In Living with Arthritis, I spoke about the importance of establishing a robust, reliable support network. This article explores this concept a little further, and instead of leaning on a friend, relative or neighbour in your immediate circle, looks at other ways you can connect with people who can personally understand what you’re going through.
Word of mouth
It is surprising how far simple word of mouth can go. Whether your friend’s friend or colleague’s sister, there is often a third-degree contact who is going through something similar in life. Whilst they might not be suffering from arthritis specifically, they may be subject to a medical condition which equally impacts their daily life, either mentally or physically, and can offer sound advice or guidance.
Asking around your friends, family and colleagues can be a good way to connect with people in the initial stages, whilst you are still coming to terms with your diagnosis.
Ask your GP or Specialist
To find a support community for other people suffering specifically from arthritis, ask your GP or specialist at your next appointment if there are any support groups that they can refer you to.
This approach might feel a bit clinical but offers a good foundation for you to meet people who truly understand what it is like to manage arthritis. If you are nervous about connecting with strangers, remember the other people being referred either will be, or once were exactly in your position and did not know where to turn.
This is where you can get a bit more creative and take things into your own hands to set a pace you are comfortable with. With the power of social media, you can search for support groups in your particular area and to match a specific demographic; for example, the Young Women’s Arthritis Support Group (YWSAG), which is based in Melbourne.
Searching by specific parameters, it is in these kind of support groups that you are likely to find others that you share the most in common with. Your options are also very versatile and you can communicate via private message, share posts, join meetups or seek general advice. You can even join as a silent observer, before you feel comfortable enough to share your own journey.
When diagnosed with a condition such as arthritis, it is very common to feel suddenly isolated, with fears that no-one will understand what you are going through. Remember, this is not the case, and reaching out to someone who can resonate with you is hugely beneficial to your overall health management plan. You can try a number of different options, until you find the right support community for you!