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How You Can Help Your Chronically Ill Friends Feel Validated

The most helpful emails in health
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I don’t need you to tell me you get it, or that you hope I’ll feel better soon.

The first time I ever felt understood by a friend without chronic illness, was when the friend admitted they did not understand my health situation.

I love my best friend. And I wish we could be together every weekend, but my physical and emotional illnesses are currently prohibiting me from doing so.

A recent text exchange went like this:

Me: “I honestly want to but I’m really not thinking I’ll be able to yet…understand that I want to and it breaks my heart that I don’t think I’m healthy enough.”

Friend: “Aw, that makes me sad. I totally understand.”

One month later:

Friend: “Looking back, I actually don’t totally understand what it’s like to not be healthy enough to hang out.”

So when this friend let me know they had never experienced illness coming in the way of social life, I felt so validated. Most people tell me they get it and we’ll just hang out soon, but this person thought back to our conversation and decided that no, they just don’t understand what that’s like.

They asked me how my illness truly impacted my experiences, and I responded honestly. The vulnerability was freeing, and our bond closened. Instead of trying to relate to my health struggles, talk to me. Comparing a cold to a chronic condition minimizes the struggle that chronic illness fighters face on a daily basis. Instead of searching for a symptom to compare my health issues to, ask me about my illness. Learn about how it’s changed my life. Because caring about my daily battles, rather than comparing them to your own, is the most loving way for you to support me.

Getty image by monkeybusinessimages

Originally published: February 27, 2018
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