It has become very clear to me that just because someone is chronically ill they don’t stop being human, and we still have all the human flaws and weaknesses that anyone else has in life.
There is still a lot of difficult behaviors out there in the chronic world and you may even encounter them from time to time; for example…
The chronic clique
There are so many small support groups out there for the various illnesses and diseases that there begins to develop cliques which can often feel unwelcoming to strangers and exclusionary. Even those groups who share similar challenges and struggles.
These cliques, once formed, can be impenetrable and can isolate people who are already struggling with feelings of rejection and isolation.
Beware of the Chronic Cliques!
This describes a person who views their illness or disease as a competiton and other chronics as potential competitors. They must always be sicker, have more pain, be on more medications or be in a worse position than all their peers.
Even if they are genuinely in difficult positions and struggling, this behavior only achieves distance and helps to push others away.
We may be competitive people by nature and it may have even helped us in our careers or sporting pursuits but does it have a place within chronic issues? Does it help those who are struggling and suffering? I don’t believe so.
No matter how difficult or effected your life has become it is better to try not to turn it into a competition with other chronic fighters. We are all doing our best after all.
I have seen some shocking online fights and shaming posts which does not reflect well on those people concerned or the entire chronic community. I always try to think the best of people and remember that they may have some other mental health issues as well as pain and discomfort, but there is never a good reason to expose the entire world to nasty or belittling comments.
We have all seen the pictures and heard the stories from the chronic overachiever. You know the ones that have climbed mountains, swam oceans, single handedly saved a small country, looks like a super model and should be on the cover of Time magazine as the “most accomplished chronic sufferer. Ever”
You can’t help but see these people and feel both happy for them and then completely wretched about yourself!
… It can make others feel like they are failing at being chronically ill.
I don’t believe that this is helpful to the overall community of it is deliberately flaunted or used in a negative way. Our achievements are special and mean a lot to us personally, but to strangers who don’t know our intentions it can feel very isolating and demoralizing.
Perhaps when we interact with our chronic brothers and sisters we could be mindful of how they may interpret and feel when they are struggling? Do we need to remind the world of how accomplished we are all the time? Especially when others are having a difficult time?
Just because you happen to have the same illness or similar diseases as someone else it still doesn’t mean you are well matched or destined to be BFFs.
In life some people are just not meant to be friends or to bond. In fact, some people can even take a disliking to each other. It’s normal, it’s human and it isn’t anything to punish ourselves about. You just aren’t compatible. As in any other social situation it is best to be cordial and move on.
We aren’t required to please everyone or be everyone’s friend, even if we are hoping to make some real connections. It is much easier to try to be respectful to others and enjoy those who you may find a deeper connection with.
Even online it takes time to get to know someone and even longer to become close. There is no getting around this rule. However the loss of an online friend can still sting and hurt as much as a real friendship so try and be wise with your loyalty and feelings. It still takes time.
Sometimes we try hard to make a lot of chronic friends quickly because we have lost so many healthier friends* (*able bodied friends) but friendships doesn’t always work like that. People are still people, health or not, and it is better to have a much smaller group of quality connections than cling to difficult and taxing ones.
Often we will meet chronic friends online since many of us are unable to physically interact with the world anymore. An important thing that I have learned to remember is that even though you may share a painful illness and have shared deeply personal and painful discussions with the group, the fact remains that they don’t really know you. That takes years and years. I am still discovering friendships I have had for over 30 years!
You may share pictures, personal anecdotes and emotions but they still won’t know who you are when you turn your computer off or how your life really is.
Therefore I advise caution when overinvesting in what an online person says or how they act towards you. Enjoy the connection for what it is. For what it truly is.
They may also be depressed, they may have other issues that you are not aware of or other factors in their lives driving their feelings and actions. Things that you can’t know or may never know so we can’t always take things personally… other chronics are always experiencing their own realities.
As a blogger people may assume they know me or who I am based on something I have written, or they may even misinterpret my actions or words but that doesn’t mean they have the true and complete story of me. We are all deep and complex human beings. The only one who can ever truly know us is ourselves.
This is a suggestion about putting too much time and investing too much of your life into any one chronic group or online community. Sometimes they can take too much energy and time that could be better used in other aspects of your physical and emotional wellbeing. For example, meditation, contemplation and relaxation.
If you feel compelled or required to be engaged with groups and activities to the exclusion of everything else in life than perhaps it has become not as healthy or useful to your life.
We are now a world of social media addiction and when you are bedridden and vulnerable we may tend to rely too heavily on social media to the exclusion of all other things. Music and reading and time spent alone is still as healthy as viewing every post or picture that drifts across social media. We have other forms of validation available to us that should not be forgotten.
When liking someone’s post becomes more important than liking yourself and your reality than perhaps we should reexamine our priorities.