Being ill may feel isolating, but it’s important to remember that we are not alone in the fight. All around the world, people are fighting the same battle, and it’s just a matter of connecting with them so we can have that shared experience.
Living the Same Story
Communities are by definition made out of a unified body of individuals. Each person has a unique story to tell, but that story is unified by an underlying current of sameness that resonates with everyone in the community.
We have all lived through a similar shared experience. We can empathize because we’ve walked the same path. We know how the illness changes our lives, in very significant and dramatic ways. We know how hard it is, how painful it is, how we live with the despair, almost giving up every day. And we all know the value of life because, for us, living takes on a very different meaning.
Communities for people with illness help in several key ways:
- They provide a wealth of information and best practices.
- They give motivation and emotional support.
- The validate your feelings.
- They give a sense of belonging to people who may feel isolated.
- And perhaps most importantly, they are a source of hope.
Online Support Groups
The Pew Research Center has found that 57% of internet users with chronic illness have participated in some way with an online group or resource for health issues.
The level of involvement ranges from reading and commenting on health or medical blogs and forums, consulting with online health providers, signing up for community updates on health and medical issues, or listening to podcasts on these issues. Of these, 8% participate actively in an online group, discussion or forum.
It’s a slow uptake for online discussion, but it’s something important, especially for people living in smaller towns where they might not be able to find support groups in person so easily. Online support groups offer an important alternative for anyone living with illness.
Connecting online is great! However, meeting in person can make a huge difference as well. Our CEO Emily Levy, recently met members of our community, Friends in the Fight, at The Oley Foundation conference. Although the meet up was a short one, the people who came surely came home with memories that will last for a lifetime.
Finding Purpose in Communities
This is doubly important, as the community isn’t just a source to draw support from – it’s a place to find purpose. Depression is a disease of loneliness, and scientists have found that people suffering from depression tend to live shorter lives than those who are not.
Having a sense of purpose is one of the most effective ways to stave off depression.
And you can find that purpose by being useful and helpful to others who are suffering just like you.
Being able to join a community and inspire other people is perhaps the single greatest purpose one can find in having the illness. Being able to help others is, often, the best therapy you can ever receive. And for many people, that feeling is just as important as any treatment or medical care their health care professionals can provide.
You can’t get that kind of purpose unless you’re in a community of people just like yourself. So if you haven’t yet found a good online support group for yourself, there’s no better time than the present to start looking. If you know your way around the internet, you might even start your online community or forum yourself!
If you’re unsure where to begin, one good place to start is our Friends in the Fight group, a community dedicated to helping people who have illness and their caregivers. Always remember that you are not alone!