Suffering from a chronic illness is hard!
Throughout my journey with chronic Lyme Disease, I have had the pleasure of meeting some amazing chronic illness warriors. The people I have met may have different backgrounds and experiences, but there is an underlying thread that binds them together.
Those with chronic illnesses often share that they feel misunderstood by the people around them.
Even those with strong support systems may feel like the healthy people in their lives just can’t quite comprehend the pain they experience.
Being unable to relate to our friends and families can leave us feeling discouraged and misunderstood.
For anyone out there who cares about someone with a chronic illness, I want to let you in on what I truly feel can make all the difference in being able to better support the chronically ill.
The most loving thing you can do for someone with a chronic illness is to BELIEVE THEM.
Maybe this sounds simple to you, but it can make a world of difference for someone who feels like others don’t understand.
When you believe someone, you are choosing to hear what they say about their experiences and take it as truth.
Don’t question it or think they’re just over-exaggerating. Don’t assume that it’s not as bad as they say it is. Choose to believe what they say about their pain because they are the one who is experiencing it.
I spend a fair amount of time on chronic illness forums connecting with others who are in a similar place as I am. My heart continually breaks as I hear stories of friends and family members of the chronically ill who don’t choose to believe the best about the person. They don’t take the sickness seriously. Sometimes those who don’t believe them are their spouses or parents. This often leaves the chronically ill feeling lost, helpless and alone.
I’m fortunate that when my health took a turn for the worst, my boyfriend, Jonathan, believed me. My parents and siblings were a little slower to understand but they eventually came around.
Had Jonathan not believed me and encouraged me to seek answers, I am not sure what kind of shape I’d be in today. This is why I’m passionate about helping shed light on the reality of Lyme Disease and other chronic illnesses. Education and understanding are essential for our support systems to truly act as sources of support.
In order to learn about the illness, the friends and family of the chronically ill need to start with believing the person. The person who is sick also has the responsibility of being honest and sharing what they are experiencing.
Belief spurs action, which is why I feel strongly that the most loving thing a person can do is to first believe that the illness is serious.
Once they believe, and begin to understand, they will be better able to lovingly support the person in their life with a chronic illness.
The best examples of belief spurring on action can be found in the Bible. Over and over again, we see examples of how belief in God and Jesus Christ led to action.
One of my favorite stories is found in Matthew 9 when a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years came up behind Jesus and touched the edge of his cloak. “She said to herself, ‘If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed’” (v. 21, NIV).
“Jesus turned and saw her. ‘Take heart, daughter,’ he said, ‘your faith has healed you.’ And the woman was healed from that moment” (v. 22).
The woman believed that Christ could heal her, so she took a major risk by reaching out for him. Because she was bleeding, she would have been regarded as unclean. In Jewish law, she would have had to be free of bleeding for seven days before being considered clean. Since she had bled for 12 years straight, the woman would have been an outcast in society. She wouldn’t have touched Jesus’ cloak it if she didn’t think that he had the power to heal her. She knew there was something different about him. The woman had believed and had faith in who he is.
When we have the facts and we know something to be true, it changes how we perceive the world around us. Just as the bleeding woman’s faith spurred her to action, believing that a loved one’s chronic illness is serious could spur one to action as well.
To anyone out there who is not sure what to do to be supportive of their chronically ill friend or family member, just start with listening to them and believing what they say about their illness. From there, you’ll be able to notice how you can help. They need your love and support and will appreciate anything you can do for them!