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Making new friends as an adult is hard enough, but when you add chronic illness into the mix, it can make things a lot more challenging. It’s hard to make new friends, or maintain relationships when your energy is always low, or you’re unable to get out of the house as much.
Or, if you can get out and about, people don’t understand why you may have to leave early, or sit down every few minutes.
Or even worse, people ask invasive questions about your illness that you don’t want to discuss.
So how on earth do you- A- make new friends, B- meet like-minded people and C- connect with people when you can’t always leave the house?
I know it may sound like it’s impossible to make friends when you’re chronically ill, but honestly, it doesn’t have to be. You may just have to take a different approach.
Here’s 6 ways you can make new friends’ with a chronic illness.
1. FIND YOUR TRIBE
Connecting with people who understand and relate to what you’re going through can be comforting.
So many people living with a chronic condition find it hard to relate to others.
As often, we may be the only ones in our circles living with a chronic illness. Meaning, those around us just can’t relate to or understand what we’re going through, no matter how much they try.
So having someone you can talk to about your illness, experiences and even share tips to help you better manage your illness is nice.
There are quite a few places you can find your tribe, especially now that we are in a digital age;
Patient support groups
Speak with your doctor and ask if there are any support groups (online and in person) for your specific illness.
Not only will you have a place to speak about your chronic illness, but you can also meet and potentially make new friends within those groups.
There are also so many amazing support groups available online. Such as The Mighty, which is an online community for people facing different health challenges.
Their goal is to support and protect all members of their community. It features members’ stories and several communities discussing over 6,000 topics.
You can also interact with different people within the community for help, advice or just to vent.
2. CONNECT ABOUT SOMETHING UNRELATED TO YOUR ILLNESS
As well as finding your tribe in relation to your illness, you can also find those who are like-minded and have the same interests as you.
As much as it’s nice to have someone to talk to about your illness, it’s also healthy to discuss and do things that aren’t related to your condition.
Even if you can’t get out the house as much, you can find people who share the same interests online.
For example, if you’re a Friends fanatic like me, there’s a Friend’s fan club over on Facebook where you can connect with people who also love the show.
The same applies to anything you may be interested in.
Follow fan pages of your favourite sports team, join discussion boards about current affairs or play your favourite games online with other people.
3. GET ON SOCIAL MEDIA
As much as we often demonise social media, it has a good side too.
Until recently joining Instagram, I had no idea that a chronic illness community even existed. Social media is a great way to connect and make new friends.
If you’re not tech savvy, a great way to discover spoonies on social media is by searching hashtags on Instagram or following them on twitter.
Or, if you come across someone you really like or relate to, leave a nice comment under their post, or drop them a friendly DM.
Although the chronic illness community is awesome, be sure to stay safe online.
Don’t share personal details or bank information, and if you choose to meet someone in person, be sure to meet in a public place and let a friend or family member know where you’re going.
4. JOIN A VIRTUAL CLUB
Those of us living with chronic illnesses know how hard it can be getting out of the house, so weekly or monthly clubs may not be as easy to keep up with.
However, In the past few years and with the emergence of COVID, there are a lot more virtual clubs and activities available online, which is a plus for those of us who are chronically ill.
Whether it’s an art, book, film or cooking club, there are so many to choose from, where you’ll also be able to meet people with similar interests.
Such as Carol Morley’s Friday film club over on twitter, where she picks a movie and asks followers to stream it, followed by a discussion about the pick of the week.
Or if you’re a book lover, you can join Reese’s Book club, created by actress Reese Witherspoon. Each month she picks two books with strong female leads, which you can read along with her and 2 million other members via Instagram, the app or by subscribing to the newsletter.
Who knows, you could find your new best friend in the comment section whilst discussing the book of the month?
5. RECONNECT WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY
If you’re an introvert (like me) and the thought of making new friends fills you with panic, how about reconnecting with old friends, or nourishing the relationships you already have?
Reach out to an old friend or family member you haven’t spoken to in a while. Maybe ask them for a coffee or have a quick catch up over the phone.
Or strengthen the relationships you already have. Make a little more of an effort to reach out and stay in touch.
Or perhaps you have an acquaintance that isn’t quite a friend yet. Get in touch and open that line of communication.
You never know they may become your new bestie or part of your friendship group.
6. TRY A GROUP ACTIVITY
Do you love walking? Or do you play an instrument? Join a group in your local area.
If you’re able to get out and about, even if it’s once in a blue moon, get out and do a group activity.
You can do a quick google search for “group activities near me”, where you’ll be able to find so many things taking place in your area.
There are also great sites like Meetup that have so many group activities where you can learn new things, get creative, get outdoors, or meet new people.
Get involved and don’t be shy about starting a conversation.
Mention something about the activity you’re doing and let the conversation flow naturally.
Don’t be disheartened if you don’t make a friend on the spot. Continue to get involved with activities.
Are you ready to make new friends’?
Although this post is about making new friends with a chronic illness, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t.
Don’t take it personally. Put it down to timing.
Friends come and go, and you never know where or when you’ll find a new one, but it will happen.
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