Since I was diagnosed with multiple autoimmune diseases five years ago, I express what some might call an inappropriate enthusiasm anytime I meet someone with an autoimmune disease. I like to call this the "ME TOO" factor (CAPS LOCK intentional).
Here's a snapshot of a real-life conversation that happened when I ordered gluten and dairy free cupcakes at a local bakery:
Me: "I'll have two of the gluten and dairy free cupcakes."
Bakery employee: "Those are delicious. I eat them all the time."
Me: "Really? Can I ask why you're gluten and dairy free?"
Bakery employee: "I have Crohn's Disease."
Me: "NO WAY! ME TOO!"
*onslaught of questions*
When were you diagnosed?
What medicine do you take?
Who's your doctor?
How has the disease impacted you?
Does your diet help?
While the bakery employee seemed slightly overwhelmed by my enthusiasm, a sense of relief and excitement washed over her as we discussed our experiences and even discovered that in addition to sharing the same diet, we also shared the same doctor.
It's a wonderful feeling to be able to talk to someone who just "gets it". Someone who understands that it's not just a stomachache. Someone who understands that I'm not just tired. Someone who knows what it means to be a Spoonie.
When I get excited to hear someone else has an autoimmune disease, it's not because I'm happy they have endured pain and suffering, it's because I'm excited to connect with someone who gets it. Someone who gets me. It opens up an opportunity for me to support a fellow patient enduring a difficult battle and collectively share our stories.
Every time a patient opens up and shares their story, they have the power to make a difference. Sharing your story not only offers support for fellow patients, but it provides answers and awareness which are particularly important for patients battling autoimmune diseases. We often rely on each other for answers our doctors can't give us and awareness is still remarkably low considering there are 50 million Americans battling autoimmune diseases.
So if you have the "ME TOO" Factor, don't be ashamed. Be proud. Be excited. Ask questions. Share your story. Make a Difference.