So of course rumors began to circle and my life changed in an instant. One rumor I heard someone spread was that I was allergic to the sun and that’s why I didn’t participate in gym and didn’t go outside for recess. After my diagnosis I told a few close friends about what was going on. Back then I wished there was an easy way to make everyone understand, but there wasn’t so I did my best.
Here are a few tips for navigating this conversation with your friends!
- Share with whoever you’re comfortable talking with talking about it with. Start with your few closest friends. You don’t need to plan out when you’re going to do it just be sure it’s a time you have their full attention!
- Practice an easy way to explain it. It can be really simple! “I have disease XYZ, I experience XYZ symptoms.” They may not understand what these symptoms mean so give them some examples! If a symptom you experience is fatigue explain to them that sometimes you might not be able to stay out as late as the rest of the friend group.
- The more you tell your story the easier it gets! The first few times it will be a little awkward, but people will surprise you. If they’re a good friend they will most likely have some really sincere questions. Other friends may just accept it and move on and not have much else to say. Everyone processes information differently.
- Don’t just tell them your story. There are so many easy facts about arthritis that show how common this is. Like how 300,000 kids and over 54 million adults in the US are affected by arthritis. Giving them some background will help them understand this is a global problem even if they’ve never heard of it before.
- Do you have a friend you’re worried about telling? That’s totally okay! Save them for the end, until you’ve gotten comfortable enough sharing your story. Just know it will probably be best to tell them in the end, because if not they will probably hear it from someone else.
- Focus on the positive. Let them know you are being treated for this disease and although there is no cure there are ways to manage the symptoms to make your everyday life as normal as possible.
Sharing your story with friends can be quite a daunting task, but expect the outcome to be beneficial! Now that your friends know about what’s going on in your life you can open up to them more freely, they can serve as an advocate towards others in and outside of school, and they might even offer assistance if you are struggling or in pain.
Since sharing my story my friends have been so supportive! This year a few of them even joined me at the Jingle Bell Run. I am so grateful for all of their love, support, and understanding.