As I learn how to navigate this new pathway of living with disease, I am realizing that some folks naturally seem to know how to step up and be a friend in this difficult situation, while others mean well but struggle to know how best to help, how best to be supportive. So here is my list of how to be a good friend to someone dealing with disabilities or disease.
- LOVE - While disability may impact who we are, we are not defined by that disability. We are people, just the same as someone with a crooked smile or flyaway hair. See us for who we are, love us for our hearts and inner selves. There is much to love about us, from our quirks to our kindnesses, from our hobbies to our pet peeves. Yes, this still involves our challenges, but who doesn't have challenges? When it comes right down to it, just love and care about us the way you do all your friends!
- LEARN - It means a lot to us when our friends take the time to read up about our disabilities or illnesses. Educating yourself about our conditions has many benefits! You are likely to better understand why we do (or don't do) whatever it is we've been doing. It might help you know ways to offer assistance, or just allow you to talk with us about what's going on with our health. If you have a question about our condition, ask us! The gesture of learning about what ails us is touching and shows us how much you love us!
- LISTEN - Sometimes we just want to talk about our troubles. These may or may not involve our medical problems, but if they do, just listen! It can be hard to find someone to discuss things with when your health is dicey. Pity and dismay isn't really the kind of reaction we are seeking. Neither is it helpful to be assured it must be nothing when it's something that's important to us. Mostly, we just want a friend that will listen, give us their attention and understanding, who will make no more of what we say than we do. Sharing our struggles isn't a plea for being coddled, honest! Our feelings need to come out, and having a safe person to confide in can mean the world.
- LIVE - What do you like to do? Likely we like to do that too. How do you live your life? We do the same things. These are opportunities to connect, to spend time together, to offer the company of a friend. Sure, we might regretfully decline an invitation, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't invite us the next time. Or the time after that. Even small things are worth doing together, as friends should. Movie night on a couch can be just as fun and fulfilling as movie night at the theater, maybe more so! Spending time in the kitchen, laughing and talking, is absolutely invaluable. Live your lives with us, include us even if you aren't sure what we'll say yes to. It will mean so much to us that you have included us.
Perhaps it takes a little more effort to be friends with someone struggling with a health issue. Or maybe once you begin, you find it is easier than you thought. There really isn't a secret formula, except to just be a friend. We will do the same for you! When all else fails, let's talk! Let's plan! Ask us how to help, how to do things together, and I bet any of us will be happy to share our thoughts and ideas. Friends are jewels in life that are to be treasured, especially in times of trouble. So let's be friends!