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5 Ways You Can Support a Healthy Friend If You're Chronically Ill

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If you’re anything like me, then you love being the best friend you can be. When I first became sick with late stage Lyme disease, I noticed that I was having a harder time being that great friend. For me, it was one of the worst parts of having a serious illness. I was always the friend that would frequently surprise my loved ones with a card or a little gift, just because. I was always the one to run errands for a friend without hesitation. When I got sick, these previously simple tasks became astronomically harder. I grieved over my old abilities for a long time, but overtime I have found other ways to be a great friend. Here are some ideas I have gathered that can help you support a healthy friend if you’re chronically ill:

1. Talk to your friend about your illness.

This one is super important! Make sure you are sharing your struggles and triumphs so that they have the opportunity to understand why you might not be able to be the same exact friend as before. Talking about your illness will also help them feel like they are still involved in your life. If they are as good of a friend as you are, they’ll want to hear about your hardships and victories, just like you would if they were sick. It’ll allow you to connect with each other and they’ll also feel important to you since you shared something so personal with them!

2. Set a weekly reminder to reach out to your friend.

Many chronically ill people often lose friends because one or both of the parties doesn’t make the effort to stay in touch. I can’t promise that your friend will stay in touch (the right friend will), but you need to make sure that you aren’t the one distancing yourself. When you’re sick, it is extremely easy to get lost in your own battle. I recommend setting a simple reminder on your phone to contact your loved ones. When I am feeling well enough, I try to reach out to as many loved ones as I can in one sitting, often via text message. It’ll show your friend that you are still thinking about them, even if you can’t be as involved in their life as before. It only takes a few seconds to send a message saying:

”How are you?”

”Hope you have a great day!”

“Thinking of you!”

”What’s new?”

3. Invite them to a relaxing spa afternoon or movie night.

Finding activities that I am well enough to do is a big struggle of mine. I often try to schedule short and simple activities with my friends. A few of the activities I try to do with my friends in include: grocery shopping (a great way to catch up and be productive), going to a restaurant, doing something creative such as painting or pottery, and sitting outside in a pretty place. Sometimes, however, even grabbing coffee or taking a quick walk in the park is too much for me. When this is the case, I suggest offering for your friend to come over for a simple movie or spa night. Ask your friend if they’d be willing to grab some face masks or popcorn on their way over. You don’t even have to leave your home!

4. Empathize with their problems.

This one is difficult for a lot of people. It’s not easy to empathize with others’ problems when you have devastating problems of your own, but I encourage you to make a conscious effort. Let’s say that your friend has a big presentation for her job coming up and she doesn’t think she’ll be ready in time. To you, this might not seem like a huge problem compared to you being bedridden and in excruciating pain every day. However, it is important to understand that her problem is very real and could be a big stressor for her. Try to put yourself in her shoes and offer your support.

5. Offer to assist them with the little things when possible.

Since becoming sick, I’ve had to change the ways that I help my friends. Previously I have driven many hours, spent days of work, and used tons of physical effort to make someone’s life easier. Now, I might not be able to do the big things, but I can certainly try my best to do little things for my loved ones. For example I have reviewed and provided feedback on my friends’ resumes (something you can do from bed), given advice on numerous topics via text, FaceTime, and phone call, donated to causes that are important to my friends, and much more. If you’re able to leave your house, offer to run errands with your friends, help them bake cookies for their work party, or be a shoulder they can cry on when life gets tough. It might not seem like it at first, but helping your friends with little things like that do make a big difference!

It is very important to take care of yourself, especially when you’re sick, and maintaining good friendships can be an excellent form of self-care! You don’t have to overdo it in order to keep being a great friend. A little effort can go a long way and the right friend will put in effort, too!

Getty Image by Youngoldman

Originally published: May 16, 2018
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