Finding health solutions outside the doctor’s office

This month’s blog carnival topic over at Patients for a Moment really caught my attention. It’s being hosted by Getting Closer to Myself – go check it out!

There are a few questions I could have answered, and I’m choosing this one:

How has social media impacted your illness experience?

Anyone who has been following this blog knows that I only recently began to figure out what’s causing my various symptoms. But do you know how I’ve been finding answers? It sure wasn’t at the doctors’ offices! They were all pointing fingers at each other, saying it was someone else’s specialty and not offering me any answers. The real journey started with a book.

I was bored while all of my friends were at work, so I went to the library. I thought I’d check out the books about one of my symptoms because it had been a long time since I’d done that, and while I was perusing the shelves, a title caught my eye about hypothyroid symptoms. I grabbed the book and immediately started reading. That book led to another, and those led to web sites which connected me to Facebook groups. Suddenly I found an entire community of hypothyroid patients online, mostly on Facebook and Twitter and in other places, too. They were dealing with hypothyroid and a lot of the accompanying issues that I also face, like adrenal fatigue.

Being ill can be isolating in the predictable ways: spending days at a time alone at home, not working, and having to miss social events are of course difficult. But the thing that many people don’t realize is that it’s also isolating to be sick and not know why, which symptoms are attributable to which diseases, which symptoms are relevant and which aren’t, or what to do about it all. This can make a person feel very alone, because it seems that no one else understands. Finding books, blogs, web sites, Facebook groups, and Twitter chats of people going through the same thing makes me feel a lot less alone. But they’ve also given me hope because, for the first time in many years, I have treatment routes to explore! In fact, if it wasn’t for the Chronic Babe online support group (which sadly no longer exists) I would have never begun seeing the naturopath who cured my IBS and who has helped me in so many other ways over the past year.

Let’s face it, social media is far from perfect. Finding the right groups and accurate information can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack, but it’s possible. We have to watch out for scams and inaccurate information. There are still doubters. But for me, social media has been incredible. It has given me a community to turn to, answers to my questions, and the hope that I could improve. I can’t wait to see what happens with it next!

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