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Sisterhood of the Pink Lighter: How My Neighbor and I Have Bonded Over Fibromyalgia

Amy and her husband have been sharing their time with me almost daily, since we became friends and next door neighbors. They moved in shortly after we did, and we discovered that we both use cannabis as pain medicine mostly by accident. Nowadays, we like to sit around my big, black coffee table with our medicine and non-caffeinated drinks (except her husband, who likes his caffeine) and share with each other.

When we aren’t medicating, Amy makes it a point to check on me throughout the day and make sure I’m OK (I can be a bit too antisocial). I always reassure her and try to put her anxiety at ease when she needs it. Often if she is outside for air, I’m at my door chatting with her when I’m downstairs. Her two children love my husband and I, and call us Aunt and Uncle. Her household and mine operate on a sort of taking-care-of-one-another barter system: we trade what we need, we give freely and receive freely. We respect the natural balance of give and take when we can and forgive each other when it’s uneven. It always evens out in the end anyway.

Amy and I share a diagnosis of fibromyalgia so we understand one another’s chronic pain and symptoms. When one of us has more spoons than the other we try our best to help, and comfort. We help each other with brain fog, and often seek each other out for gentle reassurance, or a quick laugh. There are also times we are both in my kitchen, angry and venting, until we are laughing and smiling again.

We both bought the same pink lighter just by chance, so we each put glitter stickers on them just so we could figure out whose was whose when were together. We started jokingly referring to them as our fibro lighters. It was exactly the kind of girly middle school camaraderie I missed out on while growing up, and that I needed the most.We would bring them every time we got together. Once in awhile, we would meet at the front door, lighters in hand – an unspoken symbol of struggle; it was like a signal in the dark.

We were both acknowledging our pain, and choosing to move forward anyway.

No one ever tells you when you get sick just how isolating it can be. There is a lot of pressure, both social and economic, for those of us with chronic illnesses to perform at the same pace as our non-sick counterparts; that’s exhausting mentally and physically. I’ve found that sharing our experiences with each other relieves the tension of that pressure. When Amy and I share our experiences, listening to her speak about what she’s going through reminds me that I’m not alone.

It was such a simple thing, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t heartbroken when my lighter ran out. I still have it sitting in a keepsake box by my bed. Our lighter adventure has inspired me to write more in-depth about my experiences as a chronically ill person using cannabis, and to connect with others who do as well. Amy and I want to get together with some supplies and have a lighter-decorating night, and honestly I’m so stoked.

Little moments like this keep me going. Little moments are rays of sunshine that illuminate my day. Real connections with people who also struggle are more important than I ever thought they would be. My friendship with Amy is a special treasure. She is someone that, no matter where life takes us, I will remember for the rest of my life and always be grateful to have met her.

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