If you’re suffering from a chronic illness, you know how lonely the experience can be. Between lack of motivation and difficult symptoms, you may find yourself slipping away from certain relationships and leaning into others after a diagnosis. Forming a reliable peer support system is a vital part of mental health in the long run. The type of support you receive will depend on your individual circumstances and your specific needs and limitations.
Unsurprisingly, family members are often a major component of a support system. They know you well and have seen the entire arc of your life up until this point. That can often include life events that may be difficult to overcome and a full view of your current limitations. While parents often fill the role of caregiver, siblings are much more relevant sources of peer support. They’re more familiar with the life phase you’re going through, and they’re much more ready to still treat you like a competent adult when you need it. As much as a mother’s love is unequivocal, a sister will often be better at remembering that they’re not there to parent you.
While it would be lovely to have friendships flow naturally into a support system, that simply won’t always be the case. Younger peers might not be emotionally prepared to offer what you need once you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic illness. Friends with young children also often struggle to make the time to nurture relationships like they once did. That’s where support groups can come in. Finding peers who have the same struggles that you do can be an important part of moving forward with your diagnosis. They can offer useful tips and advice as well as a friendly ear or a shoulder to lean on when you need it.
Perhaps the most intimate and important support we can receive comes from our romantic partners. These are the people who have committed to forging a life with you, and they’re ideally going to be your biggest cheerleader and best confidante. They can even help you craft a new way forward with your chronic illness.