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Guest blog: 5 tips for supporting a friend with a chronic illness

In her latest guest blog, Joanna Livermore shares her top 5 tips for supporting a friend with a chronic illness...Photo of Joanna Livermore

Adjusting to being diagnosed with an invisible illness can be really tough. I have bad days, but with the help of amazing family and friends it’s a whole lot easier. If you know someone with an invisible illness, you can help. The problem is, sometimes it’s difficult to know what to say or do. So here are my top tips!

1. Ask

If someone confides in you that they have a condition, they’re giving you a licence to talk about it. Thank them for being open and then ask them how it affects them. It means a lot when someone asks questions to understand the condition more, rather than just trying to avoid the subject. Find out from them what they need from you to help them day to day. Chances are they don’t want to be treated any differently, but there might be something that you can do to make their day easier.

2. Check in!

I go totally off grid when I’m struggling to cope with my condition. I become withdrawn and you won’t hear from me for days. At some point, someone will notice that this is a bit out of character for me and check in. I’ll admit that I’ve not been ok and they’ll tell me that they are always there for me if I need to have a moan or sound off. Thing is, when you’re in that space, it doesn’t always occur to you to do that. Make sure you drop your friend a regular text to let them know you’re thinking of them.

3. Cut some slack

It’s typical that someone with a chronic condition suffers with some degree of fatigue. That means that even the best laid plans can go wrong if they’re just too tired to function. Be forgiving if they’ve cancelled that night out for the third time in a row.

4. Don’t assume

Every day with a chronic condition is different. Some days you can take on the world and on others you can’t get out of bed. Avoid making assumptions about what your friend or family member can do. Don’t stop letting them make their own choices and keep on inviting them to social occasions. Sometimes they will accept and other times they might politely decline. But they will always be grateful that you have let them make their own choices.

5. You don’t have to find a solution

With all the best intention in the world, we want to solve people’s problems. But if the top doctors can’t find a cure for the condition, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to provide a solution yourself. If they want you to give a solution, they’ll ask for your opinion.

Ultimately, the best thing you can do is make sure that person feels loved and cared for. They need to still feel like a person, and sometimes the best way of doing that is by doing absolutely nothing differently. Nobody with a chronic condition will manage day to day in the same way. The only way to find out, is to ask.

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