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I don’t normally do chronic illness blog posts two weeks in a row. There are just so many other great things to talk about! While my illnesses are a big part of my life, they do not define who I am, what my goals are, and what I value. They have shaped what I am able to do, but they do not define what I want to do. And there are so many others out there who feel that way as well. However, this topic is too important not to share. A woman commented on last week’s post, “What NOT to Say to Someone with Chronic Illness“, with one of the most honest and pure responses I’ve ever received. One of her loved ones is suffering from chronic pain and she’s doing her best to help, but she honestly doesn’t know how. She asked me about how to help those with chronic illness. And while knowing what not to say is definitely important, knowing what CAN be done is even more so.
5 Ways to Help Those with Chronic Illness
Honestly this is one of the biggest things someone can do for their loved ones with chronic illness. Sometimes, we honestly just want to be heard. Whether we’re discussing our doctor’s appointment, talking about what we were able to on a low-symptom day, or just dreaming out loud, we often just want someone to listen. And actually hear us. It’s such a simple act, but it’s an incredible sign of care and respect that we so often lack. So thank you for listening!
Do a Little Research
Even just a wikipedia search. Learning just the most basic things about someone’s condition shows a level of care and concern that most people don’t show. It may help you understand a little more about what they’re dealing with, be more empathetic towards their challenges, and be able to identify bad symptom days. It will show your friend or loved one how much you care, that you were listening, and that you want to understand. Doing a little research about their condition will also help put your friend or loved one’s mind at ease, knowing that you believe them.
No one is asking you to sacrifice anything. Simply try to be accommodating. That’s all those with chronic illness ask. If you know we can’t stand for too long, try to help us make sure we have a place to sit if we need to. If you know we are incredibly fatigued but we had plans, try to help us by rescheduling. I promise, if it were up to us, we would be able to do everything you can do. We wouldn’t need accommodating. But, sometimes, as a result of our illness, we do. And please help us out with that.
Don’t Forget About Us
I know it’s hard to keep inviting someone over and over again when they keep having to decline. But I promise that it’s not because we don’t want to do something. It’s that we can’t, or we know it will make us feel even worse. We can’t always go out and do everything you can, but we still want to be considered. We still want to be invited. Those with chronic illness are still people with social needs and desires. We want to hang out with people We want to socialize. But it’s not always the easier thing for us. I know they say, “out of sight, out of mind”, but please don’t forget about us.
Those with chronic illness may not be overly forthcoming when it comes to their condition or their symptoms. Most of us don’t want to worry others, or annoy others, with tales of our physical or mental woes. Society trains us not to bother others with our problems, that others always have it worse, and that we might not be believed if we’re open about what we’re dealing with. So no wonder we don’t always show or explain how we’re feeling! If you haven’t heard from us in a while, shoot us a text. Ask us how we’re feeling, if there have been any developments, or what’s new. If you’re spending time with someone with a chronic illness and you notice they seem a little off, ask if they’re doing okay or if they need anything. We don’t want to be pitied, but we do want to be cared about, just like everyone else. And checking in is a great way to show you care.
Everyone is different, and every case is unique, but when I was asked what people can do for those with chronic illness, these are what came to mind. If you have a friend or loved one with a chronic illness, talk to them about it (if they’re comfortable doing so). See what they need, what specifically you can do. I promise you, you’ll make their day.