As someone with multiple chronic illnesses—including ankylosing spondylitis, fibromyalgia, ME/CFS, and chronic migraines—I know that I only have a finite amount of energy, and if I burn through that, I crash. Even so, that week, I’d been feeling pretty good, so I overextended myself, trying to see my friends and do all the other fun things I like to do when I’m asymptomatic. But when I do that, I crash, which makes me feel isolated and depressed, and therefore more likely to overextend myself again when I’m feeling better. It’s a vicious cycle.
As I lay on the couch, I knew that I’d pushed myself too hard. I thought of the things I’d wanted to do the next few days and tearfully resigned myself to the fact that it wasn’t going to happen. I sent one friend a message saying I couldn’t go out dancing that night, and a message to another friend saying we’d need to reschedule our hang-out. “I’m in the midst of a crash,” I wrote to her.
Immediately, a message popped back up: “I’m still coming over. You can just lay on the futon.” Which is how I found myself that evening in my comfy clothes, laying on the couch chatting with a friend while she poured me a drink. Despite the fact that I had crashed, my friend still made time for me, and spent time with me just as she would have if I’d been feeling well.
And in that moment, I felt so incredibly seen.
To tactfully broach conversations about a loved one’s physical and mental health, experts recommend affirming their autonomy, validating their...