Living with an invisible chronic condition — like arthritis, diabetes, or COPD — brings daily challenges. Sometimes, the person experiencing them can handle it. But other times, especially as a condition progresses, they need all the help they can get.
We asked members of our communities: What’s the best way your loved ones can support you when your chronic condition gets more challenging?
“This is simple. Allow me to stop pretending for a minute and let me cry. That makes a world of difference... reenergizes the soul!” — Cindy C., living with MS
“Dealing with my attitude. Pain causes anger and just general unhappiness. So when a loved one just rolls with the punches and actually understands it's the anger talking, it's helpful. Granted it’s unfair for them though.” — Crystal M., living with RA
“Don't always wait until I ask for help to offer it. If I'm asking, the pain has exceeded a ten scale. Continue to love me unconditionally and know that I would change this if I could.” — Jessica K., living with OA
“Understand that my decisions are not to hurt or anger them but to care for myself. Decisions about drinking alcohol, being in the sun, eating or not eating food, going places, are about me — not them or how I feel for them.” — Sherrill H., living with diabetes
“Fatigue is my worst symptom. It comes and goes. I have a four-year-old son with mild ASD. He doesn't understand yet that I have MS and why sometimes mama needs a nap, but he has been such an amazingly good boy when I do. He lays by me the whole time, not disturbing me, playing with his toys or watching an educational kid’s app on my phone so I can rest awhile. He is so sweet and supportive of me! I hope that continues as he gets older.” — Teri R., living with MS
“Asking for help to do everything is hard for me. Supporting me by helping me and listening, but also just being with me though the anxiety.” — Kathy A., living with COPD
“There are times when understanding is enough, other times gentle hugs are enough, but when RA pulls you so far down that anger sets in, both are needed to get through the day.” — Jennifer M., living with RA
“My biggest issue is cognitive thinking. If I can't think of the words, don't just assume I don't want to talk. I simply can't. Many times, my family gets mad at me, saying I just don't want to try to talk, or it is all my fault, [or] they would help if they knew what I needed. But half the time I just can't find the words. It's frustrating to me as well, probably more so than to you.” — Tammy D., living with MS
“Taking the initiative to do things that I used to do without looking for complete adoration for doing it. If I could do it myself I would.” — Dotty H., living with COPD
“I'm lucky to have endless support from both family and friends. When I need more time to recoup, my husband never needs an explanation as to why I've done ‘nothing’ all day. He understands that I'm sick and steps in to help as much as he can. My seven-year-old son helps out with things he knows that I find difficult on bad days. And when he can't help, he just offers hugs. My friends have continuously stepped in to offer help and support with household tasks and work. I think the best way that loved ones can support RA sufferers is to just offer their help unconditionally and compassionately, no matter how minute or how complex. Just offering to lend a hand can be a big sigh of relief.” — Lauren M., living with RA
“Don't ask, just do! Words do not need to be said, it is seen by the eyes when I am struggling... just pick up where I left off! Help is the greatest gift I can get.” — Tracy J., living with MS
“Just listen when we need to vent... ask if we need anything. Just be there emotionally, spiritually, and mentally.” — Vanessa R., living with RA
“Let you nap in peace.” — Traci M., living with hypothyroidism
“Never, ever say stop scratching. We can't help it sometimes and scratching is a huge relief.” — Diane E., living with eczema
“The best thing they can do is remember I have MS. My symptoms are usually mild, it's easy for them and me to forget! I need encouragement to slow down.” — Heather A., living with MS
Do you live with a chronic condition or know someone who does? Our Facebook communities for people living with MS, RA, OA, hypothyroidism, eczema, COPD, and diabetes are great places to find support and advice from your peers.