Social support is just as important as medical treatment for many women living with endometriosis, adenomyosis, PCOS and fibroids. These conditions can be difficult to manage, not only for those who have them, but also for those who love us and watch us struggle. Many women find that having a support system helps them not only come to grips with their diagnosis, but also helps them through the tough times of living with these chronic illnesses.
Loved ones can feel lost in what the best ways are to help, but often do not know where to start; and sometimes those who are struggling living with these conditions, may not even know what kind of support they need or how to ask for help. A strong support system is so important for any person with a chronic illness, because pain and sickness can be really isolating and depressing, and physical symptoms can get in the way of day-to-day life.
Here are some ways you can help your loved one make them feel supported and loved while living with pelvic health conditions:
Communication is key. You may not know how to help your loved one and the best way to know is to communicate with them. You can ask: “how can I better support you?”, “what do I do that is and isn’t helpful?”. Listen to them and come up with ways together come up with ways that you can support them.
Educate yourself. It is very helpful to learn as much as you can about these conditions and there are many helpful online resources that can help you to understand how your loved one is being affected.
Talk with them about their experiences. While it is important to read about what these conditions are, each person is affected differently. Asking them about their experiences shows your care in trying to understand our personal experiences and what we are going through. You can ask questions about what it feels like and what they might find most difficult or distressing, but be kind in your questions. Your loved one may not be ready to talk and that is okay. Continue to be supportive and listen when they are ready to share with you.
Provide a distraction. Some symptoms such as pain can be overwhelming and having a distraction can help your loved one to manage a difficult moment. Share those entertaining videos, jokes, and stories; take them out for walk or a drive; or, let them know about a new series for them to watch or a good book for them to read.
Be flexible and understanding. These conditions can be unpredictable. One day, your loved one can feel as if they can conquer the world, and the next, they could barely move out of bed. This can sometimes mean that they have to cancel plans that they were looking forward to; and while this can be disappointing, understand that they are not being spiteful but are just struggling.
Assure your loved one that your love is unconditional. Many persons living with these conditions can feel like they are a burden to their loved ones, skew how they see themselves, and mess with their mental health. Remind your loved ones what you see when you think of them and what you love about them.
Maybe you admire their strength, love their positivity, or think they’re is, let them know sometimes.
Offer practical help. For example, getting a hot water bag for someone that is going through a flare, helping them with a task or chore that they just cannot manage to do even after trying, providing a meal when in the middle of a flare or during their period, and attending appointments, if invited. These conditions can be so isolating and having a loved one show up to an appointment is so supportive. Sometimes, your loved one may get nervous at a doctor’s appointment, so having someone else there to help remember what the doctor said and then having a conversation with them about it afterward is helpful.
Be there. Be a safe space for your loved one to cry and not be alright. It is so hard to pretend to be okay every single day and many of us are afraid of being open with the truth about how we are truly doing. Being strong for so long is hard and we each have our breaking points, so love on your loved one.
Ms. Odelia Thomas