When I was first diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, I had no idea how important my community was going to be for me. Hearing the words – “you have a chronic illness” – is NOT easy to comprehend or incorporate into your daily life. I struggled for a few months and decided to only lean on my family because I knew I could trust them and I was not embarrassed to ask them for help. Over the past two years though, my community has grown substantially which has given me peace and healthy coping skills.
Luckily, I have a super amazing family that would do anything for me if I was not feeling well (and vice versa!). They never pass judgement or get frustrated with my diet and activity restrictions. My family wants the absolute best for me and I never want them to worry as much as they did when I was really sick. I feel as though I am forever in debt to my parents and I am eternally grateful for their support during my lowest times.
I also have a great core group of friends that I know I can always lean on in good times and bad. My friend group did shrink a bit because some chose not to understand my disease, which is okay! I would rather have a small group of good friends, than a large group of friends I cannot rely on. Surrounding yourself with kind and compassionate people is essential. Anybody outside of that is a waste of your time and energy.
When I decided to work on creating an IBD support group in Reno, I knew there were people in my city that could really benefit from it – myself included! Sometimes you just need that extra connection with someone going through the same thing you are to feel validated. My support group has now been running for almost a year and has been a huge success! The connection I have with my support group is unlike anything else. We learn things from each other every meeting and exchange local resources often. I highly recommend searching for a support group in your local area if you suffer from a chronic illness. It can do wonders for your mental health and overall well-being. And if there is no support group, create one!
Recently, I decided to start seeing a therapist and I have no shame for that. My therapist specializes in chronic illness and has helped validate my feelings. I have never been afraid to feel my feelings, but through this experience I have learned so much about myself and my tendencies. I have learned that changing my language and setting aside time for self-care every single day is extremely important. Life has been hard the past few months, but my therapist has helped me navigate it all with my head held high.
My community consists of my family, my friends, my support group, and now my therapist. It feels so good to know that I have all these incredible people in my corner supporting me. I created this community for myself because that connection is an invaluable resource to my well-being. I suggest that you too think about who is a member of your community and how they are helping you live a better life. Never forget to tell those people you love them and thank them for their support. I know I would not be here today without the support of my community!
Who makes up your community? Have you shown them gratitude recently?