The Importance of Having Friends Who Understand Your Disease

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by Kat Rees |

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In the midst of my disease, I felt very alone.

Invisible diseases like Cushing’s tend to make life harder, because one shows no outward signs of an illness. Those who haven’t been through something similar may have a hard time relating to the hardships. Therefore, I believe being friends with other chronically ill or disabled people is very important. While it is not good to dwell on negative thoughts and allow them to consume your life, having someone who understands can be very uplifting.

Many of the comments I received from my non-chronically ill friends prior to treatment made me feel very isolated. If I complained about my weight gain, which I felt I had no control over, people would give me advice on how to eat a healthier diet or how to eat less. They never understood how frustrated and concerned I was. They thought I was just being lazy in my eating habits. Someone going through the same thing as me would have understood that this was out of my hands.

I also had a hard time concentrating in school, which I didn’t realize was the result of a common Cushing’s symptom called brain fog. My friends at school often tried to compare their normal school stress to my condition, which involves elevated cortisol levels. It felt bad, as if my symptoms weren’t relevant. It seemed as if nobody understood how I was being worn down by Cushing’s, and that was truly isolating.

Kat, before and after Cushing’s treatment. (Courtesy of Kat Rees)

I didn’t find other “Cushies” or friends with other chronic illnesses and disabilities until after I received my diagnosis and was recovering from surgery. The minute I started talking to these new friends, I finally felt like I wasn’t crazy, and that what I was feeling and had gone through was real.

At that point, I started to build a little community of people that I felt comfortable confiding in. It was a blessing to feel understood during this difficult time in my life.

While all of these friends were online, I found that not only did the relationships benefit me, but also they allowed me to help others who came to me with questions about recovery. It made me feel good to give others a little bit of insight and hope that their condition could improve.

It was even helpful and eye-opening to make friends with other chronic illnesses or disabilities. Hearing their stories helped me challenge my own thought processes and coping mechanisms.

While I will always love my non-chronically ill friends, there are just some things that they will not understand or relate to like my Cushie friends. That is OK! There is so much more to life than this illness, and it’s important to include all types of friends with different abilities, interests, pasts, and challenges to enrich your life. In the meantime, maybe you can educate them about chronic illness and enrich their lives in return.

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