How you can support your friend with chronic illness.
Did you know how much your chronically ill friend was looking forward to that visit you promised her?
Did you know how much she missed you? That all she needs is a phone call or a text. Just a little message to let her know she still matters.
If illness is something that makes you uncomfortable, I hope it encourages you to know that your continued friendship is so important. It might seem overwhelming now, but it isn’t actually that hard to stay close.
In the last several years of dealing with my own illnesses, including chronic Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Dysautonomia, I’ve found that I appreciate even the smallest efforts. Here are some suggestions, some practices for staying close with your chronically ill friends.
1. Check in regularly
Stay in virtual contact with your friend. It is as easy as a text, DM or email every once in awhile.
Maybe send them a picture of your cute pet. Interact with them on social media, which they probably find themselves on way more than they would like. Share with them some recommendations for television shows, movies, books, articles or podcasts (they might have a lot more free time or need some distractions).
It doesn’t have to be deep. Just like you can use little pick-me-ups, they can too, even more so.
2. Schedule some time together
Stay in actual contact with them, too. Try to schedule some one-on-one time. You’ll probably have to work with them on a time when they have the energy to see you, but they will surely appreciate the human interaction.
If they can’t get out of bed, go see them or suggest a Zoom call.
Ask them how they’re doing and listen to what they say.
I really appreciate when my friends ask questions about EDS, how it affects me, what it feels like, et cetera. It makes me feel like they truly want to understand as much as they can and are taking the time to listen and learn.
So let your friend vent, and reciprocate when they ask how you are. Don’t forget that friendship is a two-way street.
If conversation isn’t in the mix due to it being a really bad day for them, be a willing couch potato alongside them.
4. Invite them out
Just because they’re not always feeling great doesn’t mean they don’t want to be included in big plans.
Are you having a party? Invite them. Going to a concert they would also like? Invite them. A movie that you want to see? Invite them. There are going to be instances of them having to decline the offer or cancel last minute, but I promise you it’s not personal. As frustrating as it is for you, it is definitely worse for them.
What is worse than not being to do things is not being invited; you can’t go to things you don’t know about. And you should trust them to know themselves. They probably have good days better at predicting. Or they may be willing to push through the pain so they can do the fun thing, even though they know they’ll be paying for it for days.
5. Remember them on holidays
Make a point to check in with your chronically ill friends over the holidays. When people are the busiest it is those living on the periphery that are forgotten. Your friend could be feeling this.
Those little “Happy Thanksgiving!” texts or a short phone call during the winter holiday season could mean everything to them.
Not Always Sunshine and Rainbows
In the years I’ve been sick, I have had a handful of friends drop out of my life, and ones who pop up maybe once a year, so I’m aware it isn’t always easy to stay close.
As with any relationship, it takes some work. Just know it’s hard for your ill friend, too. They’ve lost some control over their life and don’t feel like other people their age, which only exacerbates their isolation.
Having your friendship can drastically improve their quality of life.
Every person has something that they are going through, and just because illness can be easily pinpointed, that doesn’t mean your friend deserves anything less than anyone else. Though you may have to change plans last minute or hang at home more, your friend is still your friend.