By Celeste Cooper
Developing friendships is an ongoing process, one that is strengthened by sharing similar interests. Different qualities make each friendship special and the prospect of having many friends limitless. For instance, maybe we like to sew or do woodworking. Maybe we are car enthusiasts or enjoy perusing antique shops. It’s unlikely we will find someone who enjoys all the things we enjoy, but each of our friends usually shares at least one of those things, even if it’s just to get together and have tea on the patio and enjoy what nature has to offer us. But there is something unique to fibro friendships that otherwise healthy people don’t have: we share the same illness.
If someone asked me what good things come from sharing a chronic invisible illness, it would be that I have many fibro friends. And, while we are connected by fibromyalgia, each friendship is different. The diversity of our friendships allows us to explore and grow together as human beings.
So, during the month of love, let’s explore ten things that sustain our fibro friendships.
We take deliberate action to know each other, how fibro affects us, and a whole lot more.
We support one another by problem solving realistic expectations. Sometimes we are our own worst critic and need to be reminded that few ever get it right the first time.
~Mary Tyler Moore
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We encourage each other to remain positive. It’s easy to be drawn down by the adversities of chronic illness. A friend encourages us to think, speak, and act with positivity, sometimes when we don’t want to be reminded, especially when we don’t want to reminded.
We accept that we may not always see things the same way because of our individuality. This unique aspect of friendship gives us the opportunity to explore options we wouldn’t think about on our own.
For the most part, we don’t focus on what we can’t do. Instead, we encourage each other to find something new that we CAN do. It may not always be something we both enjoy, but that’s okay. That’s the beauty of acceptance and diversity.
We recognize that people who put us down, people who are negative, demanding, or fixed on playing the victim role, need more help that a friend can give.
We explore our world together and don’t talk about fibromyalgia all the time. While sharing fibro trials offers a unique perspective for understanding, we need to explore other things that promote our friendship. Fibro brings us together, but those other things are what keep us together.
We share and promote success for our common interests. For instance, I like to write. Finding other fibro friends who also enjoy writing has helped me learn new things, approaches I hadn’t thought of before. I also know others have learned some things from me, because they have told me so. Sharing common interests, such as writing, walking, advocating, doing graphics, photography, etc. empower us and we share tools that help us do better.
We are available to each other, within reason. Our friend knows they can count on us to listen. And, they are there for us when we need it too.
A healthy friendship encourages us to be our best self. I have been blessed with many such friendships. Not all people will ever know how they have influenced me, but my friends do. We share our triumphs and give thanks for this unique and special relationship.
Friends bring balance, joy, and support into our lives. They are to be cherished and celebrated. So, share with your fibro friends this month. Let them know how much you appreciate them. Lift each other up. Make it your mission to find one thing about your friend you didn’t know before. Maybe plan to meet them face-to-face. It took some effort, but one of my closest online fibro friends is visiting soon. We are both so excited and I can’t think of a better Valentine’s gift than that.
Celeste Cooper, RN, is a frequent contributor to ProHealth. She is an advocate, writer and published author, and a person living with chronic pain. Celeste is lead author of Integrative Therapies for Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Myofascial Pain and Broken Body, Wounded Spirit, and Balancing the See Saw of Chronic Pain (a four book series). She spends her time enjoying her family and the rewards she receives from interacting with nature through her writing and photography. You can learn more about Celeste’s writing, advocacy work, helpful tips, and social network connections at CelesteCooper.com.