Let’s face it. Making friends as a 30-something-year-old woman is difficult. But making friends as a 30-something-year-old woman battling chronic illness? Damn near impossible, right? Most days we’re lucky to push through work or our regular daily schedules, let alone get out there to meet potential new gal pals.
It’s also really scary to open yourself up to the idea of new friends when you struggle with your health. Not everyone understands when you have to cancel plans at the last minute because you hurt so bad you can’t even take a shower. Some people don’t get the damage chronic pain and illness can do to our mental and emotional states. I’m lucky to have a small core group of friends who are supportive and who don’t judge me for my limitations. But over time, other friendships have fallen to the wayside as a result of my illnesses and just the passage of time. Life happens and people grow apart sometimes when their lives no longer intersect. So, what’s a spoonie girl to do?
This spoonie was googling “how to make friends in your 30s” in the middle of the night when I stumbled across the app “Hey! VINA.” Think Tinder for ladies to connect with new potential BFFs. Upon more research, I discovered there are actually multiple online friend-making options, but I settled on “Hey! VINA” after reading some positive reviews. I met my husband on eHarmony, so why couldn’t I find the Monica to my Rachel online? Admittedly, I was skeptical, but I typed out my bio and made sure to mention that I am a chronic illness warrior. How many women could possibly be on this thing, anyways? More than you think! In fact, upon first joining I viewed dozens of profiles.
Soon after, I matched with a girl named Jasmin. I was drawn to her wit and sense of humor, but after talking for a couple of days I realized we had far more in common. Jasmin also struggles with chronic illness and we share many of the same diagnoses and symptoms. I could talk to her about my symptoms, even the weirdest of them and she completely understood. The best thing about her? Because she relates to the physical pain I experience, she also relates to the emotional impact of that pain. I had just moved and was missing my little support system. I was feeling lonely, despondent and my pain levels were through the roof from the added stress. One day Jasmin asked me how I was feeling. “OK,” I replied. I don’t know about you guys, but when people ask me how I’m feeling, I default to “OK” or “fine” because it’s just easier than talking about how I’m really feeling physically, mentally and emotionally. It can be exhausting trying to explain these feelings to people. Jasmin didn’t miss a beat. She asked me if I was really OK or if I was just tired of saying that I felt like shit.
That’s when I knew I found a soul sister. That, and the fact that we had our first friend date at Target. Complete with lattes and buying crap we didn’t need, but definitely needed. We are both managing jobs and family along with our chronic illnesses, so we don’t get to see each other as often as we would like. But we talk daily and I love that I can just be 100 percent real with her. We can relate to each other’s pain and we lift each other up on the days where we can barely stand. We cheer each other on in this crazy journey called life. This spoonie life can be challenging and scary, but it doesn’t have to be lonely. There are people out there who get it that are looking for a friend like you. I know how scary it can be, but take a leap (or join a friend-seeking app in the middle of the night) and see where it takes you.