Developing a chronic illness suddenly often leads to loss of friendships and loneliness, especially if we are no longer able to leave the house as we used to. Social media often becomes our only source of social interaction, however, when we are bombarded with pictures of our friends out living their lives, it can lead us to hit the mute or unfollow button quickly.
Friendships with people that we’ve known for years can fade as our illnesses engulf our lives and we are no longer able to attend parties or catch-up sessions. We may even find that we no longer have things in common with the people we attended school or university with. Often, replying to texts and DM’s can be taxing if cognitive issues are part of the package of out illness.
This is where the online chronic illness community comes in. Many of us discover it by accident when searching a hashtag on Instagram. Connecting with people who have the same illness as us can help us feel less alone, especially if our doctors have made us feel like we are the first person in the world to have this illness. The way that we socialise after developing a chronic illness changes. Most of our interactions will be online if we are bed or housebound most days. Being able to celebrate a good doctor’s appointment or commiserate over a bad one with those who understand is vital to our overall wellbeing.
There are those within the chronic illness community who are working towards tacking this loneliness epidemic. Spoonie Survival Kits is a charity that creates gift bags tailored to the needs of those with a chronic illness. They also provide remote voluntary opportunities for those with a chronic illness. There are also several pen pal matching services such as Spoonie Pen Pals and Chronic Warrior Collective if you like to receive a handwritten letter from another Spoonie.
Just because you can’t go outside very often or attend parties, it doesn’t mean that you can’t make new friends. This Galentine’s day (13th Feb), challenge yourself to make a new Spoonie friend. Drop someone a DM who has the same illness as you (it is a great conversation starter!). If you are new to the chronic illness community, then you can always drop me a DM and I can match you up with someone.