The One 'Buddy' I Sit With at Lunch Who Doesn't Judge My Illness

I still remember the first day I met her. It was a sunny autumn day, and the president of Best Buddies, an organization that creates opportunities with people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, walked over to introduce me to my buddy. She immediately began signing to me and grabbed my hand with so much trust. At that moment I knew she would forever be a part of my life. Despite her special needs and my chronic illness, we trust each other unconditionally and never judge.

Every Wednesday this year she had the same lunch period I did. I would walk over to have lunch with her and seeing her eyes light up with excitement made my day. We would sign all lunch period, and frequently we would lose track of time. She knew me before my illness and she knows me now, yet she doesn’t treat me any differently. She knows that I hurt sometimes, and she asks about my braces, but it never fazes her. As long as I’m still me and can at least try to communicate with her, she is happy.

She doesn’t treat me any differently like so many people do. Some leave me behind, some baby me, and some don’t know how to handle my illness, but she doesn’t do any of that. Instead she treats me the same as she did before my illness, and I will forever be grateful for her. On a bad pain day when I feel so different from the other teenagers, I can count on her for some stability in my day.

I can feel the looks as I sit with her in the lunch room, but those people don’t understand. My buddy is my best friend, and I don’t know what I would do without her. Those of us with chronic illnesses need a sense of normalcy, and I’ve found that in my buddy.

When I go back to my usual lunch table I often find out they have been gossiping about how I’m faking my illness. As I leave the lunch room after learning this, I feel no bond to the people who start these rumors because these are the people who do judge me. These are the people who cannot accept the new me now that I have become ill. My buddy makes this all OK, though. She gives me support and friendship even on my worst days. She gets me through my week.

Everyone with a chronic illness needs some sense of normalcy. Whether they find it in routine or in friendship like I did, it’s one of the most important parts of accepting your illness. I hope everyone with chronic illnesses can find this, whether in fellow spoonies, support groups, or hundreds of other places.

I wish everyone looking for some routine in a life of unknowns good luck. Finding a person who won’t judge you is hard, but they are out there. Us spoonies are never alone, we just need to find the right people.

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