How Do I Support My Friend With Endometriosis?
Do you love a woman with endometriosis? Does your best friend battle the severe pain and exhaustion that is part and parcel of her disease? Do you stand helplessly by and wonder “How Do I Support My Friend With Endometriosis?”
If you answered yes to any of the three questions above, this blog post is for you.
This recent opinion piece got me thinking about how we treat women who struggle with invisible needs and chronic diseases. It prompted me to ask a few questions in our online community and of my friends who have been diagnosed with endometriosis.
In honor of National Endometriosis Awareness Month, I am shining a spotlight on what they say they need most from their friends and loved ones while they manage their disease. I especially appreciate that many of their suggestions are practical and attainable.
How Do I Support My Friend With Endometriosis?
Choose to Believe Her Pain
One of the most common things that women report as helpful or supportive during a flare-up is a partner or friend who believes her when she states her pain. That sounds simple enough, right? Not necessarily so – especially if she’s traveled a long road to diagnosis – in part because her doctors didn’t fully believe her descriptions of symptoms and pain levels.
…you have to have the mental wherewithal to accept that their pain is not in their head. The mental struggle they face daily just to complete the most mundane daily tasks can take all the energy they have and leave them exhausted for days.
Creating a Family Resources on Endometriosis:
Ask Her What She Needs or Wants
Chronic pain can leave a woman feeling out of control – like her life is being taken over by her disease. When your friend is hurting, ask her what would serve her most right now. If you sense that she’s overwhelmed by her pain, give her a couple of choices of things that you know have helped in the past:
“Can I run a hot bath for you, or would the heating pad be more comfortable right now?”
If your friend has been on the couch for the last 24 hours hugging her heating pad, offer to pick up a pizza for dinner. Ask if she’d like you to join her for a light-hearted rom-com while you eat pizza together.
Be okay with whatever answer she gives, recognizing that telling you honestly what feels most supportive to her is maybe the only thing she can control today.
Let it Be On Her Terms
Your friend will likely have days that she appears to be functioning quite normally. Those will be regular days for you both. However, it’s important to remember that the endometriosis hasn’t gone anywhere.
For many women, each day feels like a marathon to be endured, even if the cramping or pain is not flaring. Her energy level might never be a match for yours, and as a friend, it’s up to you to make sure she knows that you can accept that. And that you can wait for another time to enjoy her company.
She also needs to know that she’s still a valuable part of your life, that you won’t stop inviting her to lunch just because she said “no” the last four times you asked. Keep asking. Keep reaching out.
Lauren suggests that you recognize and accept that her “no” is likely because “she recognizes that she needs to care for herself and set boundaries to protect her physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing.”
Be Practical In Your Care
Beth mentioned that the “little care tasks are hugely helpful” – like bringing your friend a heating pad when you see her beginning to exhibit pain. It can also be very supportive to lend help with the routines of life regularly. (Yes, heating pads are a big deal with endometriosis. If your friend doesn’t have a good one, that’s a practical gift you can grab at any pharmacy!)
Offer to help with groceries, laundry, child care or running errands while you are tackling your own To Do list. Again, endometriosis is often quite exhausting to a woman, so easing her load when you can do so speaks of great support and care.
Asking for help, especially when a woman is in chronic pain and may already feel as if she’s always “needing something” can feel demoralizing. If you ask her first, before she HAS to ask for help, you are coming alongside her in loving ways.
Most Importantly, Be There
To wrap it all up, I can’t really say it better than Lauren said it here:
And finally, allow her to cry and not be alright. Being strong for so long is hard, and we all hit our breaking points. Let your friend break. And then be there to love on her hard.
Supporting a friend with endometriosis doesn’t look much different than supporting any friend who is going through a hard season. But endometriosis isn’t just a season, and loving your friend well might mean a more profound commitment to caring for her the way that she needs you to care when the disease is hitting hard.
Do you have endometriosis? What suggestions would you offer a friend or loved one for how to support you well? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Image Credit: Top Ten Alternatives; B&M Stores