You guys remember Naoishe right? She suffers from Chronic Fatigue syndromes which make it very difficult to do everyday things. You can read her previous story here. Today, she writes about how to be a good friend to a friend who has an illness, and ensure that they feel supported, loved and understood….
Being a Youth Ambassador with the Shona Project for people with chronic illnesses I’d like to highlight one of the most difficult challenges people like me face – a challenge that’s hard to talk about – loneliness.
When I was 16 I was doing my T.Y year in France and was going to a French speaking school, going to the beach, swimming and having a ball! But I suddenly became ill and often times bedridden with conditions which were later diagnosed as P.O.T Syndrome, M.E and Fibromyalgia. Having these conditions turned my whole world upside down. I missed months of school at a time and had to leave University after just 3 months. The indescribable pain the loneliness and isolation these conditions caused me over the past 6 years prompted me to write this guide on how to be a good friend to someone going through health difficulties. I have friends that have done simple things for me that have really lifted my spirits and made me feel like I hadn’t been forgotten when I was craving interaction with people my own age. I’ll always remember what they have done for me so here’s my guide to what I think are great ways to be a friend to someone who is going through a hard time with their health whether that’s physical or mental health! I think loneliness is a universal feeling that most people experience at some point in their life. So, I hope this guide empowers girls everywhere to build great friendships! 😊
Little things you can do that mean the world to someone who is physically sick or struggling with their mental health.
- Text your friend regularly to see how they are feeling
- Arrange to call in even for 20 minutes for a catch up, if you can stay longer, great but even just a quick visit really lift the spirits of someone suffering from health issues and has to spend a lot of time at home. One of my friends called in a lot to spend time with me in sixth year when I was really ill. We watched lots of Game of thrones and just chatted which really helped me to feel more connected to my school and what was going on outside of my bedroom. It always lifted my spirits and gave me something to look forward to. One of my friends I have since primary school comes over for a catch up or invites me over. We always have a great laugh. It has meant a lot to me over the past few years.
- Arrange a FaceTime or Skype call. This is a brilliant way to catch up with a friend with an illness if you are away at college or busy with work, etc. People with illnesses/ disabilities often have flareups making them too sick to go out so a Skype call means you’re still giving your friend much needed company. I have 2 college friends who continue to do this since I had to leave college. I always look forward to our Skype calls. It really lifts my mood and I love to hear everything going on in their lives. They are so understanding when we meet up too and are always so patient with my health! They are truly lifelong friends!! 😊
- Send your friend funny texts/ videos. This is a great way to lift our spirits.
- Tell your friend everything that is going on in your life too because we love to talk about things that have nothing to do with our health so don’t be afraid to tell them all about your week! 😊
- People with illnesses can sometimes be too sick to go out much, especially in the winter so a great way to be a good friend is to ask your friend for a short trip out like for a hot chocolate, lunch or the cinema. Short trips out will give your friend something to look forward to and can be more manageable for their health rather than a day of shopping which can be really tiring for them.
- Chat to your friend about having a backup plan if they have to cancel. For example if you’ve arranged to go somewhere and they feel too sick on the day to go, try and arrange that you can FaceTime each other instead 😊. It’s very disappointing for people who are sick to have to cancel when we’re too sick to meet a friend so having a backup plan in place will mean so much to your friend because it shows that you care enough to find a way to still spend time with us no matter what the circumstances are. Try to be understanding if your friend has to cancel.
- If you need to cancel: try and tell your friend as soon as possible. It takes a lot of energy for people who are sick to get ready to meet up. So, if we know that you need to cancel then we can save energy on washing our hair or putting make-up on! So letting us know in advance is a HUGE HELP! We know life is busy and sometimes you need to cancel/rearrange and that’s okay!
- It can be hard for us to be spontaneous. Even though we don’t like it our bodies just won’t let us rush! So, giving your friend as much notice as possible when making plans is a really big help!
- Talk to your friend about what things might be hard for them to do and what things they are able to do instead. People with chronic illnesses often have different symptoms and different capabilities so try and chat about what things you could do together. When you are with us, especially if we are out a simple ‘is there anything I can help you with?” can be really helpful. Also, don’t be afraid to invite us places! We know what our bodies are able for so if we can’t go we will tell you. Because it’s always nice to be invited 😊.
The chances are that if you are reading this article you probably are already a really good friend! I hope these tips help make it easier for people to be a great friend to someone who is facing daily challenges! Now, more than ever us girls need to stick together! 😊