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Sharing Your Diagnosis with Friends and Family

We're talking about navigating the challenging conversations around sharing your diagnosis with friends and family. Whether you're newly diagnosed, undergoing investigations, or dealing with ongoing health issues, discussing these topics can be incredibly daunting. But fear not, I’m here to help you through it.


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Embracing the Difficult Conversation

Telling your loved ones about your chronic illness can be overwhelming, the fear of the unknown, combined with the natural discomfort of discussing personal health matters, often makes this a dreaded task. I vividly remember my own experience with this, I had just been diagnosed with Endometriosis and had decided to return to university after a brief hiatus for medical investigations. My close friends knew something was up, but I hadn’t shared the full story, one evening, sitting in our communal kitchen, I decided to open up. I laid out the details of my diagnosis to a group of my closest friends, their reactions were unexpected, one friend burst into tears, overwhelmed by emotion. Instead of receiving comfort, I found myself in the unexpected role of consoler. It was a powerful reminder that everyone processes news differently, and their initial reactions might not align with your expectations.

Key Points to Consider

  1. It’s Not Your Job to Protect Others: It's natural to want to shield your loved ones from distress, but remember that their emotions are not your responsibility. Allow them to feel whatever comes up without taking it upon yourself to manage their reactions, this mindset shift is crucial for maintaining your mental health.

  2. Support Networks Often Feel Powerless: Your friends and family might feel helpless upon hearing about your diagnosis. Our society tends to be solution-oriented, but chronic illness isn’t something that can be ‘fixed’ quickly, encourage them to focus on emotional support rather than solutions.

  3. Practice Sitting in Difficult Emotions: Both you and your support network need to become comfortable with sitting in difficult emotions. This practice enhances emotional intelligence and fosters a deeper understanding and connection.

  4. Multiple Conversations May Be Needed: Sharing your diagnosis might not be a one-time event. Be prepared for ongoing discussions as your loved ones digest the information. Some might need more time and repeated conversations to fully understand and support you.

  5. Establish Boundaries: Communicate what you are comfortable sharing and what you prefer to keep private. Healthy boundaries are essential for protecting your emotional well-being, it’s okay to tell someone you appreciate their concern but aren’t ready to discuss certain details.

Setting Boundaries

Creating and maintaining boundaries can be challenging, especially when dealing with people who might not understand or respect them initially. Here’s a practical approach:

  • Communicate Clearly: Be upfront about what you’re willing to share, for example, if someone asks about your treatment plan and you’re not comfortable discussing it, it’s perfectly fine to say, “I appreciate your concern, but I’d prefer not to talk about that right now.”

  • Respectful Responses: A positive boundary conversation involves the other person respecting your wishes. They should acknowledge your needs without feeling rejected. Mutual respect is key.

Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to navigate these conversations, each journey is unique, and what works for one person might not work for another. The most important thing is to prioritise your well-being and give yourself the grace to handle things at your own pace.


The Chronic Illness Coach Podcast

The Chronic Illness Coach Podcast challenges listeners to believe that all chronic illnesses can be put into remission. Alex is on a mission to engage, educate and empower those living with a chronic illness who want to change their life for the better. Join your host as she shares her journey of living with a chronic illness and invites expert guests to break down complex niches of health, science and wellness. Each episode is a lifeline for listeners, offering practical strategies, emotional support, and a sense of community. 

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