I won’t lie – September was a rough month for me. It seems that in my efforts to support others in preparation for a busy fall, I neglected to take my own advice. I pushed myself. I ignored the signs my body was sending me. I crashed.
In addition to the usual back to school busyness, I experienced a flare up of what I’ve learned is likely a chronic health condition. While struggling to manage my physical symptoms, I noticed the mounting toll that my ill-health was taking on my mind and spirit. While recovering at home I navigated a range of emotions including grief, guilt, anger, frustration and loneliness.
Personally, I think feeling isolated was the worst part. Conversely, I attribute much of my ongoing recovery to the social support provided to me by family, friends and colleagues.
While illness is no one’s fault, it can be difficult not to blame ourselves or our circumstances. In an effort to guide our attention and energy away from blame, and towards healing instead, I’m sharing some helpful tips: both for those experiencing similar situations – or for those wanting to support others.
What you can do for yourself
- Accept your current limitations – they are temporary: Dwelling on things that we cannot change distracts us from noticing our progress or adaptations.
- Reach out: People genuinely want to support you and while you may want to avoid being a “burden” to others, there are positive health benefits for both you and the helper.
- Advocate for yourself within the healthcare system: You are the only one who can speak to your individual experience. If you’re not feeling heard, ask again or ask until someone listens.
What you can do for others
- Offer what you have to give: Reaching out does not have to take a lot of time or cost money. Here are some ways people reached out to me: offers to visit or cook, surprise smoothie deliveries, a kind or encouraging text message, and supportive emails from my manager.
- Curiosity builds empathy: It can be difficult to understand what others are going through if we have never had a similar experience. Be curious and ask questions to learn more, or consider connecting with a health agency or non-profit organization to learn more about a condition.
- Opt for listening over fixing: We often hesitate to reach out to others, fearful of not knowing what to do or say. It is not our job to solve the challenges of others. Instead, provide space for someone to share their feelings and experiences.
We need the support of others in order to survive and to thrive. While life can feel isolating at times, it is important to remember the ways in which we can help ourselves and others.
This month, I wish you the best of luck in your ongoing journeys of wellbeing and I express my sincere admiration and respect for those with health challenges who manage to thrive through life each day.
All my best,
Photo credit: UBC Thrive and UBC Student Communications