The new ChronicBabe Blog Carnival theme is “who’s on your team” and I thought it would be the perfect time to let some very special people know how important they are to me, and how much I appreciate them (and hopefully, to help others figure out how to develop their own support team.)
Like so many of us, when I was diagnosed with a chronic illness, most of my family and friends didn’t “get it,” and even the ones who tried to be supportive ended up making me feel as though I was at fault for getting and staying sick. It’s taken me a lot of years to find people who either understand “incurable but not fatal,” or are willing to accept my experience without actually understanding it. It’s been a painful road, with many losses along the way, but I’ve finally managed to surround myself with people who love me for who I am and provide the emotional support I need to survive.
Our landlords/roommates are an incredible source of support, who, when we both lost our jobs and were facing life on the street, allowed us to move into their cottage for a rent we’re able to afford. Jody and I share cooking duties, which is especially wonderful on days when I’m just too tired or sore to manage, and has been an absolute lifesaver. He and pup are both amazingly good listeners, and are always willing to give me a helping hand when the hubby is at work and I need to do something a bit too physical to manage on my own. I don’t know how I would have managed over the last couple of years if I hadn’t had them to talk to and keep hubby from being my only outlet for complaints about my job and physical condition.
Next are my online friends, who are always there for me when I need to vent, commiserate with me when symptoms are bad, and have even provided physical things I needed. One dear friend, who I’ve never actually met, sent me this computer because he was concerned that the computer I was using is about to fail entirely, and he didn’t want me to be cut off from this site or my friends. Other online friends have literally saved my life by listening to me when I was suicidal, even though my deep depression was painful for them to deal with and they could have reduced their own stress levels by simply cutting me off (which many of my “friends” DID.) A few have even sent me money via PayPal when the situation was so bad that we couldn’t buy groceries, even though their financial situation is also strained.
Then there are the rest of our real life friends, who even though they may not really understand, accept it when I’m not able to participate in things without blaming me or getting angry. Although I don’t necessarily give them details, I’m able to say, “I feel like crap” when they ask how I’m doing; and they don’t minimize or trivialize it by comparing it to minor complaints, or treat me like I’m lying or exaggerating.
Finally, there’s my long-suffering hubby, who has dealt with so much crap over the 8 years we’ve been together and is still hanging in there, in spite of it all. He’s cooked, and cleaned, and physically picked me up out of the bed when I wasn’t able to get up by myself. He’s helped with laundry and dishes, put up with me when I was so depressed I could barely get out of bed, dragged me to the doctor when I had migraines so bad I had to carry a trash can to “unswallow” into on the way, listened to me rant and rave when I was furious (even when I was being unreasonable,) talked me out of impulsive actions triggered by my bipolar disorder, “made” me get treatment when I needed it, and even physically restrained me to keep me from pushing myself too hard and making myself worse. He’s unknowingly saved my life a dozen times simply by existing and loving me; helped me learn to control my temper; encouraged me to try new things when I was afraid to; and just generally been there for me, no matter what.
Now, before you start thinking I’ve totally lost my mind and think he’s a saint; let me say that we have had some serious issues in our marriage. We’ve worked through them because we’re both willing to TALK about what’s wrong, what’s right, and how we can adjust so that both of us get our needs met. I am fully aware that he’s not perfect, and know his faults almost as well as I do my own. I love him in spite of, and sometimes BECAUSE of, those faults; and although he is not perfect, he IS “perfect for me.”
It’s taken a long time to find all these people, and I’ve had to be pretty ruthless about removing the people whose refusal to accept my illness as “real” made my life harder; but it’s been worth it to have such a wonderful group of people who can be there for me, and that I can be there for in return. For all of you, I love you, and appreciate you more than you will ever know.
For those who are still searching for support, be patient and reach out, the people you’re looking for are out there, but you have to be willing to take a risk to find them. There will be painful experiences when you reach out and are rejected or trust someone who then minimizes, trivializes, or simply denies your pain; but you have the option of rejecting them as friends and continuing the search. There are gems out there, but you’ve got to dig through a lot of useless rock to find them.
Previous Editions of the ChronicBabe Blog Carnival:
- ChronicBabe Carnival #7: Tips for brand-new ChronicBabes (chronicbabe.com)
- ChronicBabe Carnival #6: Passion! (chronicbabe.com)
- ChronicBabe Carnival #5: Favorite self-care tools and techniques (chronicbabe.com)
- ChronicBabe Blog Carnival #4: Parenting with a chronic illness (chronicbabe.com)
- ChronicBabe Blog Carnival #3: Learning to Live with Pain (chronicbabe.com)