Friends, today we are so excited to bring you the first guest post from one of our Pure Beauty Contributors!
Jami Creager is a wellness warrior and advocate for moms dealing with chronic illness. She offers encouragement and inspiration from her own personal experiences through her blog and online community, Ghastly Girl, where moms living with chronic illness can find encouragement, connection, and motivation to live each day to the fullest.
Interested in becoming a Pure Beauty Contributor? Read our FAQs and apply here.
Chronic Illness can be challenging, both for those who live with it and for those around them. It comes with cancelled plans, awkward moments, and frustrations for both parties of a friendship. It takes special friends to truly understand all that chronic illness encompasses, but to those of us who live with those illesses the friend who tries to understand is irreplacable. Showing love to your friends with chronic illness can be frustrating sometimes, but can mean the world to them.
The best way to show love to a friend with chronic illness is to show understanding. Know that although our illness may make us unpredictable at times we still want to be invited and to be a part of things. We may be grouchy or standoffish on certain days, but understand that it may be due to our illness and is not because of anything you are doing.
One common thing about many chronic illnesses is a tendency to have “flares”. This means that we will have good days and bad days. To those who don’t experience this it gets kind of confusing. It may be a good week and then suddenly it’s a bad day. Anything from the weather, stress, chocolate, even the wrong smell can trigger a flare. It varies greatly from person to person. Sometimes a flare can be triggered by nothing at all. Depending on the condition they can cause intense pain, nausea, dizziness, or disorientation. It’s just as frustrating for us as it is for those that we may be letting down.
Empathy vs. Pity
I may only be speaking for myself here, but don’t pity me. I spent several months pitying myself when my love of being a firefighter and EMT was taken away from me by my failing health. However, I quickly realized that this was ridiculous. There are so many people out there who never had the chance to do the things that I did, so why pity myself? I was lucky to do what I did while I could and to have the chance to help others. Now, I just needed to find a different way to do it or something new to do within my ability.
Now that I have begun connecting with the chronic illness community I see so many strong indivuduals. I see so many fighters. One main theme I see is women (interestingly the majority are women) who most definitely do not need pity from anyone. They are taking their illnesses head on and fighting back. I get strength and inspiration daily from so many of these amazing individuals.
However, one thing I think we could all agree on wanting is empathy. Don’t feel sorry for us but DO try to feel empathy for us. If you are the friend of someone with chronic illness take the time to think about just what it feels like to have the particular condition that they do. Put yourself in their place. Imagine a life of constant pain, or fatigue. What would you want if you were in that position? Sometimes we will be slower, sometimes we will be grumpy, sometimes we will be sleepy. Take those things into consideration and try to have a little more patience with us.
One of the most emberassing instances I’ve had recently due to my illness was when my husband just got up and left leaving me in a restaurant because he was moving too fast and didn’t take the time to look back and realize that I wasn’t able to move fast enough to keep up with him. A little empathy would have gone a long way there.
Talk it Out
It’s ok to be confused. It’s totally ok to be frustrated, and it’s ok to be awkward too! It’s going to be. Let’s get real here. If you don’t have these illnesses they can get really confusing, frustrating, and awkward sometimes. It’s completely ok and we completely expect our friends to have real emotions. Go ahead and ask questions. In fact, we want you to. It’s not embarassing to us, really. More often than not we want you to know so that it won’t be a problem in the future. It makes it more awkward when you don’t ask and there is just an elephant in the room.
If something is frustrating you, let us know! There is no good that will come from leaving things unsaid. Get things out into the open and talk about them. More often than not the issue will resolve itself once you are able to discuss it.
Know That We Need You Even Though We May Not Act Like it Some Days
Sometimes we may be grumpy. Some days we may just be down right unbearable to be around. Know that it isn’t you. In fact, in most cases it isn’t even us. Our conditions are so exhausting and draining mentally and physically. Bieng in pain or having nausea or dizziness throughout the majority of your life can really be taxing on one’s mood. There may be days that we act as though we don’t need you, or that we don’t want you around. Please know that we appreciate everything that you do for us even on our grumpiest of days when pain or illness makes us say or do things we otherwise woulnd’t.
On days when we push you away consider trying to offer other options for interaction. If we still resist then respect our wishes but know that we appreciate your concern.
Let's Talk About It
One way to really break down barriers and get people comfortable with chronic illness is to open up and have an honest discussion. What questions do you have about how to help your friends with chronic illness? What issues have you run into? Nothing is off the table. Let’s get real to help strengthen your relationships.