The number one thing I’ve learned through my heart transplant and Crohn’s journey is the importance of a support system. I know it’s easier said than done, but reaching out and leaning on others can have a huge impact. A lot of people hear support system and think of family and friends, but it can also be a doctor, professional or even a furry friend.
When I think back to my pre-transplant days, I remember not wanting to talk about my health or the future of a transplant with anyone. It was hard and scary, but I didn’t want my parents/family/friends to know how truly scared I was. I wanted to come off strong. This is one of my biggest regrets. I wish I would have talked to them more about it. At the time, I felt the need to carry it all on my own. Now, almost 11 years later, I realize that talking about it would have helped me not be so scared.
Once I was diagnosed with Crohn’s, I feel like I got a re-do. This time around, I didn’t keep my emotions bottled up. I let them allllll out. To my parents, Steven and close friends. When I felt the emotions were too much, I called someone and talked/cried/complained or did whatever I needed to do to feel better.
Through my Crohn’s diagnosis, I really learned how much people care about me. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true. Obviously, my parents and brother are always a phone call away, but when a someone will drop everything and leave work, just to let you cry on their shoulder, that’s a lot. Everyone needs someone like that. I also received a “sorry you were dealt a crappy hand” basket full of face masks, a loofa and some books from two friends. I wasn’t expecting it immediately showed me that they care and are there for me.
Below are some small tips/suggestions on how to reach out to people. If you’re like me and prefer to be independent, it can be hard.
How to reach out to others if you need to talk:
- If you’re feeling overwhelmed or depressed, call someone! Even better if that someone is a great listener.
- If it’s hard for you to call someone, text a close friend and ask if you can vent.
- Don’t keep your emotions bottled up. This can do more harm than good.
- If it’s hard for you to turn to people, turn to your pets! Weird, I know, but Gundy is the best listener around.
How to help someone who needs support:
- Listen. Most the time when I was needing someone to turn to, I didn’t want any advice or suggestions, I just needed someone to listen.
- If you have a friends that’s struggling, call them and be the first one to reach out.
- Small gestures go a long wag. Make dinner, bring them a small gift or just send a text and let them know you’re thinking about them.
- Be there. If they really need you, do what you can to be there for them.
- If their illness is invisible (which most autoimmune diseases are), be sensitive when they say they’re in pain or don’t feel well.