On the eve of this yearís International Awareness Day for CIND (Chronic Immunological and Neurological Diseases), I find myself bracing for the onslaught of copy-and-share posts that flood social media, supposedly designed to raise awareness for various Chronic Illnesses (CI).
I know Iím not the first person (or the last) to get a little snarky about how unproductive this type of Ďsupportí is, but rather than get bogged down in an even lesser productive whinge-fest, Iím going to summons the energy to put on my big-girl pants and suggest we focus our attention elsewhere. Namely, what we can actually do to support those with chronic illness.
As a Fibromyalgia sufferer of more than 25 years , I happen to know a lot of chronic illness sufferers. Like dark matter, we tend to attract each other and circle inwards. We recognise that CI is indiscriminate, and people from all backgrounds and walks of life are affected. This means that practical ways to help vary greatly from person to person, depending on their situation.
So, what can you do to efficaciously support a chronic illness sufferer this week? (Oh, and please do not feel limited to helping just this week). By all means share the images of coloured ribbons and posts, but this year Iím going to challenge you to do it with a difference.
Here it is.I challenge you to re-post any chronic illness awareness images or messages on your social media feeds with a clearly defined commitment to helping somebody you know with chronic illness.
Not so eager to click share now, are you?
Yet herein lies the rub. One of the reasons why so many CI sufferers feel isolated and unaided is because tangible support requires time, effort and sometimes money. Itís not often that people are willing to make that sort of sacrifice, and believe meówe get it. We know itís a big ask, and it only adds to our carefully monitored guilt-tally that we rely on the sacrifices of others to make it through the day.
The only way to make that guilt-tally go down is if we donít have to ask for help; if the people around us knew enough about our challenges that needs were met without having to raise our hands (which quite frankly, we donít have the energy for anyway).
From now on when you share and post about Chronic Illness, try adding the following words along with a commitment to help (see suggestions below). Make a real difference this year, and hold yourself accountable.
Go on, I dare you.
Today I am taking on the Ultimate Chronic Illness Awareness Challenge #ultimateciachallenge because I know somebody with a Chronic Illness. Every day is a struggle for them to live a normal life and I want to help. So this week, I commit myself toÖ
Visiting with them and listening to how they are going.
Organise an outing with them that they feel up to.
Completing odd jobs around the house or yard that need doing.
Doing some gardening at their home.
Going to the shops for a grocery run.
Cooking a diet-and-freezer-friendly meal and delivering it to their door (check what they can eat first!)
Organise a time to go and do some housework. Do a load of washing, folding and ironing for the week.
Offer to take the kids out so they can rest.
Pay for a house-cleaner to come and do a deep clean.
Pay a bill or give them a cheque.
Organise a gift voucher from the massage therapy place they like.
Organise a gift voucher from the hairdresser they like.
Read up on their condition and symptoms so I can have a better understanding of what they are going through.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. The best thing you can do for a CI sufferer is ask them what they need and make it happen. Equally, put on your best listening hat take your cues from what they are telling you. For example, if they have mentioned being housebound all week, chances are they havenít made it to the shops.