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When You're Chronically Ill and You've Never Met Your Best Friends in Person

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Would it surprise you if I told you that the majority of people whom I count as my true friends in life are people I’ve never actually met?

Of course I do have a couple of healthy friends. (Literally two.) Women who have known me since high school, and I know will always be part of my life. Women I’m eternally grateful for. Plus, there’s my husband, who’s my best friend. But, other than that, the people are rely on are thousands of miles away.

How can this be? Well, when living with chronic illness, it’s hard to find people who understand. I’m very lucky because those in my life always try their best. They treat me with kindness and patience, and bring humor into my life regularly. But it’s hard. It’s hard for them and it’s hard for me. Hard for them, because no matter what they will never know what it truly feels like to live in my shoes (something I’m happy about — I would never wish this on them.) Hard for me because I constantly wish I could keep up, or do better. Like I have to justify myself, even though I don’t.

So, as you can imagine, life can be very lonely and frustrating. Feeling alone while wrapped in the loving bubble of your friends and family is one of the most challenging feelings that accompanies chronic illness. Because of that, I sought out support groups. I wasn’t well enough to go out and physically attend one (plus finding one locally that matches my rare illness would be much like finding a needle in a haystack) so the Internet became my searching ground — Facebook in particular.

I soon found several groups, and over-zealously joined them all. Finally, people like me! Except, no. I soon found out that every group has a different dynamic. It takes time to find a place to fit in. Over the years, the groups I’ve used have changed and evolved. They’ve shrunk significantly. But now, now I have my friend base.

I’m in a small group made entirely of women. Those women understand me, and it is everything. We support each other on hard days. We laugh. We cry. We take the mick out of this health crap in a way only people who are sick can. We care for each other. Isn’t that what makes a true friend? Knowing that someone is in your corner, no matter what?

No, I’ve never met these amazing women in person. But they know the bones of me, and I them. They literally saved me on my darkest days. My prison of my bed is not as lonely with their chat and banter. My achievements are less feeble to those who know what an effort just being is. My life is more enriched. I can enjoy my other friends and my family more, because I can air my frustrations with those who understand.

If you are living with chronic illness, I urge you, please find your friends. Find the group of people who do not judge, and will be there on those dark nights. People who will laugh with you at the dire straits you live in, and it’s OK because they’re in them, too. In this day an age, nobody has to feel alone. Your friends are out there. They might just be on another continent.

This post is dedicated to Christine. My longest running online friendship. Though we may never meet, she will always be one of my closest friends and I couldn’t imagine being without her.

Follow this journey on This Little Life of Mine.

Originally published: July 11, 2016
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