I have always believed that one of our greatest strengths as human beings is our ability to share our stories and experiences – good and bad. Our experiences help us learn how to navigate the challenges that emerge in our lives. We all have something to learn from one another. We each have a story – an important one – so share yours, and lean on those around you when you need them.
Even when things are going fairly smoothly in our lives, there are moments when we just need to vent. When you have – or have just been diagnosed with – a chronic illness, having a support squad that gives you the freedom to let it all out is so important to your well-being. However, sometimes your support system includes loved ones who (despite their best efforts) don’t understand the unique situation you may be facing. That’s where other people or networks should come into the picture who may be better able to relate to your feelings and experiences.
I don’t want you to think that confiding in friends and family isn’t an option, but there are some considerations that you should be mindful of. It’s not a surprise that our loved ones are often the first line of defense with respect to venting. They love us and ideally have our best interests at heart. This is why we need to watch what we say to them! The best example I can give is if a partner upsets us or disappoints us in some way and we share this with our nearest and dearest; we should remember that it will not be forgotten by our loved ones. They will try to move past it; sometimes they can’t.
Support systems may emerge in a variety of places. At times, they include the people we love in real life; other times they are strangers who share similar circumstances – those who we meet online or in our doctor’s offices. You may also look to neutral parties for advice such as your healthcare provider, a sexologist, relationship counselors, etc. There are great benefits to having all of these groups in our lives. Depending on the issue we want to vent about, one group may be better (and more helpful) than another. That’s nothing to feel guilty about! That’s the reality. And it’s perfectly okay.
“Don’t be afraid to tell friends, family, partners, etc. what you really need from them.”
No matter who you confide in, remember that some people are not going to understand what you are going through. Don’t be afraid to tell friends, family, partners, etc. what you really need from them. They are not mind readers, and even if they live with you, they cannot possibly understand all the nuances of what you’re going through. Give yourself the freedom to think about what you really need from the people in your life. Do you want them to listen? To offer advice? To provide physical help and support?
Don’t forget that support squads aren’t just for you. In my post “Reinvent Your Relationship – One Step at a Time," I discuss encouraging your partner to build his/her own support community. Venting to others about his/her frustrations not only helps him/her become a better caregiver, but also helps your partner learn from others how to better communicate his/her needs to you.
In the end, letting out your frustrations will not only help you better understand what it is that you need to manage your chronic illness, but it will also enable those around you to offer you the support you need – and vice versa.