- Don’t ask an open ended question in regards to helping out. An example is asking someone if there is anything you can do to help; this is too broad of an offer. Though it is very kind, most likely the person you offered help to will feel too embarrassed to think of a specific thing. Instead, offer specific help, such as a house cleaning or dropping off dinner on an assigned night. Not only is this assistance incredibly helpful, but you also surpassed the uneasy ice breaker. No one knows what scope of help you are willing to give, nor do they want to feel like they might be asking too much. So, if you truly want your assistance redeemed then don’t give them the option to think and ask… just tell them when and how.
- Let them vent. You don’t have to have any answers or advice, just listen. We are used to small talk and the autopilot response, “I am fine, and you?” Advice is usually not something we are looking for unless we ask. It is likely we are very familiar with our health and have been living with chronic illnesses for some time. We tend to research, educate and advocate for our health. However, if we don’t feel like talking about it then just being present and distracting us from our health is a nice break. But when we do want to open up and vent about our health, just listen.
- We are not lazy. “It must be nice to be in bed all day,” is going to get you the asshole award. Trust me, we would rather have a life or be out at the beach, out with friends or working on a fun project, but instead we are prisoners to our own body. Be mindful that spending the day in bed is not as glorious as it sounds for a chronically ill person… that means it was a rough day.
- “You don’t look sick,” or “you are too young and healthy to be sick,” is something that we hear often and it only shows ignorance and a lack of empathy. Invisible illnesses are not obvious or blatantly apparent and because of this, we are often dismissed by medical professionals or deemed drug seekers. When you say that, it feels like betrayal and a reminder that no one understands. We may post our good day selfies or fun outing but what you don’t see is the 24/7 pain, depression and grieving, the tears, the complications and multiple doctors visits. You see a mask, warrior paint and the fake normal version of ourselves. We just hide it well.
- Gift suggestions: If we are in the hospital or recovering from a surgery, here are many little gift suggestions. After being asked by a friend what to bring to a hospital visit, I came up with some awesome go-to items: face wipes, lip balm, books, magazines, fuzzy blanket, essential oils, snacks, headphones or anything from my Amazon Spoonie List or Wildling Apothecary.
- Patience. We feel guilt and a whirlwind of emotions for having a chronic illnesses and for anyone who is involved. Your patience and support means the world to us, even if we have a hard time showing it. Don’t be afraid to point out our flaws but please try to be understanding and forgiving, as sometimes we don’t realize our suffering is showing in ways that can affect you, like an attitude or resting bitch face. Just tell us it’s okay and help is through instead of getting mad and angry.
- The Spoon Theory. We have a name that we call ourselves: spoonies. There is a spoon theory. In a nut shell, we have about twelve spoons per day. Each spoon represents our energy. Taking a shower might cost 2 spoons and cleaning our bathroom is about 5 spoons. Running errands and a doctors appointment takes about 5 more spoons. Then we are out of spoons that day, meaning we are tapped out and exhausted. Sometimes we even have to borrow spoons from the following day, leaving us bed bound. Many of us are trying to stretch our spoons out through the day, so when we cancel last minute, try not to get upset. Chances are we are pretty bummed about it but ran out of spoons. We still love being invited though!
Thank you for caring enough to read this.