Sunday, January 1, 2012

Things to Say and Not Say to Your Friend with IC

IC is not only difficult on the IC patient, but it can also be difficult on family members and friends. The family members who live with the IC patient are usually the ones who get to see the IC patient at her worst (it's a little hard to hide flares from hell when someone resides in the same apartment or house as you).

Friends on the other hand usually see us at our best. This can make it a little difficult to understand the illness since it is invisible. It may puzzle a friend as to why we have an illness or complain of pain when we "look so good". Other people may see us looking fine one minute and crying in pain the next and become scared or not know what to do. 

IC is a very complex illness. I have tried many a time and in great detail to explain IC to a lot of people and still some of them just don't get it. I don't actually blame all of these people, it is hard to understand. Many doctors don't even get it so it is not fair to assume every person we encounter should.

If you are the friend of someone with IC it is possible to show compassion even if you are having trouble fully grasping the condition. 

Here are some things that you SHOULD and SHOULD NOT say to a friend who has IC.

Things you SHOULD NOT say to someone with IC:

"Gee, you seem to get sick a lot"- Us IC gals find this very annoying. We don't "get sick a lot" we have a chronic condition ALL OF THE TIME. Some days our condition is mild and some days we can have horrible flares, but the condition is always there. If you have a friend with arthritis or diabetes, that person has the condition always. Think of IC the same way.

"Get Well Soon"- While you probably have the best intentions when you say this, don't. Get well soon is the kind of thing you say to a person with a cold or sprain. You want the person with the cold or the sprain to feel better soon so they can go back to being healthy and so that they will be healed the next time you see them. IC patients can't go back to being healthy or be healed. IC is a chronic condition with no cure. It is part of our life everyday, not something we can get over soon.

"Oh, you're out at this party, you must be cured"- IC can be a very painful illness, but since it is not going anywhere, we do need to get out of the house sometimes. Many ICers are forced to be homebodies a lot, which can lead to depression. Some social interaction is good for us. We may even be in pain while we are out, but we need to do it now and again so we live a full life. We also want to be there for the important milestones of the people around us such as a family member's wedding or a friend's birthday party. Just because we are not in a bed connected to tubes doesn't mean a magical cure has come upon us.

"Can I use your cushion?"- You may see some ICers take cushions places from time to time. These cushions help us to sit with less pelvic and bladder pain. I have had people ask to borrow my cushion (or even worse, I had someone TAKE my cushion when I went to get a soda and they started using it as a neck pillow). Our cushions are not a toy, an airplane neck pillow or something to make your back more comfortable. Our cushions are assistive devices which allow us to sit in a restaurant, drive cars and more. Messing with an ICer's cushion is the exact same thing as touching a person's cane or wheelchair---it is very inappropriate and disrespectful.

Things you SHOULD say to someone with IC:

"You can go first"- If you are with a group of friends at a restaurant or a bar and there is a whole bunch of you waiting to use the restroom, the greatest gift you can give to your IC pal is to let her cut you and use the bathroom first. We get it, everyone in the line legitimately has to pee, but your friend with IC will get shooting pains if she can not use the restroom. Saying "you can go first" means a lot to your friend both emotionally and physically.

"I understand when you can't make it"- Sometimes we have IC flares so bad, that we have to miss out on things we really want to go to like a dinner party or a movie night. We feel TERRIBLE enough when we have to cancel. If you tell us that you understand that we can't make it and you mean it from the heart, it means the world to us.

"I'm here for you"- Having a chronic illness can cause a person to lose a lot of friends. Not everyone wants to be around the girl who can no longer dance on table tops or go a mile a minute. If someone tells us they are here for us, we really appreciate it. Doing simple things for your IC friend like talking on the phone or planning a fun activity which your IC friend will be comfortable doing such as playing video games in your pajamas can really put a smile on your friend's face.



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