Hi there. My name is Alathia and I have chronic pain. While this doesn’t define me, it is a big part of my life. Sometimes, that makes friendships complicated.
As a 20-year-old, most of my close friends have no concept of what it’s like to be in pain 24/7. Having chronic pain means that I’m not always able to keep up with my healthy friends. Because my health is unreliable, I am by extension unreliable.
Over the years of my chronic illness journey, I have lost a lot of friends. However, I have also had many amazing friends stand by me with a willingness to learn, even if they didn’t know how to help at first. Most of my friends want to support me, but they’ve never had a friend with health issues like mine before.
I know my friends aren’t the only ones in this position.
Maybe you have friend who was recently diagnosed with an illness or you’ve met someone new and you want to know how to be an ally.
If you want to support someone with a chronic health condition and you don’t know where to start, please keep reading. This article is for you.
Here are 5 simple texts you can send to your friend that I guarantee will encourage them.
1. “What do you need?”
Don’t be afraid to simply ask what we need. Sometimes we may not know or be able to express what we need, but there’s no harm in asking. You can’t know if you don’t ask.
2. “Do you want to go to _______?”
Even though we may not be able to go or we often cancel last minute, please don’t stop inviting us to events. We desperately want to feel included. So please, don’t make judgement calls about our abilities for us. Just ask.
3. “How are you feeling?”
A lot of people ask me questions like this at first, but they quickly get tired of hearing the same responses. I want to encourage you not to stop asking how we are feeling. Yes, we might always be in pain, but it can help so much just to talk through it. Predictable answers don’t necessarily mean the question is worthless.
4. “I believe you.”
This is huge. I cannot overstate the importance of these three words. Simply communicating that you believe us about our pain and conditions is one of the most powerful things you can do to support us. The chronic illness community is so often faced with unfair prejudice, doubt, and gaslighting. Please believe us. It makes all the difference.
5. “I’m proud of you.”
Living with chronic pain is so freaking hard. Simple things like getting out of bed, showering, making meals, or cleaning can feel like running a marathon. Support us by validating us and recognizing that it is hard work to live despite pain, and even harder work to thrive. Be proud of the work we do to stay.
If you have a chronic health condition, what would you add to this list?