Because we met online in NO way invalidates our friendship.
Please, spare me the speech on how there are “middle aged men posing as teenagers” out there trying to exploit young girls. I’m a big girl now, I can judge and rationalize and determine the difference between a spam account and a farm girl from Nebraska. There are these amazing things called online support groups, they provide a sense of community and give strength by giving validation that you are not alone. If I hid away and only talked to people I physically knew, I would have completely missed out on this entire experience.
By joining a support group or subscribing to a support community’s emails, you are taking up arms against chronic illness and the isolation it often brings. You are stating that you refuse to be alone. Refusing, even when your body has limited and confined you to the bleakness of an exhausting routine, the four walls of a house, or even just a bedroom. These communities give us hope when we have exhausted all methods and options. We simply have to reach out and ask, “What have you done? Has it helped? Who would you recommend?”. We get straightforward answers right from the people who’ve experienced it. Who have felt the same or similar symptoms as you, who have been to the same doctors or specialists as you, who have felt the anger and frustration, the exhaustion that you have.
When you join a support group you often join a family who will support you outside of the group as well. You sometimes even become pen-pals with some of the people in the groups. You learn about them; their aspirations, their daily lives. Maybe they are going to be an animal trainer or already have a charity up and running. Maybe they have a team of siblings; the way they care for them and love them unconditionally a testimony to the love they have for our Savior. And maybe they have a slight chick buying problem, but they name them all and give them cuddles, too. You get to have real, genuine conversations with these people and it doesn’t always have to revolve around health. You become more than friends with these people. It is a bond forged by pain and suffering, yet strengthened by hope and kindness. You know you will be able to lean on them in times of need. And you will be there, standing strong for them to lean on in their times of struggle.
Groups and communities like these are vital. Whether they are condition specific, for a category of illness, or just for people who are chronically ill. Some have even evolved to where it is an interest group, like writing or painting, but condition specific. Being able to connect with people near home and across the world that are similar to you, yet so uniquely different? That’s game changing.