So, Your Friend Has a Chronic Illness?

So, Your Friend Has a Chronic Illness?

Hey there,

I’m really glad you’re reading this. Thank you for taking an interest in your friend and being willing to learn more about the crippling effects of chronic illness on their life.

There’s so much your friend wants you to know but probably won’t tell you. It could be because it’s awkward. How do you tell someone that you experience extreme pain every day, whether it be physical, mental, or emotional, and not seem like you’re just complaining or wanting attention.

So, Your Friend Has a Chronic Illness?

Being chronically ill, I have experienced many years of being unable to explain myself. For most of that time, I had no idea what was going on. And, honestly, the pre-diagnosis years of suffering were full of unexplainable highs and lows that left me blaming myself. I thought that I must have been doing something wrong to feel the way I did.

Once my condition became bad enough that I realized a better sleep schedule, some exercise, and a healthy diet wouldn’t fix it, I had to start digging to get to the bottom of what had been causing such grief. Finding out I had chronic Lyme Disease and co-infections was actually a blessing because then I could begin a treatment regimen. It also gave me an explanation to share with others, because previously I had just thought I was crazy.

If your friend suffers from a chronic illness, they need you!

They need people who care about them to be there in both the good times and the bad.

Here are some things you could do to be a better source of support for your chronically ill friend as they walk through life:

1. Believe them

This should be obvious, but, sadly, sometimes it’s not. If your friend has a chronic illness, please believe them. Believe the symptoms they say they have. Just affirming that you recognize that they are struggling means a lot to someone who’s living life with an illness that may be invisible to the outside world.

2. Ask questions

One of the best ways to better understand your friend’s struggle is to ask questions. Ask them what symptoms they experience and what makes them better or worse. Ask what treatment they do. Ask how they’re feeling emotionally about it all. Ask, and then be willing to listen to the answers.

3. Find out what they need

This goes along with asking questions. It would be helpful to ask your friend what tasks are hardest for them to complete with your chronic illness. Perhaps ask their other friends or family members what they have noticed your friend needs. Observe your friend’s life to try to find out what they need and then find a way to help them with it.

4. Spend time with them on their terms

One of the most frustrating things about having a chronic illness is that it can limit one’s ability to do normal social activities. Your friend is still a human being who needs social interaction, but having to go out and about may be too difficult. Go to them, but only if they’re up for it. Be really good about communicating with them to figure out what they actually need.

Suffering from a chronic illness can strip pieces of your friend’s personality from them, so even if they used to be outgoing, they may prefer to be alone at times. They also might not have the energy to talk, and if you come over they’ll exert all that they have stored up. If they want to hang out, be there for them in a way that accommodates their needs.

Here's how to be a good friend to someone with a chronic illness like Lyme Disease, Fibromyalgia, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Relationships are so important! #ChronicIllness

5. Be understanding

I don’t think anyone feels good about having to cancel plans, but it feels even worse when you have to do it for the 10th time. If you make plans with your friend and they cancel over and over again, try your best to be understanding. Your friend genuinely cares about you, but trying to balance the illness with anything else can be a struggle. Try to see the best in your friend because they are doing the best that they can.

6. Don’t assume that everyone with that illness is the same

Humans like to generalize. We like to compare something we don’t know to something that’s familiar. It makes it easier to understand. However, with chronic illness, it’s important to be aware that every situation is different. Even if you know or have heard of someone else who suffers from the same illness, don’t assume that those cases will be the same.

It’s hard being chronically ill and hearing others talk about how this person they know got better really quickly or that person they know used some treatment that worked for them. More education can be beneficial, but when “success stories” are offered without care and understanding for my individual situation, I feel that my pain isn’t being validated and that the other person isn’t recognizing the extent of the grief I feel.

Each person’s body responds to treatment differently, so I’d rather hear that someone is there for me instead of have them throw out a new measuring stick of comparison from which to judge my progress.

7. Be consistent

Those with chronic illnesses can have a hard time keeping friendships. Not feeling up to going out can put a damper on their social life. If you are their friend, be a consistent friend. Even if they don’t reply to every text message, check in with them to see how they are doing. If you generally meet up with them, keep doing it. Let them know that you are there for them by both your words and your actions.

8. Be supportive of their significant other or family

Your chronically ill friend’s significant other or family likely has the biggest burden to carry as they care for your friend. It isn’t easy to care for someone who is dealing with severe pain. The roller coaster of emotions your friend is dealing with can be a lot for a loved one to handle. Connect with your friend’s significant other or family to see what they need. Maybe try to spend extra time with your friend so that their loved ones can have a small break to be refreshed. Chronic illness doesn’t just affect the person who is sick. It affects those closest to them.

9. Offer spiritual support

Pray for your friend and for their significant other or family. As a Christian, it means a lot to me when I hear that others are praying for me during times of need. Because of their illness, it may be difficult for your friend to make it to church or Bible study. If that’s the case, bring a mini Bible study to them. I have a great friend who offered to do a devotional with me. Sometimes we spend time talking about what God had been teaching us and praying together when she comes over. It means a lot to have people who care for my spiritual well-being.

If you’re unsure how to pray for your friend who is suffering from a chronic illness, read this post. I’d love to help walk you through how to pray bold, specific prayers so that you can support and encourage them during this journey!

These are just some of the ways you can offer support to a friend who is battling a chronic illness. Above all, the most important thing you can do is be present. Observe and see what your friends needs. Recognize that they are suffering and let them know that they are valued.

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Thank you so much for reading! By the way, I’d love to give you a free copy of my eBook Finding Hope Through the Fog. In it I share openly about my struggles with chronic illness. It can help you better understand what your friend may be going through!

When Your Dreams Aren’t Coming True

**This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.**

The Year 2016 has gone nothing like I thought it would.

I had high hopes.

I always have high hopes.

That’s how things go when you’re a dreamer – when you’re someone who won’t settle for just okay, but wants to live a life that’s real and full of purpose.

Dreams

I spent my New Year’s Day encouraged. This was going to be the year that things would fall into place.

I had finished college and had spent the prior couple of years working a number of different jobs, including living overseas teaching in China. All of the transitions were a lot of fun, but I was ready for some stability. I craved stability. I finally had a full-time job in communications and had my own apartment with new furniture that I had picked out myself. I felt accomplished, like I was on the right track.

It wasn’t just about the material things, though. My goal was to budget and plan so that I could give more away. After reading David Platt’s Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream and Francis Chan’s Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God, I was excited about living out my faith by being a good steward of all God had given me.

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Why Hasn’t He Proposed Yet?

{Full Disclosure: Jonathan gave me permission to share this with you}

I went into my relationship with Jonathan believing that he was the one – the one I was going to marry. Our story is quite different than the average dating story.

We didn’t just meet each other, exchange numbers, text a lot, hang out, and then decide we should probably make it official. He didn’t go the more traditional route of asking me on a date to see how we interacted, either. In fact, Jonathan didn’t tell me that he liked me until I had moved back to China – halfway around the world. Not exactly an easy distance to travel to see one another…

Why hasn't he proposed yet?

We began to fall for each other while attending a Bible study at his church, which has now also become my church. Jonathan and I knew of each other back in high school but we weren’t friends. In fact, at one point I even had a friend who crushed on him and I remember saying something like, “He’s fine, I guess…” in response to her telling me about the crush. I never imagined that just a few short years later I’d find myself with feelings I couldn’t shake.

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Why I Won’t Claim That My Boyfriend is the “Best Boyfriend in the World”

This piece of writing started out as a Facebook post that I began to create in my mind earlier this week. However, as my thoughts deepened on the subject, I realized that I needed to write a blog post to share more than I had originally intended.

What initially was going to be a few sentences about how much I appreciate my boyfriend turned into something else. And, no, it’s not because we got into another fight and I no longer wanted to tell the world how great he is.;)

My boyfriend is not the best boyfriend in the world

I have been thinking a lot about the gift I have in my boyfriend Jonathan. I can’t even begin to express my appreciation for this man.

When he comes to mind, I smile.

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Held in the Fire

Today, I’m excited to share with you an article by one of my favorite writers, Glenna Marshall! Glenna has become a friend of mine through the Hope*Writers community and it has been a joy to get know her. Something we have in common is our experience with chronic pain. While enduring chronic illness can often leave one feeling hurt and discouraged, Glenna’s perspective and trust in Christ has been encouraging to me as I’ve walked in faith during this rough season. Let’s welcome Glenna! 


Pain is white and blue, the hottest center of a flame.

Not a gently flickering candle, but an explosion of blistering heat, a fire that blazes without burning out. It starts at the base of my spine and reaches out to my hips, radiating down my right leg with fiery tentacles that entangle themselves around my bones, wrapping tightly around nerve endings and tendons. My ribcage aches while pain slices back and forth across my spine until I’m certain my body will snap in two.

It might feel better if it did.

Held in the Fire

I have an autoimmune disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis. There’s a long, scientific explanation of how my body attacks itself, but the primary result is an inflammatory arthritis that feels much, much worse than it sounds. I lived with AS for five years of bent-over, crushing pain that wrenched me out of sleep every night and pressed me with fear every morning as I sluggishly worked to stand up straight. I didn’t look sick, but dawn always found me uncomfortably dozing while sitting up, surrounded by ice and heat packs and pain medication. The continual, abrasive nature of my pain sanded down any hope that I would ever feel normal again. Like most autoimmune diseases, mine didn’t come alone. It brought a host of other chronic diseases and disorders, ranging from annoying to excruciating, depending on what day it is.

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It’s Been Rough, But God’s Been Gracious

I’d like to write a blog post telling you about how great I feel now that I have been on treatment for about two months. I’d like to tell you how happy I am and how I feel confident everyday. I’d like to tell you a lot of things.

But, the sad truth is that life is still pretty rough and it likely will be for a while.

It's Been Rough, But God's Been Gracious

Yes, I have had some good days interspersed amongst the bad, painful, horrendous days.

Those good days make me smile. When things are good, I have energy and I feel more like myself. It’s delightful!

But, the bad days still leave me hurting. They leave me questioning. They leave me suffering.

My prayer life has been changing since my health took a decline back in February. During some points of this health journey, I couldn’t pray. I didn’t feel like God was there. I could barely process a thought, let alone speak words in prayer.

Now, though, God has been meeting me. It’s amazing, actually. I always knew I could go to God during hard times and he would be there, but I had never been to a point of sheer desperation like this before. Now, I literally need  God’s strength to get me through the day.

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