It’s a sad fact that in times of need you find out who your true friends are. Not everyone has the courage, strength and emotional intelligence to deal with difficult situations. Others want to help out, but they simply don’t know what to say or do.
The irony is that you don’t need grand gestures or eloquent speeches to show your love and compassion – they’re found in the tiny, wordless gestures of support and understanding.
When you’re diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness, the dynamics of your relationships inevitably change. Sometimes the person you want to turn to the most, suddenly stops calling you or slowly vanishes from your life when you’re no longer able to do fun things together. But other people might surprise you: the colleague who keeps checking in how you’re doing, the neighbour who offers to do your grocery shopping or drive you to the hospital.
Many articles have been written about the misconceptions and insensitive comments that sick people have to deal with. Although it’s important to address the constant frustrations and loneliness of chronically ill patients, today I want to celebrate all the lovely individuals who do get it – who understand what you’re going through, who stick around through it all, who never let you down. This is a gratitude note to the support squads of “spoonies” everywhere – and my friends and family in particular.
A Love Letter to the Support Squads of Chronically Ill Warriors Everywhere
(And My Friends & Family In Particular)
Thank you for simply being there. For showing up at my door step every day for a chat, for calling me each night with the latest gossip so I feel less left out. Your sweet text or post card reminds me that I’m not alone. Don’t worry about saying something deep and thoughtful. More than anything I long for your presence in my life, in any way that you can. You holding my hand when I’m too tired to talk means more to me than you’ll ever know.
Thank you for trying to understand how I feel and what I’m going through, even if you’ve hardly been sick a day of your life. Sometimes it’s hard to deal with your sincere questions or to find the right words to explain myself, but I love how always make an effort to put yourself in my shoes.
You have a rare talent to know when to make me smile through my tears and when only a hug will do. Only you are allowed to make morbid jokes, because you’ve seen me at my worst and you stayed.
You can tell when I put on a brave face, when really I’m struggling with aching joints or a foggy mind. You see right through my smile when I feel lonely and lost in a sea of people whose biggest problems seem to be related to broken nails, nagging bosses and reality series. Just knowing you’ve noticed and that you do understand makes any pain more bearable.
Thank you for always taking me serious, for never doubting me when doctors can’t find a plausible medical explanation for my symptoms.
Thank you for all the practical ways you’ve helped me out. It’s not always easy to ask for help, but you never make me feel guilty or ashamed for not being capable to do things myself. Simple gestures like carrying my heavy grocery bags or driving me somewhere don’t just make my day a little easier and less painful, but it makes my world a little bigger than the confinements of my home. I’m grateful every time you offer to do boring household chores for me so I can save my precious energy to do something fun together instead – without having to worry if you think I’m just a lazy slob.
Thank you for truly listening, without putting a positive spin on my problems or offering practical solutions. Of course I understand that you just want to be helpful when you instinctively try to make me see things from a brighter perspective or come up with the best ways to overcome my troubles. But trust me, I’ve already gone over a million possible scenarios and solutions in my mind. I don’t mean to come across as a nag, but sometimes I just need to vent my sadness, frustrations and worries. Sharing my most intimate feelings with you helps to clear my mind and fills my heart again with a stubborn spark of hope once my tears dry up. When you acknowledge my struggles, I feel heard and understood – and that’s all I need.
Thank you for coming up with creative solutions for obstacles on my way. When going out for dinner or a movie at night is more than I can handle, you don’t mind having lunch and a day-time date instead. When we’re on holiday and I unexpectedly can’t take one more step, you carry me across Rome, push me up the hills of San Francisco or borrow a shopping cart to get me home safely. Together we can turn painful situations into memorable mini-adventures.
Thank you for giving me hope, strength and a determined mind. Witnessing firsthand how bravely you handle your own illness every day makes me give it my all in life, even when I feel like giving up. Not only do you get why I occasionally need to push way beyond my physical limits to achieve a goal that matters deeply to me, but more than that, you cheer me on. You even get up in the middle of the night to bring me a cup of tea and toast when I need your support the most. Thank you for setting an admirable example and letting your inner strength rub off on me.
Thank you for lifting my spirit, by bringing a huge box of home-taped videos or stack of magazines to keep me entertained during those couch-bound days. I know I can always count on you to buy me satin pajamas and stylish sweats – or even ‘permanently loan’ me your own old outfits – so I feel comfortable and not-too-bad looking even when nobody else is around. Those small pleasures help me get through the hard times.
But most of all, thank you for being my rock. There are no words to express how grateful I am to know for certain that I can always rely on you, no matter what. Inside your hug, I am home.
Whose support during tough times are you thankful for? If you want to express your gratitude, send this love letter to your diehard supporters to let them know how much their help means to you.
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