When a Group of Teenagers Wrote Poetry About Coping With Chronic Illness


Recently, I was talking with a friend about how to balance my self-care and advocacy efforts. There are so many important causes we’re all invested in. Sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves, or when we finally do give ourselves attention, we don’t have the skills or knowledge about how best to cope with challenging situations or tough days. At the root of our conversation was the theme of community. We agreed that having a community was essential. If your community is associated with your advocacy that’s great, but if it’s something totally unrelated then you can use those important connections to recharge and continue the great work you strive to do. We all need supports in order to keep moving forward.

In Providence, Rhode Island, a group of teens living with a chronic physical illness are embracing this sentiment wholeheartedly. As members of the The Adolescent Leadership Council (TALC), they are taking time out of their busy lives to come together from their various schools and activities to share their experiences, challenges and victories associated with being a leader, a teenager, and living with a chronic physical condition. Together with mentors and clinicians, they’re building skills and conversations about advocacy, independence and assertiveness.

TALC mentors like myself often remark about the specialness of this group. We agree that our experiences growing up with a chronic physical illness would have been much different if we had resources like the ones at TALC.

As mentors we’ve shared a number of conversations about the qualities and actions of important role models in our lives. Often, we circle back to recollecting meaningful conversations, moments, or experiences when someone “got it” or asked the “right question.” What’s happening at TALC is one just example of how we can create
communities of people who live with challenges most teens/people won’t even encounter, and learn and grow together.

Recently, our teens created acrostic poems to identify strategies they could use to cope in stressful situations. Their insights are incredibly compelling. The teens gave me permission to share their words with The Mighty community and illuminate their voices beyond the space of our group. Maybe some of these strategies will be helpful to other people!

Poems by TALC teens about how to cope in stressful situations:

teenage boy showing poster of acrostic poem
A member of TALC shows off his poem.

S.H.A.R.E.

Selective about information

Have an understanding

Advocate

Respect

Evaluate emotion

T.E.A.C.H.

Take a step back

Explain the situation

Ask if they understand

Correct if they are wrong

Have confidence in what you say

C.A.L.M.

two teenagers standing and talking about a poem written on a poster
Two TALC members discuss their poems.

Control what you can

Advocate for yourself

Listen to yourself

Mindfulness and music

C.H.A.N.G.E.

Can do it, cope with it!

Hope for the best

Accept the situation

Nothing is forever

Go with the flow

Evolve into a stronger person

It’s our hope that many more people can benefit from the work of these impressive teens. Their compassion and commitment to being leaders and advocates for themselves and others is truly something to be proud of. I know that I am motivated each day by their persistence and positivity. Like The Mighty, this community is special and celebrates difference and difficulty in a unique and intentional way. Through challenges, and as a community, we’re finding strength and building leaders. We hope you can, too!

group of teenagers lines up and showing off posters inside room with tall windows
Members of TALC working on their poems.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s the hardest thing you deal with as someone with a chronic illness, and how do you face this? What advice and words of support would you offer someone facing the same thing? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


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