How do you feel when you spend time with friends and family (okay for some maybe just friends)? Do you feel good? Relaxed? Happy? Studies show that the lack of social connections can be as bad for you health as smoking, lack of exercise, or poor nutrition. Don’t you think that’s an incredible study outcome? You can feel better if you have enjoyable social connections.
As I ride the bus, for most it’s a solitary time. I have a stop where I transfer from one bus to the next and I’ve seen this one woman every day; and she’s always reading. I made the comment, “It’s so nice to see people reading”. She proceeded to tell me about her reading habits and those of her children. I saw her this morning and I started a new book and she asked me what I was reading.
Where am I going with this? Well first of all acknowledging the personhood of another is quite validating. When you have a common interest with another it makes the connection stronger and faster. It’s just nice to be able to talk to someone about something your interested in and want to share.
How does this apply to you after being diagnosed with a chronic or life-altering illness? Support groups are a great place to have your experience validated. When I worked in nonprofit organizations with those facing a health challenge; the greatest effort after basic services was about creating community.
When you have a community, or a tribe, you feel like you belong. It doesn’t matter that you don’t want to be part of the illness tribe; it’s not a choice you have so how are you going to reframe it for yourself. Meeting people with similar challenges doesn’t mean that your relationship has to revolve around the illness. It does mean that these people will be a bit more understanding if you have to cancel last-minute due to health. They will know and inquire about how you’re doing when you going for treatment.
Having a network doesn’t mean you have to live in the world of illness. It does mean that picking people who have an understanding for your current life situation is affirming. It means that you don’t have to be along on social, emotional, or spiritual fronts. Try it out and see what happens!