According to MedicineNet, autoimmune disease is "an illness that occurs when the body tissues are attacked by its own immune system," and to the 23.5 million Americans they affect, they are no joke. They come with a range of symptoms, but most people experience extreme fatigue, fevers, weaken immune systems, joint pain or swelling, abdominal issues, and skin problems. And as if all of that wasn't enough, 25 percent of people with an autoimmune disease go on to develop another 1-2 more.
Life for those of us living with such diseases is hard. Typically it entails many doctor visits, routine blood work, special diets, exercise routines, and LOTS and LOTS of medication. So, as you can imagine, none of that sounds fun, and being someone with an autoimmune disorder I can say that it is not. And that's why I'm writing this article.
Those of us living with autoimmune diseases deserve a break wherever we can get it, so that's what this article is for. My hope in writing this is that if our friends better understand us, it gives us one more thing to cross off our list of worries.
So, friends of people with autoimmune diseases, please do us a favor and read this. We will definitely thank you later.
1. We aren't lazy, we're sick.
Could you imagine living inside a body that is literally attacking itself? Probably not, but we do every day, and it's not fun. Rest is sometimes the only thing that makes us feel better. So be considerate the next time you get upset at your autoimmune friend for staying in the whole weekend. They're trying to make sure their body doesn't kill them.
2. Not all of us feel comfortable enough to talk about our disease.
I am someone who will talk about my diseases all day. I find it therapeutic. But I know many people who that isn't the case for. Be respectful when asking your friend about their disease. If they shy away from your question or give a short answer, they probably don't want to talk about it. At that moment, the best thing you can do is be OK with that.
3. When we cancel plans at the last second, it's not because we want to.
Our autoimmune disease controls our lives whether we want them to or not. If it decides to flare up an hour before going out, there's nothing we can do besides wait it out and rest.
4. We often struggle with other conditions, like depression, because of our disease.
Having an autoimmune disease can increase the risk of depression by 45 percent. So yes, your friend with an autoimmune disease might be a little sadder than your other friends or they might randomly shut down and push everyone away. The best thing you could do for them is to support them. A lot of the time, that's all they need.
5. We aren't fragile.
We don't want you to have to tiptoe around us. Drink alcohol in front of your friend with Crohn's Disease and talk about your perfect skin in front of your friend with psoriasis. We won't get upset or feel bad about ourselves. Just because our life is affected doesn't mean yours has to be, too.
6. Every disease varies, as does every case of a specific disease.
Don't rely on WebMD or your Great Aunt who also has your friend's disease to help you better understand it. Instead, ask your friend. If they feel comfortable talking about it, they will, and you'll be so much more informed about your friend and you'll actually be able to help them in the future if they need it.
7. We aren't a basket case, so don't treat us like one.
If there is one thing that makes every person with an autoimmune disease mad, it's being treated like a baby. Despite our disease, the majority of us can still take care of ourselves and actually like doing so because it gives us some type of control of our lives. If we need help, we will ask you, we promise.
8. Autoimmune diseases are often silent, so be courteous.
Unless your friend tells you they have a disease, you probably would have never known, and that's why it's always better to err on the side of caution when talking. When you're making jokes like, "Wow, I'm going to get diabetes from eating this," remember that 1.6 million Americans have type 1 diabetes, and the friend you were talking to might be one of them.
So, hopefully, you learned something from this list that you didn't already know before, and hopefully, you plan to implement that thing into your conversations/engagements with your autoimmune friends. But if you didn't, always remember to be kind to us, and anyone for that matter, because you have no idea what anyone is going through.