The Importance of Online Friends
Arthritis has given me lots of things over the years: joint damage, fatigue, and headaches over planning for the future. But not everything has been bad. Psoriatic arthritis has brought so many wonderful, supportive people into my life.
The internet is an amazing thing. In less than twenty years, people with chronic pain have gone from being isolated to having hundreds of support groups to join with thousands (if not millions) of members. Communities like this one, Facebook groups, and other online message boards provide comfort, inspiration, and understanding in ways many of us wouldn't get in person.
"Real life" people
It's not to say my friends, family, and even co-workers aren't supportive. I have a wonderful support team, and they help me so much day to day. But the reality is, those online friends are just as important to me as my friends in person. They support me in a way that only other people with chronic pain can understand.
Empathy and encouragement
My online friends give me the comfort of hearing, "I feel that way too" or "I've been through this before." Whenever I have a question, I don't hesitate to ask because they're truthful and encouraging. And even though the answers sometimes aren't pleasant, it's relieving to know you're not going through it alone. It helps to take a little bit of the weight of the world off your shoulders.
And my online support doesn't have expectations of me, aside from understanding and being kind. They don't expect me to make and keep plans, and I don't let them down when I can't make it. They know that radio silence doesn't mean I'm mad at them or that I'm actively ignoring them. When I'm quiet, they know I'm not doing well and respect my space during those times, and welcome me back with open arms when I'm ready. That's a rare but precious kind of support that we all need.
For me, it's really special
When you don't have the typical disease onset, meeting others online really helps bridge the gaps. Because many people are diagnosed in their 30's or after and have current skin psoriasis, many online resources cater to that group. Unfortunately, it can mean that those diagnosed as children or who do not have psoriasis (I am in both boats) may feel left out.
But through groups, I have been able to connect with the rare few who have a similar onset. We're able to give each other advice and insight for our personal, unique experiences. Not only has it helped me feel supported and understood, but even positive about the future.
My support team
Sometimes, I'm a little hesitant to mention my online support to others. To some friends and family, it sounds a little funny. And I totally get that! It is kind of nerdy. Plus, it may seem impossible to feel so closely connected to people online. But some of my closest friendships were forged online. Of course, my in-person friends are very important to me. And I'm thankful for all the people in my life who get it. But every member of my support team is important, whether they're in-person or online.
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