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What Every Chronically Ill Teenager Needs

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May is Fibromyalgia Awareness Month, and today I was inspired to share part of my story with this illness.

I have been sick for as long as I can remember – I’ve felt this pain and fatigue my entire life and always thought everyone did, until I was diagnosed in 2014, before starting my freshman year of high school.

Having a chronic illness (let alone several) is a monumental feat for anyone, and it can come with even more struggles when you’re a teenager. I struggle to balance school, planning my future, and managing my health.

The weight of dealing with the “sick” world and the “healthy” world is hard for anyone, and people naturally want to reach out and find people who understand. I’m lucky enough to know a few girls in my area with chronic illnesses of their own and we each have a spoonie bond with one another. But, an overwhelming proportion of my friends are healthy, and they don’t always understand what I go through on a daily basis.

At the beginning of this, I said that I wanted to share part of my story. But, this isn’t just my story. This is also the story of someone who is, in my opinion, the most amazing best friend in the history of best friends – my best friend.

I met my best friend a year and a half ago through a mutual friend of ours. We’d gone to school together for years, but never talked until then.

At first, I didn’t want to tell him about my fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis (which has now been changed to a diagnosis of hypermobility arthralgia). I didn’t want yet another person to see me as “that girl” and pity me, or be annoyed by me, or treat me differently or poorly. But, as it always does, the truth came out.

And, he didn’t get annoyed. He didn’t pity me. He didn’t say I was lying, or call me lazy, or say, “It can’t be that bad.”

Instead, he wanted to know all he could about it. He wanted to understand as much as he could. I was very surprised when I found out that he’s done just as much research on it as I have. My best friend is a treasured find – lots of people aren’t understanding or accepting of chronic illness, so it’s amazing to find someone who is. He is the most understanding of fibromyalgia I have ever seen a person be without being sick themselves.

So, what exactly inspired me to write this today? To gush about my favorite person in the world?

Today, a club from my school went on a field trip to the movies. I was so excited and I had a great time, but upon getting home, the reality that I had overdone it hit me like a bus.

Anyone with fibromyalgia knows that when you overdo it, you need to rest, or you risk setting off a flare.

But, it’s finals season – and that also means every single teacher is burying their students with assignments. So, like any teen, I’m freaking out because I feel as though I can’t possibly complete all these assignments in such little time.

I wanted to forego resting, and instead work on my homework. Even though I need to rest, I also need to do my homework. But, you know what my best friend did? He forced me to rest for a while because he knows just as well as I do that I would flare-up at some point if I didn’t.

Everyone needs someone in their life like my best friend, especially teens. At an age where we’re trying to figure ourselves out, it’s hard to also figure out our health – and even harder when you don’t have anyone your age who understands.

To me, the most important part of being a chronically ill teen is to have a good support system – and in that support system, someone who is as understanding as they can be, and is willing to do anything to help out their favorite spoonie.

This May, and all year long, we need to work on making the world more aware of fibromyalgia. But, we should also shine a spotlight on those in support of us. Without them, a lot of us would probably be struggling more than we already are – I know I would be. This month, and all year long, make sure you let your support system know how much you appreciate their love and care.

Getty Image by william87

Originally published: May 14, 2018
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