(or any other long-term or chronic health issue)
As many of you know, I have experienced long-term symptoms stemming from COVID-19 for the last 4.5 months. Many of you may not know that before that, I had debilitating migraines for 6 months. I had just found relief from the migraines when less than a month later, I contracted the novel Coronavirus. Talk about sucky timing.
When I was younger (and quite dumb), I would think women were exaggerating when they had painful, call-in-sick-from-work periods. Or, I thought, how could you be chronically exhausted?? You probably just need some exercise and B12, or maybe just to eat better. I truly thought that unseen illnesses meant weakness on the part of the sufferer. That they weren’t being “strong” enough. Well, let’s just say life taught me some lessons. Big time.
So, here are my suggestions for how to support a loved one who is going through long-term COVID symptoms (they are now estimating as many as 1 in 3 are experiencing COVID symptoms over 30 days. This two weeks and you are better nonsense is BS.), or any other long-term or chronic health issue. And, if you have been down this windy river of never knowing when you will feel like yourself ever again, and have more tips, please let me know. Like all of my writing about COVID, it is meant to help people understand the severity of this virus and to not feel alone, if they have it. Support is crucial during these times.
1) Believe them. Period. Full stop. No questions, no doubts. Believe them. I don’t care if you don’t believe the virus is real, they are your friend or family member. Believe them. By not believing them, you are calling them a liar, and that’s just mean. They are already suffering enough without you adding emotional stress to the mix. They might already have the medical community gaslighting them, and many others doubting their illness. They don’t need your lame ass doing it too.
2) Don’t give them medical advice unless you are a physician, or you have already been down this road. I know you mean well, but I guarantee the person suffering for months or years has done WAY more research than you have. And, the article you happened to read on Facebook does not make you an expert. It is exhausting and frustrating to have to answer people again and again with what the research actually says, because you HAVE researched it. Again, I know you mean well, but it’s just not helpful. Instead, ask them what you can help them with, what they need, or if they would like to talk.
3) Don’t try to fix them. This is in the same vein as the last one. Telling them they would feel better because they exercised or ate more garlic is not helpful or supportive. It is only frustrating and an energetically draining. Again, I know you mean well, but it’s kind of like someone who has read one book on the subject, telling you how to do the job you have done for 10 years. Long-term or chronic illness is like their job. I promise they know how to take care of themselves without you trying to fix them. Instead, just be there and listen to them. Have a real conversation, not an exhausting lecture.
4) This is not about you. When a person has a long-term or chronic illness, many days they only have the energy and bandwidth for 1-5 things. And many of those are things like making food and cleaning the cat boxes. Therefore, don’t take offense if you don’t hear back from them when you DO offer to help or to talk with them. They appreciate it very much and might call you out of the blue in the future because they know you are safe to call and ask help of. Don’t get your feelers bent. It’s not personal. Keep reaching out.
5) Only post peer-reviewed medical studies on social media. Please, for the love of God and science. With a novel virus, we are all scared, frustrated and looking for answers. However, sloppy and inaccurate science dilutes the message of the good science. Well-conducted science is not as flashy, nor does it get released as quickly as poorly conducted science. For me, it was, and is, extremely triggering to see people post cures and ways to keep from getting the virus that are just plain false. I never, EVER want anyone to go through what I went through and spreading false science endangers people in a multitude of ways. Here is a link to a great infographic on how to spot real science: https://www.kmeverson.org/blog/may-11th-2020
6) Really talk with them and hear them. Be a safe space where they can share their pain, fear and difficulties. Be willing to talk about topics that are uncomfortable for you. If you feel uncomfortable, try to remind yourself that you are there for your friend, and you are being of service. Again, this is not about you.
7) Take them food. When you only have energy to do 1-5 things in a day and you still need to eat, someone cooking for you is like a magical unicorn. Please do inquire as to food allergies or special diets and stick to the requests carefully. Many people with long-term illnesses have discovered that certain foods or ways of cooking are making their illness worse at that particular time. If you don’t feel like you can accommodate their needs, tell them. The genuine offer of help was a gift in itself.
8) Take or send them fun treats and things that will make them smile. This is a long, painful, lonely road. Smiling and laughing in the middle of it because someone thought about you, and sent you something hilarious, lets you know you’re still human and that there is a hope of being normal again. Even if it’s just a card, meme, or cartoon, it goes a long way. Bonus points if it’s something special to them or a reminder of a fun time you had together.
9) Be one of their check-in people. This is really important for single people. There were many nights I did not set my house alarm because I was afraid that I would need the paramedics to come in the middle of the night. I had 4 people who checked in with me daily via text and calls to make sure I was reasonably ok and not dead. Because, it would have sucked to have been found dead and half eaten by my cats. Seriously, it was very comforting and assuaged some of the blinding loneliness and daily monotony.
10) Offer to run errands for them. Again, the 1-5 things per day energy limit makes things like the bank and grocery store your one thing that day. If you have the time, and can follow directions carefully and without getting defensive, this is really a big help.
11) Love them. For who they are and where they are in this moment. We are all imperfect. Many people feel unworthy of love for what they cannot do in the world currently, due to illness. And, people can be mean do-do heads when they don’t understand things like long-term illness. So, they are probably a little emotionally fragile right now. Love them.
And, please share this! The intent is to help people!
To read my entire Coronavirus Journal go to: www.kimberlihudson.com/post/coronavirusjournal
In addition to sharing my personal experience and thoughts surrounding COVID, once a week I send a musing about leadership, business, finance and life. You can subscribe at www.kimberlihudson.com/blog.