How to be a good friend to someone with a chronic illness
I have never been one to have a lot of friends. I have many many people I like and occasionally talk to but not many close friends that I regularly talk to. I think being ill has paid a huge part in that and it may be obvious but I’ll explain why.
Every friendship I’ve had (excluding the ones I have the now) seems to go in the same cycle, excitement of new friendship, plans that I try so hard to keep, plans that I end up cancelling due to ill health then friendship fizzles as I’m deemed “unreliable” and “always cancelling” compared to more able bodied friends. Experiencing these friendships make me appreciate how good the friends I have are. It makes me really value what a good friend is.
I have a varied collection of great friends, a group that I met through my boyfriend, my “online friends” who I’d love to see more but circumstances won’t allow it, my ride or die best friend and my boyfriend.
My friends collectively are a bunch of weirdos and I love them dearly, they always ask how I am, are always there to talk about nonsense when I feel a bit lonely and they definitely don’t freak out when I cancel plans. Supportive friends are really hard to come by but I seem to have slotted into quite the good group.
I’ve established a good few “online friends” through blogging and being more open about my Chronic Illness. Other people suffering from chronic illnesses seem to be some of the kindest and compassionate people as they know how rubbish being ill is.
I’ve learnt a lot about friendship lately because I’ve learnt to appreciate the good friendships so much whilst breaking off from friendships that take up too much energy or ooze negativity.
On the other hand I can understand how hard it could be to be friends with someone with a Chronic Illness, so based on how my brilliantly my friends treat me, here are some tips on how you can be a good friend to someone with an Chronic Illness.
– Be patient. This is a big one. Your friend may take longer to do things for instance, they may want a break from screens so may not reply to your message as soon as you’d like them to. Have a conversation over the course of a few days rather than one short conversation. My best friend and I sometimes take hours to reply to each other but we’re both fine with that and it means the conversation never stops!
– Remember that the reason you’re friends with them is still there. If you love your friend because they make you laugh till your ribs hurt then remember that, they may not be feeling like being a comedian 24/7 but they’re still going to make you giggle, they just might be a like a diluted version of themselves if they don’t feel great.
– Don’t freak out if they cancel. The last thing a person who doesn’t feel up to doing fun things is to feel bad about missing out. Say you understand or offer to do something less taxing. If your plans were to go to the movies, have a movie day. Or if your friend doesn’t want to do anything, just respect that and rearrange for when you are both free.
– Ask how they are. The nicest thing ever is to be asked how you are doing especially if you’ve been struggling. To have someone listen about your rubbish day really makes a difference.
– Don’t feel bad about them missing out. I’ve had this before where people have specifically avoided conversations about what they’ve been doing in order to not make me feel bad about not being able to get out and about. I don’t mind, I want my friends to have fun and I want to hear every single detail about their silly nights out.
– Research your friends Chronic Illness. I found that when my friends know what is going on with my body they understand more of why they don’t see me as much as we’d both like to. This saves frustration and the full “why won’t they come do this? Do they hate me?”.
The best thing to do is to be there and support your friend, as with any friendship. Being friends with someone with a Chronic Illness can be frustrating as you will want your friend to be as well as they possibly can but if you just stick by them they’ll definitely remember that for when they feel a bit better.