Saturday, July 14, 2012

What Roles Do Friends Play In Recovery From Chronic Illness?

I don't know where this photo is going to show up, but I am the one on the left ;)

Most of us caught up in the drama and rapture of chronic/progressive illness forget that we are MORE outside of our diagnosis. Too many times we confine ourselves to our homes or hospital beds, isolating ourselves out of shame or even just fatigue, meticulously washing our hands with antibacterial soap...

...stop! Are we forgetting that we (humans) are social creatures? That in order to not lose our sanity and THRIVE we need physical and emotional stimulation. According to the PETA website, pigs in captivity go insane and start in on self destructive behavior. We are not any different, even if our captivity was doctor ordered or self imposed.

I did not get out much this past year. This past year was a whirlwind of appointments, surgeries, and one crisis after the next. And since my world was so chaotic, I did not want to drag anyone down with me. So I kept mostly to myself, limited contact with my best friend Jason and my family, and talked mostly with my treatment team, closing myself off to most social contact.

The problem with this is that we do this in an effort to save trouble, to not be a bother, but the truth is that by not allowing loved ones to help us we are cheating them out of an opportunity to grow closer to us. Is this "negative" attention? Maybe, but at the same time, if you are sick, you will not get well all by yourself. You need support.

You need friends.

The role of the treatment team (looks different for every diagnosis) is to discuss treatment options, goals, prognosis, etc. So what is the role of your friends; your family?

Friends are for emotional support, meaning that if something - nerve wracking, joyous, or anything in between- is heavy on your heart or mind, they are there to listen without judging or criticizing. Anxiety, worry, passion, excitement, all of it.

Friends help lighten your load. When My day SUCKES I send a funny insult to my friend Jason or I say something to my mother to get her raucous, obnoxious laugh going. Distraction is one of the best coping techniques I have found during my recovery process and I have found that if I can do something to lighten up a situation, my friends definitely help me in more ways than one.

Friends are a source of encouragement when things look bleak. Treatment providers can offer you some sympathy, some maybe even empathy, but none can go to the same corners of our hearts as can our friends. I never get texts or Facebook posts from treatment providers cheering me on (nor is that appropriate), but I get plenty of that from my friends :)

Social networking is very popular among my friends who are gravely/terminally ill and can't get out of the house. Besides obvious Facebook an Twitter, there are various message boards peppered among the Internet. Be sure you read some posts before you decide to join. If there is a lot of "flaming" (insults, threats, etc) that are going on I would caution you. The point is to build relationships and support, not cause even more drama for yourself.

Finally, friends get you out of yourself. I love my friends and family dearly, and because of them I am motivated to work hard and push more even when I feel there is no fight left in me. They are sometimes my only incentive to keep going, and I really believe this is just fine. Because eventually, I always come back to a point where I can do it for myself again. And when I'm ready to fight for myself again, my friends are there rooting for me


  1. Thanks Karin :) I've got blof topics coming out of my ears but I'm doing this all from my iPhone so it is an arduously slow process :P thanks for reading <3