The Mighty Logo

What Receiving 'Senior People Meet' Ads Reminded Me as a Young Person With Chronic Illness

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I know it shouldn’t bother me, but it does.

• What is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome?
• What Are Common Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Symptoms?

For the last six months, I’ve been getting ads from Senior People Meet. Their catchphrase is simple: “Meet Singles 60+ Near You.” Being a few years shy of 20, I had a good laugh, but it irked me for some reason. I racked my brain as to why this ad would be popping up.

My first thought was vocabulary. My friends tease me, because I tend to use bigger words than necessary. I’ve been told my writing style sounds older – for better or for worse. Maybe that was what the algorithm was picking up on, I thought, but I knew the theory was far-fetched.

Then, one day, it hit me like a punch to the gut. It was my health. It had to be.

How many searches have I made for chronic illness?

The number is probably in the thousands by now.

Even though I’ve mostly accepted my life as it is, the realization was a stumbling block. It was yet another reminder that, no, I’m nothing like the average teenager (or average anyone for that matter!) in many ways.

I can’t blame the algorithm either. It’s far more likely that someone with my search history is over 60 than not. I’m painfully aware of that fact. Each time I go into the cardiologist’s office, I am 50 to 60 years younger than everyone in the room. Once, I caught sight of a teenager, only to realize that she was only there accompanying a family member. I doubt I’ll ever see anyone my age there – especially considering the relatively small size of my hometown. That’s just how it is.

I used to feel like I must be the only person like me (even though I knew, logically, it couldn’t be true). It seems that many young people feel like outcasts anyway and having a chronic illness only exacerbated that loneliness.

As you know, while a good chunk of the internet is trash, there are still treasure troves to be found. When I started using social media as a tool to find others like me, it – no joke – felt like I’d been opened to a whole new world. I read article upon article and gasped, “That’s me! I swear, that’s me!”

I could scroll through and see that I was not only in good company but also experiencing the same pain. They were living and breathing through struggles similar to mine, and they had chosen to play the cards life dealt them. It showed me that it wasn’t only possible to live with this kind of pain but, in many ways, completely doable. A weight was lifted off my shoulders. It didn’t mean that it was all sunshine and rainbows up ahead, but it gave me a sense of belonging and a sense that maybe, just maybe, I could live in this new normal.

The only good way I can think to describe it is like walking alone on a forest trail for years only to stumble upon a bustling city you’d passed many times before but had no idea was there. It’s startling and invigorating all at once. You just can’t believe you’d missed it. I could finally breathe.Writing was another way I began connecting. It was also a way to give back. To contribute my voice to the thousands who’d come before me. It just felt indescribably right whenever I poured out my heart onto paper, and I knew this was the sort of thing that makes life worth living for me. For me, one quote comes to mind:

“Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.” – Gloria Steinem

This applies to any kind of human connection, really. There is something to be said about the power of community. While technology can drive us apart and give platforms to hate and misinformation, it can also provide us with the chance to make amends and raise our voices about what truly matters – and have a good time laughing about the things that don’t. Technology is a tool, and just like any other, it can be used to bring us together or drive us apart. We are in control of what we learn and what we do about it. I can choose to focus on the ads I get that remind me of how different I am, or I can choose to say, yes, I’m different, but I’m not alone. If I’ve learned anything, I suppose that’s it.

Getty Image by tommaso79

Originally published: July 5, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home