My Arthritis Friend: The Power of Support
They say that high school is a time when you make friendships that last a lifetime. While I only graduated high school a few years ago and can’t prove that’s true yet, I do honestly believe it: somehow, if you can make it through four years of being pimply, moody teenagers together, I think your friendship can make it through most of life’s trials. And I think that goes double when said high school students are dealing with chronic illnesses that occur most commonly in adults twice their ages.
Our instant friendship
Reagan and I met in our sophomore year of high school and instantly clicked. We texted each other constantly about the daily struggles of SAT prep, piano lessons, and physics homework. As the years have passed, our conversations have evolved to dorm room decorating ideas, excitement over reaching the legal drinking age, and talks of graduate school. Yet, our friendship isn’t quite typical.
I’ve never actually met Reagan in person because we live over 1,000 miles apart from each other; we met through our mutual juvenile arthritis diagnoses. Shortly after her arthritis diagnosis, Reagan found my blogThe Girl with Arthritis and sent me an email; the rest was history. When I was first diagnosed, I think the worst pain was the pain of loneliness, but Reagan really helped change that; finally, I had someone else who understood what it was like to function day to day in pain at age 16. Unlike everyone else, she understood the awkwardness of being so young and walking like an old lady, breaking out horribly due to hormones and prednisone, and hating the summer because shorts showed our puffy, inflamed knees to the entire world.
Someone who's going through the same thing
Since I was young, I was always told the importance of being friends with a diverse group of people. And while I do think that’s important, I also feel it’s very important for people who are chronically ill to have friends (or at least communicate) with people who are going through the same thing. Everyone wants to be truly listened to and completely understood, and while family and friends may be extremely supportive and try to sympathize, they likely have never felt the pain of being unable to tie your own shoes because your fingers can’t move or being unable to sleep because even a light sheet causes pain.
The one thing I always recommend to people newly diagnosed with PsA is to find support groups. For teenagers and adults, this can often come in the form of online support groups. I’m part of a few on Facebook, and even though I don’t always actively participate, it helps tremendously and I’ve grown close to a few people. A simple Facebook search can often find groups for those with psoriatic arthritis, multiple chronic illnesses, parents of children with arthritis, and even young adult groups (though, as the years go on, we’re not quite that young anymore!). The Arthritis Foundation offers wonderful opportunities for children to come together and meet, such as through the annual conference and other planned events held locally. There are even a few summer camps that are available! At the end of the day, everyone wants to be understood and supported in their experiences, and those of us with arthritis are no exception. In my opinion, an understanding friend is the best medicine.
How do you plan to recognize PsA Awareness Month?