Some Friendly Advice



A person with FM or a chronic pain illness has experienced enormous losses due to illness.  Fibromyalgia often affects every aspect of a person's life, causing a decrease in self-esteem.  Once strong and self-confident people may feel inadequate and unlovable due to lack of productivity, inability to work or engage in other activities, discouragement about recovery, coping with debilitating pain and fatigue on a long-term basis, and so much more.  Yet the FM patient is not the only one who is suffering.


In addition, chronic illness presents a variety of challenges to relationships at a time when they are needed the most.  Most people with fibromyalgia (FM) feel an ongoing need to talk about their illness and its impact on their lives.  At the same time, many people become more distant or reclusive.  This is especially true during periods of severe symptoms, because being around others requires energy that is in such short supply.  These alternating needs for distance and closeness can be difficult and confusing.

Watching a friend or loved one struggle with an incurable and poorly understood illness often makes people feel powerless and discouraged.  But your friendship does matter, now more than ever; and there are many things you can do:
  • Educate yourself about fibromyalgia.  Read articles about personal experiences and coping.

  • Be patient and caring.  Reassure your friend of your love and support.

  • Acknowledge the seriousness of the illness.  Validate feelings of loss, sadness, anger, and hope.

  • Offer to help in practical and specific ways; such as grocery shopping, managing finances, running errands, or household chores.

  • Attend doctor's appointments with your friend.  Show interest in their medical care and be there to provide moral support.

  • Most people with fibromyalgia both love and hate hearing "you look good."  It's okay to say it, but understand that looking good doesn't necessarily mean your loved one feels good!

  • Spend time together, enjoying activities that can be modified if necessary.

  • Make plans flexible to accommodate unpredictable symptoms and fluctuating energy levels.  Be understanding when they must be changed or canceled at the last minute. 

  • Be wary about giving advice.  Don't attempt to "fix" the person with FM or provide a solution.

  • Realize that your loved one may seem "okay" while you're together but then pay an enormous price later for the over-exertion.

  • Ask questions about things you don't understand.

  • Enjoy low-energy activities together; such as watching movies, sitting outdoors, and eating meals together.

  • Express gratitude for what the person with FM still gives to you, even though they may not be able to do some of the things they could before.

  • Reassure them about how important they are in your life.

  • When you are not sure about how to be helpful, just ask.

  • Be aware of unpredictable mood swings.  Try not to take reactions personally that might seem illogical or over-emotional.

  • Talk about the changes in the person with FM and in your relationship together.

  • Listen while your friend expresses needs, emotions, and thoughts.

  • Express your admiration for your loved one's strength in coping with illness so far.

  • Learn to be perceptive.  You don't have to be a mind-reader, but you can watch for signs of how your loved one is feeling, or when they may need extra help and support.

  • Stay in touch and extend invitations, even when the person with FM may not be able to accept.

Most important to remember is that just being there and showing that you care means more than you could imagine.  Don't give up--just keep asking, listening, learning and growing.  Although you may not be able to work magic, the little things you do to show you care can make all the difference.  "The hardest thing is not to be able to work magic for a friend." - Maya Patel



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