Talk about great girlfriend advice! Girlfriend Cherie Burbach shows us the “how to’s” to being a friend with someone with a chronic illness.
She looks fine. She smiles. She seems happy. But inside, she is suffering.
Maybe she has diabetes, fibromyalgia, asthma, arthritis, depression, or any one of the diseases you may not even know your girlfriend has because there aren’t outward signs. How can you support her if you really don’t know what she’s dealing with?
For people with no health problems at all, it’s hard to understand when someone is sick. I can tell you that as a Type 1 diabetic, there are numerous times that people make assumptions about my disease. Our girlfriends have the power to make our struggles with chronic diseases easier. They have the power to understand and give us a safe place to talk about what we go through on an average day. On the other hand, when a friend doesn’t understand, it adds to the emotional burden that having a chronic disease can bring.
If your friend has a chronic health problem, here are some ways you can help her.
So often we “think” we know about a disease because of bits and pieces we’ve heard here and there. At one place I worked, I had a woman in the office who claimed that someone in her family had diabetes and therefore she “knew” that I couldn’t have fruit. (She was wrong, of course. Diabetics can and should eat fruit and a healthy diet just like everyone else.) Her ignorance didn’t stop her from shouting through the office one day as I ate lunch, “I’m going to tell! You’re not supposed to have fruit!” (I wonder who she was going to “tell”?)
The point is, you need to get informed about your friend’s disease if you are truly going to understand what she deals with. Ask her to help explain it to you, and see if she can give you some information. Some things to ask:
- Tell me what you’re dealing with.
- How can I help?
- How has it changed your life?
- What’s the biggest thing you wish people knew about this disease?
Give Her a Safe Place to Talk About Her Struggles
In my experience, people who have never experienced disease feel it’s because they take better care of themselves. In my case, I got Type 1 diabetes when I was in my early 20s and worked out several hours a day. I’d never been healthier in my life. The lesson? Never make an assumption about your friend’s health. Instead, offer your friendship as the safe place where she can talk about some of the things she deals with without being judged. Be the one person in her life who truly understands.
Cherie Burbach is an author, blogger, poet, crocheter, and geek. She is the About.com Guide to Friendship and has penned ten books and e-books, including Internet Dating Is Not Like Ordering a Pizza and 21 Simple Things You Can Do to Help Someone With Diabetes. She has published over 500 articles on the subjects of health, sports, and lifestyle. For more info, visit her website.
Do you or a friend have an illness? How has it impacted your friendship? Tell us below!
And, by the way, we LOVE guest blogs here at Girlfriendology. Have a great girlfriend story to tell? Want to celebrate your fabulous female friends? SHARE! (And, we also have Girlfriend Gurus – check that out to be featured on Girlfriendology!)
Note: It’s September – International Women’s Friendship Month and we’re celebrating all month long! From this interview and guest blog by Miss America, to a month of women’s wisdom and 30 guest blogs, to our Newsletter Sign-up Contest and Facebook fun, and more! Don’t miss out on any of it! SIGN UP for our Newsletter and ‘Like’ us on Facebook to stay up to date with all the fun friendship festivities and more!
Our September Friendship Month Guest Blogs so far …
- Sept 1 – MISS AMERICA, Teresa Scanlan – The Importance of Friendship
- Sept 2 – Shasta Nelson, GirlfriendCircles – Friendship in Stages – Advice for more Meaningful Friendships
- Sept 3 - Kimberly Anderson, Kim’s Closet TV – Giving back to your community with a Friend
- Sept 4 – Lynn Gasior, Cabin Chicks – Girlfriend Memories and Traditions
- Sept 5 – Rachel Awes, Artist – The Art of Girlfriends
- Sept 6 – Flo Schell, Joyful Aging – Heartfelt Advice on Friendships
- Sept 7 – Cherie Burbach, author, About.com editor – How to Understand Your Girlfriend’s Health Problems