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What Support Means to Someone With a Chronic Illness

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I am a wordsmith. I love words and their meanings. There have been times when I reach back into the Ancient Greek or Hebrew words to get full understanding. One word that I currently seek understanding for is a word that is very familiar to most. That word is support. Support has many meanings, but to someone who struggles with anything in life, the meaning behind the word goes a very long way.

Support in the dictionary version means to uphold or bear all weight. My definition is a little different. Support can be in many forms. During my recent hospital stay and recovery at home I have had various forms of it. For all of it, I am extremely blessed and grateful. Support for me came when a friend called me on the phone (yes, a real voice and not a text) and said, “What are you doing?” I replied, “Nothing.” Like that is what I have done for three weeks since my hospital stay. She said, “If you would like some company or some fresh air come over and hang out with me.” I said, “Oh, I am not up to it.” I was so sad, so depressed that the mere thought of talking with someone was overwhelming. So she told me to get some fresh air, open some windows, sit in the sun.

By the end of the conversation, I was showered and drove to her house where she prepared food I could eat (it’s a struggle), let me lay on the couch while we chatted and listened to my litany of complaints. She has no idea how much that support meant to me. It breathed life back into a soul that was feeling pretty lifeless.

While a person has their health, it is often hard to understand when and how it can be taken away. In the blink of an eye. There’s the usual days that go by. You never think about it. But then when something happens and it slips away, life totally changes. It is support that gets you through.

Supports come in all fashions. I have found tremendous support online with people who have similar struggles. Virtually I am able to connect with people all over the world. In an instant! These types of supports help but the real “in person” supports are often lacking. Because everyone has their own stuff. Everyone is busy. People don’t know what to do or say. I am just as guilty of it. Sickness makes you aware of what you should have done. Maybe what you could have done. Or what you still might be able to do. I vow to be more supportive to everyone I can. I know what it feels like to spend entire weekends alone. I know what it feels like to go days without seeing anyone. And at the same time I understand. It’s a two-edged sword.

The beauty in it (and yes there can be beauty in struggle) is that my thoughts about it can change. I don’t have to sit and wait and hope that someone will step up and support my struggle. That is something I have the ability to do. It doesn’t have to be someone else’s job. I like being given an assignment towards healing my own life. And it begins with the support we give ourselves when everything appears to be falling apart. I will never hesitate to say I love you. I won’t ask, “Do you need anything?” because I will show up. I won’t be critical of how others give me support though because everyone has their own way of showing it.

bird flying against a blue sky

My grandmother died when she was 62. As I get closer to that age, I realize the support my mother must have needed when this happened. It is her support that has helped me through some difficult times because she has the strongest faith of anyone I know. I reach out to her in love and continue to show that she is never alone in anything even though I struggle with distance and my own health issues. But, the key is that she knows I am there, cheering her in her endeavors and looking for ways to stay in hope and love.

I am, after all, a prior Supports Coordinator. So I have made helping people my livelihood and my career. I guess that is why I don’t understand a lot about how others show it.


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Originally published: October 5, 2017
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