Chronic Life Lessons: How To Build A Support Network When You Have Autoimmune Disease

59200564 - vision problems of mature womenYou don’t have to take on your autoimmune disease entirely by yourself and, in fact, you shouldn’t. Remember those fairytales where the princess battles the dragon all by herself? She battled through thorns, set out to slay the dragon, and stormed the castle with nobody else beside her.

It may often feel as though your autoimmune disease is your own personal dragon that stands as a barrier along the pathway to a healthy life. Like the fairytale, you may be tempted to combat this personal dragon all on your own. Any mom who has been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease can attest to that. But given all you’re dealing with physically, mentally and emotionally, building your own support network is such an important aspect of navigating the pain associated with these diseases.

Yes, you say, but creating a network also feels hard to do. Sometimes, it helps to reset your own expectations a little. A support network doesn’t have to be a tangled web of people you’re constantly asking for favors. It doesn’t have to only consist of your next door neighbor who drives your kids to soccer practice, either. It doesn’t even have to include your high school best friends, if you don’t want them included.

Instead, keep it simple by remembering one simple rule: Your support network should only include the people who you feel most comfortable talking to, and people who can help you fill three basic needs. Here are the three types of people we’d recommend having in your support network.

Tips to how to build a support network:

1. You’ll want to find someone who knows what you’re going through.

Often, this will be someone you meet in a support group or through your doctor who has had a similar health experience. It may be someone with a similar condition, or simply someone who has a similar experience with their health in a more general way. This will be someone you feel comfortable opening up to about your health struggles and successes. This person should be someone who you can vent to. What you’re going to need is someone who can say, “I know what you mean! I’ve felt the same way.” This is often something that a close family members or friends will often not be able to provide for you. If you have yet to find someone in a similar situation, please consider registering on our website and taking part in our questions discussion board to share about your experience living with an autoimmune disease.

2. You should include someone you feel comfortable asking for help.

This is especially true for moms who have long to-do lists, various kids’ activities to plan for, or even just a dog in the backyard who needs to be fed. Remember that it’s perfectly fine to ask someone for help when you know you really need it. That doesn’t make you selfish. It doesn’t make you lazy or a bad mom. This is why it’s important to find a friend, family member, neighbor, dog walker or some kind person at the grocery store who you feel comfortable around enough to ask for help. There will be times when you need help, so it’s best to add someone into your support network who can provide it without making you feel inadequate or like a burden.

3. It’s also important to have someone who can make you feel loved and worthwhile in your support network.

This doesn’t have to be someone who may understand everything you’re going through or someone who can give you help all the time. This person is different because their purpose is to remind you that you’re a lovely person who isn’t defined by their health. This may be your mom, husband, best friend or a religious leader. It can be anyone who will simply make you feel loved with small conversations, drives to the hospital, or just a phone call to check up on you. These simple things are often those of us with an autoimmune disease need more than anything else.

There is a lot of pain that comes along with your autoimmune disease. The loved ones in your life can help you in more ways than you may imagine right now. Remember that those loved ones want to offer support and creating a network is a great way for them to provide that support and for you to receive it. You can always fill your support network with as many people as you need to meet as many needs as you may have. There’s no wrong way to create a support network as long as it makes you feel loved, supported and confident enough to keep fighting.

What other lessons learned have you encountered to create support for yourself? Please share in the comments.


About the Author
Katie Cleary is founder of  She lives with her autoimmune conditions and her family in Austin, Texas.

This post contains opinions of the author. is not a medical practice and does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  It is your responsibility to seek diagnosis, treatment, and advice from qualified providers based on your condition and particular circumstances.  Camino Real Ventures, Inc., the company that makes available to you, does not endorse nor recommend any products, practices, treatment methods, tests, physicians, service providers, procedures, clinical trials, opinions or information available on this website.  Your use of the website is subject to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy


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