By Annaben Kazemi
There’s a hidden reality for people living with chronic illness. Having a chronic illness is often isolating. First, there’s the overwhelming feeling that others just don’t understand. “You don’t look sick,” they often say, or they act miffed when we miss another social engagement because we are too tired or not feeling well. The last-minute cancellations and the illness others can’t see - this is the isolation that can lead to feeling overwhelmed and alone.
I have found that having a support system enables me to get through the toughest times. Recent studies show that creating intimate social ties, seen as an integral part of daily life, generates a host of psychological and civic benefits. Not only does a support system give me support, but I’m giving support as well. Sharing what I’ve learned along the journey and helping someone else gives me satisfaction and helps me to know I’m a part of a bigger community.
An abundance of research has emerged in the past few years about the health benefits of friendships. Having a close-knit community helps people fight depression and illness, slows aging, promotes mental health and even leads to a longer life. That’s why it’s so important for people with chronic illness to have a community to turn to. It’s important for us to find a community that “gets it” and is dealing with the same issues - a community where other people are discussing matters that are personally important and relevant to us.
Because the immune globulin (IG) community is small and spread out, and the diseases themselves are mostly rare, it can be difficult to find a community in our hometowns. That’s why online communities have become the biggest support network for us. These communities enable patients and caregivers alike to reach out to one another. They let us know we are not alone; someone else has been or is going through this too. They empower us by giving us knowledge and understanding. We can give and get advice from others who are “living it.” We become friends across the country with people whom we’ve never met, but they know us better than anyone in town.
We all need to feel connected with others. While there is a plethora of online support, IG Living also offers that opportunity through its Facebook page, blog conversations and a new teen chat group. So what you are you waiting for? Let’s get connected!