By Melissa Swanson
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People who suffer from chronic illnesses like fibromyalgia are just like everyone else. We want and need friendships that offer someone who will listen, support us, and help us to feel – and be – better.
However, living with a chronic illness makes it difficult to maintain friendships, and no matter how tough we think we are, we can't do it alone. And we really don’t want to.
I understand how difficult it must be as a friend of someone living with fibromyalgia. I seldom make plans in advance because I don’t know how I will feel on any given day. I am that friend who cancels at the last minute – even when I really want to enjoy the time together. I often feel the need to explain why I can't do something that I really want to do, and that can be exhausting as well.
Facebook and other means of online friendship that can be enjoyed from the comfort of home are a true blessing. Indeed, online was the first place I met others who truly understand or "get" what it is to live my life. It was through Facebook that I met some of the most important people in my life. We celebrate each other’s successes and are there to support one other through the dark days.
In addition, I belong to an "in-person" support group, which offers a different experience compared to my online friendships. In the support group, we actually see how others are feeling, how slow they may be walking, the fatigue and pain in their eyes, and tears of joy being with others who understand.
I have been trying to connect with others outside of Facebook and the support group because I know that meeting fellow fibromites helps me not to feel so alone in my illness. I recently spent the weekend with a group of ladies who totally "get" what it’s like to live my life. Before the weekend, I knew only two of the ladies, but that didn't matter. What mattered was being around others who not only understood, but could also empathize.
Our friendship began with us already having a lot in common. During the weekend, we did as much – and as little – as we each wanted. The freedom was exhilarating! It was wonderful to be around others without having to pretend or explain. It was okay when we changed into our pajamas at 5:30 p.m. on the first night. It was perfectly acceptable when I lay down for an afternoon nap. We enjoyed the warmth of the water park, the time in the water and the really good tropical drinks. We may have looked perfectly healthy, but our "day" at the water park consisted of about two hours. Those two hours were enough. We each felt comfortable acknowledging our personal limits and no shame in admitting them. We enjoyed great food and wonderful conversation and developed new fibro friendships. It was truly a Fabulous Fibro Weekend.
I encourage you to join an in-person support group or an online forum that meets your needs and to get to know other Fibro Warriors ~ Living Life. I know I just made some new lifetime friends.
Melissa Swanson is a chronic pain patient, advocate, and author of Ravyn’s Doll: How to Explain Fibromyalgia to Your Child. Through her Facebook page, she offers positive encouragement, medical information, resources, and support to 16,000+ fibromyalgia and chronic pain patients. In addition to her own blog, Melissa has been published in "Living Well with Fibromyalgia" and the NFMCPA "Advocate Voice." She's a graduate of the 2014 Class of Leaders Against Pain Scholarship Training sponsored by the National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association and a member of the Leaders Against Pain Action Network.
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