you are experiencing a bad day at the office or going through a flare-up. Just remember, however, as you are working on supportive relationships that your goal is build friendships that reduce your stress level, not increase it.