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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

If Your Friend is Ill --- 28 Tips From Invisible Illness Week #iiwk09

DandelionImage via Wikipedia

There is a wealth of information at the Invisible Illness Week website. One gem I have found there is this list of ideas for what you can do to support your friend(s) who live with chronic illness. Originally a list of tips to share on Twitter, I LOVE this list and wanted to put all the tips together into a blog post for my friends and family, some who are chronically ill and some who are not, to read, share and inspire them. I'm adding my own commentary to the tips as well, especially the ones that ring true for me and strike a cord of recognition.

IF A FRIEND IS CHRONICALLY ILL:

Tip 1: Don’t make a person into a project.

Tip 2: Don’t make her feel guilty about things that she cannot do.

I'm more likely to make myself feel guilty when I can't keep up with my healthy friends.

Tip 3: Remember important anniversaries, good and bad. No one else will.

Tip 4: Respect her prayer requests.

Tip 5: Recognize that medications can make one irrational at times.

For me, when they don't work they make me feel physically sick. My most common side-effects are nausea, dizziness and extreme sleepiness, although I have experienced agitation and panic attacks as side-effects too. Not fun!

Tip 6: Never question if your friend is exaggerating her pain level.

Tip 7: Don't visit if you think you are getting sick. Call instead.

I am so paranoid right now about the swine flu that I don't want anyone with even a sniffle, sneeze or cough anywhere near me, at least not until I get that swine flu vaccination. I get sick so easily, it is downright scary!

Tip 8: Remember illness is not just a matter of attitude.

I have a great attitude! After all, I am on a mission to live my best life despite chronic illness. A great attitude helps me cope, but it doesn't cure my chronic illnesses.

Tip 9: When she says she’s TIRED, she’s WIPED OUT.

Let's put it this way: I start every day tired. Unless I rest all day long (not really what I want to do), and tired is where I start, saying I'm tired is a huge misstatement on my part. I am really exhausted, worn out, wiped out, on the verge of collapse or prostrated.
Tip 10: Roses won’t impress her, a dandelion each month will.

I have to be honest and say that I don't quite know what this means. Maybe it is referring to how, when a dandelion goes to seed, it is a tradition to blow on it to make a wish. A wish fulfilled each month would be an awesome gift. Although I wouldn't turn down roses, the symbol of love, either.
Tip 11: Remember, pain makes people more grouchy than they ever wanted to be.

I can be one heck of a grouch when I am in pain. My apologies to everyone who has endured my grouchiness. Maybe next time you could bring it to my attention and suggest I need to take a break and rest.
Tip 12: Make plans in advance but understand she may have to cancel.

Wow, another one that happens way to often. I feel SO bad when I do this that I often think twice (or three or four times) before I make any plans. It is just one of the many realities of living with chronic illness; sometimes my plans don't work out because my chronically ill body can be very uncooperative.
Tip 13: Don’t ask to many questions. Friends don’t want to be science projects.

Tip 14: Don’t talk with his caregiver as if your friend isn’t there.

Tip 15: Understand how hard it is to accept help.

I wish I didn't need so much help (and so do some of the people in my life.) I accept the fact that I can't do all the things I used to be able to do before, but I can do many things if I have someone to help me. Needing to ask for help is just another reality of living with chronic illness.
Tip 16: Don’t assume because he lives with relatives needs are taken care of.

Uh, huh.
Tip 17: Don’t abandon the friendship because there are awkward moments.

Tip 18: Time is more important to her than any amount of money you will spend.

Tip 19: Don’t interrupt.

Tip 20: What she could do yesterday may not be possible today.

This is so true. My current self does not compare well to how I was before chronic illness, and given the ups and downs my chronic illness can take in spite of my best efforts to manage the symptoms, I truly may not be able to do tomorrow what I did today.

A half seeded dandelion clock.Image via Wikipedia

Tip 21: Consider yourself a friend for the journey, not a physician nor savior.

Tip 22: Don't make a big deal out of her using an assistive device, like a cane.

Tip 23: Remember that life is not always like the drug commercials.

Oh, but I wish it were and, as my friend, I am sure you wish the same for me too.
Tip 24: It’s about your presence, not your presents.

Tip 25: Just show up! Phone calls are nice but visiting is better.

But please call first to make sure I am up for your visit. I may have to cancel our plans if I am not doing well. (see tip #12)

Tip 26: Don’t talk about her illness in front of her children.

Tip 27: Help clean her house before out-of-town guests arrive.

Hint, hint: how about just help me clean my house! Please! (see tip #15)

Tip 28: When he cries, just sit with him.

I have cried on the few shoulders of some very good friends and will probably need to do so again. Life with chronic illness can be tough, but my friends help me get through the tough parts and help me enjoy the better parts.
Now that I have found the online program Future Tweet, I am scheduling these tips to tweet on my Twitter account, @SelenaMKI, and post as my Facebook status over the next few days.

Want to tweet in support of Invisible Illness Week too? Click here for the complete list of all the tips, formatted especially to promote Invisible Illness Week (#iiwk09) on Twitter.

This list is compliments of National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week at www.invisbleillness.com. Get involved in Invisible Illness Week this year during the week of September 14-20, 2009, including their 5-day virtual conference online.
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