I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s true.
Something I’ve learnt to be incredibly important over the last few years is love. You got it, the big ‘L’.
I’m not on about love purely from a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife. I’m talking about love from all channels – family, friends, colleagues. These are the people who are going to help you get through your toughest times.
You might not wish to be as open and honest about your problems as I have been, but in my personal experience I have found that telling people truthfully what is going on in my life has helped me to feel supported, looked after, safe. I truly believe in the saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. It is unfair to expect people to act as an agony aunt to your problems because they probably won’t know what to say without worry of upsetting you, although I have found that a simple listening ear does just the trick. Knowing that you can tell someone your worries and that they will just listen and not judge makes the world of difference.
It isn’t always easy to find these people. These people are carefully selected. Not everybody will be understanding, nor will they want to know. I know that sounds ridiculous but trust me, I’ve learnt the hard way. It would be easy to assume that these people are being rude or dismissive, but it’s important to remember that not everybody understands or knows about chronic illness or mental health.
I remember speaking to a member of staff who once said to me, “I have no idea how you’re what you’re going through, but I will try my best to understand”. They might have thought they weren’t helping, but I appreciated their honesty. It was helpful to know where I stood with that particular person.
I am extremely lucky to have such a supportive group of people around me. I have parents who have been there every step of the way and will go out their way to do anything they can to help. I have friends who have leant me their shoulder to cry on and have met me at random times of the day when I’ve been feeling low. I have the best boyfriend I could ever ask for, who has stood by my side from day 1 and understands me whole heartedly. I couldn’t be more grateful.
Sadly, I have spoken to many people who aren’t as fortunate as me. Chronic illnesses usually come with a bit of a stigma as they are normally ‘invisible’. For example, if I was to walk into the office with a cast on my arm, everyone would immediately know I had broken a bone and would offer their sympathy. With an ‘invisible illness’, it’s easier to plaster a smile on our faces even when we’re feeling awful, as we might not look ill. Each individual is different but, I personally would rather pretend everything is ok than bore people with my ailments and be a permanent misery guts.
My mum is the best mum I could ask for. She’s taken me over to my hospital appointments when James couldn’t, wiped my tears away when I’ve felt lost and spoke with me time and time again to try and put my mind at rest. Everyone suffering with a chronic illness needs a mum like mine – she’s one in a million.
James, my boyfriend, has also been nothing but incredible during my times of trouble. He’s seen me crying in pain, curled up in a ball in agony, tossing and turning all night keeping him awake, in a foul mood because I don’t want to do anything but lie in bed and looking like a zombie after coming round from general anaesthetic. We started dating before any of this started and I genuinely think it has brought us closer. Tough times bring out the best in people and I know I’m a very lucky girl. A lot of men wouldn’t be able to cope with my health and would probably have walked away by now, but James has never failed me. What a babe!
What I’m trying to say is, love makes the world go round. It will make a huge difference to someone who has a chronic or mental illness by listening or trying to understand what they’re saying. A little goes a long way, don’t forget that.