Branching out from my regular style of upbeat musings on my life, I would like to take this time to provide some helpful hints to readers who are unsure how to be a friend to someone who lives with chronic pain.
I’d like to start by saying that my friends are amazing, and while the majority of them do not have chronic pain themselves they are all wonderfully supportive of my needs.
That being said, I know many people who struggle with making friends who fully grasp the gravity of their illnesses so I am hoping this can be a guide to promote understanding and happiness.
How to be a Friend to Someone in Chronic Pain
- We want understanding, not pity.
When we complain about our illnesses or pain we are not looking for pity. The truth is, we are in pain all the time and the fact that we are not mentioning it all day, every day, means that when we do bring it up it’s worse than normal. We may be bringing it to your attention because we feel bad that we are not able to follow through on plans or so you are aware in case we are out of touch for a little while. We are looking for your understanding and support, not pity.
- We may not be able to make plans in advance and that has to be okay.
Our health is so unpredictable. We never know how we are going to feel from day to day, let alone week to week. We can, quite literally, “pencil you in” for dinner sometime next week with the understanding that if our health is not cooperating we may have to reschedule. We call this a “pain check” instead of a “rain check”. We understand how terribly inconvenient this is and appreciate your understanding more than we could say.
- We may not be as available as we would like to be.
Sometimes we are unable to talk on the phone or text as much as we would love to for a number of reasons. One reason is that talking on the phone can be overwhelming or even painful for some chronic pain fighters. Texting non stop can cause our chronic fatigue to flare and hurt our hands and joints. We would love to chat, however short the conversation may be! We appreciate you checking in on us!
- We’re the same people we always have been, but we’re different, too.
This may sound contradictory and confusing, and it is for us also. Pain changes people. We’re not the same people we were when we started this journey and our priorities may have shifted a bit, but we’re still the friends you fell in love with. We can rock a Netflix marathon or gossiping session like nobody’s business and chronic pain warriors have the best blankets, pillows, and snacks you’ve ever seen.
- Our bodies may not let us do some of the activities you’re interested in.
We don’t want to be left out, but we can’t partake in extreme activities anymore. These activities may include concerts, sky diving, marathon running, or day trips to Cedar Point. This breaks our hearts. It kills us to say no, but we’re not being a “downer” or a “kill joy,” we’re just not healthy anymore. Please have fun and we will live vicariously through you! Let us know when you want to chill and colour. We’re down for that.
- If you have any questions about our illnesses, ask us!
It’s not a secret you need to tiptoe around. We’d love for you to ask questions! The more questions you ask, the more we explain, the more you understand and the happier we will all be! We know you may feel awkward asking about the ins and outs of our illnesses, but we are totally ready and willing to answer whatever you want to know.
- You may see us arrange pillows and pop medications like it’s our day job. It is.
Taking care of ourselves is our job. We definitely have a method to our madness, and trust us, all of these things keep us alive and functioning. Yes, we may have more medications than a pharmacy and more pillows than Bed, Bath & Beyond, but each medication and pillow serves a purpose. Bonus points are awarded to friends and family who give us pillows or help us arrange them. It can be exhausting work!
- Any offer of help is appreciated.
We adore helpful friends! Even if it is something small like hanging out with us for an hour, bringing us coffee, or grabbing something on a low shelf, we appreciate it! Larger offers like helping with dinner, helping with household tasks, or errand running is above and beyond! We are so thankful for your support and can’t imagine life without you!
- You are the best friends in the world.
And we love you!
Your friendly neighbourhood Spoonie,