When Your Friend Opens Up About Health Issues

By Marina Krivonossova on May 13, 2020

(image via pexels.com)

Youth and health seem to be viewed as inarguably connected. Youth is equated with joy, health, and prosperity — so being a young person with chronic or otherwise debilitating health issues often feels like the biggest taboo. This often prompts young adults to avoid opening up about the mental and physical health problems they experience, even though they’re far from alone in their struggle. So, as someone who’s been on both the giving and receiving end of health-related news, I want to share a handful of “do’s” and “don’ts” to keep in mind if you find yourself in a situation where your friend has gathered the courage to open up to you about their health issues.

Don’t throw a pity party. Many people mask their health issues to avoid having their loved ones wallow in pity on their behalf. Being sick doesn’t make your friend any less adventurous, interesting, or fun. It doesn’t devalue their life, nor does it make them any less likely to thrive. So, rather than telling them you’re sorry and that you feel bad for them…

Do be supportive. Let them know that you appreciate them telling you about their experiences, and remind them that you want to be by their side through thick and thin. After all, a person putting themselves in a vulnerable position by opening up is bound to appreciate all the support they can get. If you want to make sure your friend knows they can turn to you if they need any help…

Do ask them if you can do anything to make their life a little easier. Perhaps this might include joining your friend suffering from arthritis on a grocery shopping trip every few weeks to avoid making them carry heavy bags on their own. Or maybe it’ll include running to the pharmacy for a friend who’s unable to make it out of the house during a flare-up of their illness. However, even if their health issues prove particularly debilitating at times…

(image via pixabay.com)

Do keep treating your friend as you normally would. Keep inviting them to festivals, on nights out, and on weekend hikes. Just because they chose to let you in on what they’re going through, doesn’t mean they want you to start treating them like someone who’s fragile or incapable. And even though it may be tempting…

Don’t offer treatment advice. One of the most annoying things people do is offer unsolicited medical advice on health issues they know little to nothing about. It can be very frustrating to open up to your close ones about health problems, only to get some useless WebMD-style feedback in response. Your friend has been dealing with this health issue for a month, a year, or maybe their whole life. Leave the medical advice to their doctor unless personally asked to do otherwise. And finally…

Don’t start telling everyone about what you’ve learned. This is your friend’s battle to fight, and they will make the decisions about who can be informed. Even if you think the problem they’re battling isn’t a big deal or worth hiding, that’s not your choice to make. You’ve been let in on a secret, whether or not that’s how it was introduced. Show appreciation for your friend’s openness and honesty by keeping this newly found information to yourself.

Nobody’s perfect, and some of us have imperfections that are reflected in the state of our health. Many illnesses including depression, ulcerative colitis, diabetes, IBS, anxiety, and lupus are common amongst both young and old people alike, and the majority of them are manageable with the right medications, allowing sick individuals to live long, prosperous lives. So if you’re going through something pertaining to the state of your mental or physical health, don’t feel like you’re alone. And if you know someone going through it, remind them that it doesn’t diminish or define their worth.

We are all much more than the burdens we carry.

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