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Why It Means So Much to Bond With Someone Over Chronic Illness

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The medical conditions I have are relatively rare in the sense that I do not meet very many people in real life who have a serious, chronic medical condition or experience excruciating pain on a daily basis, as I do. It could partly be because I live in a very rural area, in a small village with a minuscule population. My village is great, it is like one big family, but I always have felt like the odd one out when I pass people in the street. I know there are other people dealing with their own very serious problems, but it often feels like I have no one to talk to who really understands what I am going through to any extent. That is why I get so excited when I hear about someone or meet someone who does have serious medical problems.

It sounds so bad to say I am excited to meet people with medical problems, but it is important to note that I am not happy they personally have these conditions and have to experience horrible pain and other symptoms. I would never wish what I have (or any medical/health problems) on anyone. The reason I get so excited is because I know these individuals truly and unequivocally understand the negative experiences I have and continue to go through. These individuals can truly empathize with me on a very personal level. It is as if we are bound together in the vast and unfair web of chronic illness and we can commiserate with each other and bond over our pain.

I recently met someone who has one of the same conditions I have, and we automatically started trading “war stories” with one another. I know it isn’t just me who gets excited because I saw the same look on their face that I must have expressed on mine. We talked about our experiences with surgery and the terrible and unreal pain we have expensed.

I had another similar incident happen to me as well. I must go to physical therapy (thanks Ehlers-Danlos), and when my physical therapist found out I am chronically ill, she immediately told me I reminded her of her daughter who is also chronically ill. My physical therapist, though she was not the one with the chronic illness, could also share “war stories” with me about her daughter. I often forget the trials that my loved ones, especially my mother, have had to overcome due to my chronic illness. My mother and my physical therapist also bonded with each other, as they knew exactly what the other had gone through, because they had each gone through it themselves.

Sometimes I feel so alone in my experiences with chronic illness. I often feel like no one really understands – how could they? Then I meet, in person, someone who has gone through something similar and instantly realize I am not alone and never was. We are all bound together by the ties and the grip of chronic illness and though I would never wish it on anyone, it is nice to know there are people out there who truly do understand.

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Photo via Image Source on Getty Images

Originally published: December 15, 2017
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