What Do You Think of Your Support System?
Anyone who deals with a serious illness should have a healthy Support System in place. I will start with a short anecdote to illustrate the difference between people that love you, and that you love in return, and a HEALTHY SUPPORT SYSTEM. One day I was telling my therapist what a great support system I had. I had a wonderful family, three true friends and my lovely children. When my therapist asked how they supported me with my illness, I was left a little stymied…well…they love me. Isn’t that enough? My therapist asked if they asked about my illness and if they did anything to directly support me with that illness. I thought about it and responded that they were always there for me when I needed a comfortable place to go. She asked again, ‘Do they make an effort to understand your illness and provide specific support for that illness?’. I honestly got angry, I felt offended, like she had insulted my family and friends. I left her office and started thinking about it. No…they didn’t ask about my illness. No…they did not read the information that I asked them to regarding what I was going through. No…they did not ask if they could help with my struggle in any way. I was not ignored, but my illness was. Of course, I should say, my little diatribe here does not apply to my kids…they’re 12 for gosh sake :). My point is, that just because you may have people around you who love you for everything you are, does not make them a good support system; and you need one. It is just as important as the diet and exercise and everything else we work with to help manage our pain. So what do we do to develop a healthy Support System?
Qualities of your support team
I suppose the first thing we need to do is to define what a healthy Support System looks like. An obvious choice for your Support Team is someone who you like and trust and feels the same way about you; but there has to be more. What about listening? Do these nice folks listen to you? Are they willing to listen to you and respond compassionately if you should want to talk about struggles with your illness? If no, then you can, of course, be friends…but unfortunately they have failed the interview to be a part of your Support Team. Another important trait in a good Support Team member is the ability to assist you in making decisions regarding your treatment and the choices you make regarding your wellness. This will require that the Support Team member either already know a little (or a lot) about your illness or that they are willing to learn.
I think when most of us think of Support System we think of family and friends immediately. Some family and friends can be the BEST members of your support system should they be able to listen without judgement, educate themselves and be committed to your recovery. Sometimes, family and friends on their own just won’t cut it. Doctors, therapists, nutritionists, community groups, religious organizations and many other individuals and groups, can be fantastic members of the Support Team. Just make sure you have at least one or two people that truly want to support you while you deal with what can be, at times, an extraordinarily difficult thing.
Do you have a good understanding of what triggers your flares?