A small, 14-step guide to being a good friend to a chronically ill individual:
(from the Tumblr Blog "Spinlights")
1) I’m not broken, so don’t treat me like I am. I may not be able to join you all the time, but that doesn’t mean you should or have to stop inviting me to hang out. I can leave my house. On good days I can do just as much as you can. Having a chronic illness is isolating as is, but please do not make that isolation worse. It’s extremely insulting, hurtful, and infuriating when I realize you have completely stopped texting/calling/inviting me out like you used to because you assume I cannot do things or because I do things slowly/differently.
2) Don’t come and go. Either choose to be present in my life, or leave. I have lost too much already and I face constant inconsistency in all aspects of my life. The progression and symptoms of my disease change, flares come unexpectedly, good days come unknowingly— very little is constant. I do not need friends who treat me like I do not exist a good 90% of the time and decide to drop in and out of my life sparingly. I depend on your support more than you might think, especially during hard times. I hesitate to accept your support because so many others have walked into my life and left when I got sick and secretly needed them more than ever, so either stay or go, but if you’re going to call yourself a friend, be there.
3)Your visits and efforts are often the brightest part of my day, if not entire week. When I am home on the couch, I usually don’t have the ability or energy to entertain. Bring a movie or a game, a craft or project, but please don’t come to sit on my couch and complain about how bored you are.
4) Be flexible and try to have some patience with me. When I make plans, I make them with the intent of keeping them, but there are days where I will wake and I am simply too tired or sick to keep those plans. It is not me ditching you and I do not enjoy having to break plans, I just don’t know how I will feel one day to the next. If it happens, help me to come up with an alternative that works for both of us?
5) People with chronic illness are so often forgotten about or friends forget that the illness exists because we cease to complain/talk about it. I don’t talk about it because I don’t want to be a burden or focus on the negative, but that does not mean it goes away or does not bother me. It means a lot when someone asks me how I am and wants an answer. Please remember the meaning of chronic, and if you do not understand, ask questions.
6) Before you give me unsolicited advice, think about what you’re going to say. If healing crystals, exercise, or a special diet could cure me, I would already be cured. Please don’t tell me either directly or indirectly that I caused my autoimmune diseases. It’s just plain insulting and it was hard enough to find a physician who looked hard enough into my symptoms rather than diagnosing me a hypochondriac— I do not need friends or family asserting the same.
7) You can laugh about my illness. I do all the time. If I find something offensive, I’ll let you know, but more often than not I find humor to be as good a medicine as my pain killers.
8) Speaking of pain killers, please don’t assume I have an addiction because I use them for pain. I am not addicted. Do not steal them or ask for them to get high either.
9) If we go out and you drive, please park close to our destination. A simple act that goes a long way.
10) Make the effort. I won’t ask for anything nor do I expect anything, but little things here and there go a long way to helping me cope with day to day life. Bringing something by for us to do, offering to bring something by or helping me with errands, dropping off a meal, or even just asking how I’m doing or checking in makes having a chronic illness much less lonely.
11) If you know I am struggling emotionally, whether that be a result of medication, the isolation, or a mixture of things, be present. Call me up, stop by, or something little to let me know I’m not alone. Be the friend you would want if you were in my shoes, no matter how long a dark period might persist.
12) If you don’t know how to help, what to say, what to do, how to act, that’s okay. Google my illness or ask questions to understand, look up different activities or how to help friends with chronic illnesses. It is okay to feel like there is unfamiliar territory to cross, but don’t let that be a reason to neglect me, as I would not neglect you.
13) Don’t forget— I am still me. I’m much more than my disease(s) and have interests and desires far beyond chronic illness.
14) Thank you. Know that you are a beautiful, wonderful, kind person for giving your support and being a good friend to me. Know that I will always be that person in return for you