Two friends, one of whom has axial spondyloarthritis, lounging on a comfortable couch, laughing together as their faces are illuminated by the light of a television show.

How To Be a Supportive Friend to Someone with AS

I’ve both gained and lost friendships since having AS. As a person who has ankylosing spondylitis, I have a few things to share that I value greatly from the friends that have stuck around.

Talking less and listening more

I’ve realized a lot, especially in relationships, that there is a need to “fix” whatever is bugging us. Now listen, I understand how hard it is to see someone that you love and care for in pain. I’ve been there.

When you have AS, you have both physical and mental symptoms almost all the time. I’ve noticed a few things that I really value in moments of particular pain. One thing, in particular, is my ability to just vent.

Sometimes, or if I’m being honest, most of the time, I just want to vent. I want to vent about how much this sucks, how tired I am, and how unfair it is. I don’t need a solution to my problems, because truthfully there aren’t really many. And if there are, I’ve more than likely tried them.

I find that having someone there to just listen to me go off on a rant, or vent for 20 minutes about how I’m feeling, is really helpful when I need it.

Just listen, tell me it sucks (because it does), and realize that there’s nothing you can do to fix my problems. But, you can be there for me.

Just being there

If I’m in a flare or having a particularly worse day, I like being around other people. I’m not sure if that’s just me. I like being around other people (at home, of course) because they can distract me from the pain I’m in.

Playing video games, painting, or just lying around talking is better than lying in my bed by myself unable to think about anything else but the pain I’m in.

Probably one of the most appreciative things you can do in my opinion is an offer to come over when you know I’m not having a good day. Physically or mentally, a distraction is always helpful.

Being supportive

The definition of a support system is “a network of people who provide an individual with practical or emotional support.”

Emotional support is a big one. In my opinion, the most important type of support there is. People with AS and AxSpA have a higher chance of having depression. A support system is vital for someone with AS. I don’t know what I would do without my supportive family members and friends. This disease would be way harder to deal with.

Talk to your friend with AS, ask them what kind of support they need in the moment, and try your best to do that for them. They will be forever grateful that you took their needs into consideration.

Ask if you can do anything for them, and if not, just be supportive and caring. Hear them out and be part of their support system that is so needed.

I’m so grateful for my friends

My support system might be small, but I’m so grateful for everyone that has stuck with me during the hardest time in my life. I wouldn’t trade my friends for the world.

I’ve found that being vulnerable with my disease has strengthened my relationships greatly. Being a supportive friend to someone who has AS goes a long way, and is never unappreciated by us.

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