Facebook saved my life. Well not literally (although it has saved some), but I have to create something catchy to draw you in!
I guess a better title really would be “Facebook saved my sanity” and here’s why.
Having a child with chronic illness can be isolating. It means spending lots of time in hospitals, doctors’ offices and at home recovering. That means a lot less time with friends and members outside the immediate family. Even picking up the phone can be a challenge, with the hectic schedules everyone keeps! When my sons were at their sickest, I would find myself only having a free moment or two at times that definitely did not correspond with the schedules kept by a “normal” family.
So what was a girl to do?
Yep. You guessed it. Facebook.
So many people want to be haters when it comes to social media. Talk about a time waster! How about the rise in affairs or a new venue to be disingenuous? Well, yes, I concede that Facebook can be those things, but like anything else in life, it is what you make of it.
Facebook allowed me to stay in touch with MY friends, even at 2 am if I was up to give meds, or trying to stay up for the next round. (Believe me, it was preferable to early a.m. cable informercials!) Unlike email, it allowed me to send messages, but also to get in on conversations with friends and family through threaded discussions, to browse pictures, to still take a small part in the stuff I was missing out on in real life. When I was able to see those folks in person, I had an idea of what had been going on with them. I wasn’t left out- I didn’t skip a beat.
Our friends and family were also able to keep up with us, even though physically we had dropped off the face of the earth, in cyberspace we were still in the here and now. People could keep up with the latest updates on MY kids and situation, without our needing to repeat the story 10 bazillion times. Our “real” visits could be just about enjoying each other and spending time together, rather than becoming a session to regurgitate facts about my kids current medical condition.
It also did the same for my pre-teen who was in a hospital homebound program for school at the time. When he was able to go back to school, he was still “in” on the inside jokes, he knew who had gotten braces and who scored a winning goal on the school soccer team. It helped us stay connected.
Even beyond the obvious benefits of Facebook- the ones that everyone enjoys but were magnified for us, we found another layer of comfort from this social media outlet: Discussion boards and groups.
Seems crazy, right? But when your child has a chronic illness, there is nothing more comforting than being able to discuss the hopes, fears, treatments, tricks and tips that are also being experienced by others in the same boat. For me, this was HUGE!
I have to credit Grant’s first hospital roommates mom, Anke, for turning me on to Facebook groups. I wasn’t an online friendship kind of girl. The only people I “friended” on Facebook were the ones I knew in real life. I was very careful who I let into my circles. JA changed that, fast. When you find out the doctors are putting your child on a chemo drug, you want to find out EVERYTHING. Docs won’t tell you everything. I could go to my groups on facebook and ask questions, and within minutes, someone would answer with their experiences, tips on what questions to ask the docs, or tips to make the process easier. It was literally a Godsend.
Not too long ago, I saw this Skype commercial. (Yes, it was posted on Facebook!) It moved me to tears. It so perfectly described how I feel about a few of my fellow JA moms that live halfway around the world- places like France, Belgium and Australia and others that are scattered across the country, but that I have never met. Some of them I talk to daily. Others are like my friends in real life, kind of a friendship feast or famine depending on what is going on, but regardless, they are my REAL friends. Just like the girls featured in the video below:
I cried though the whole thing. My sons have JA friends they have met the same way (and a few that we have been lucky enough to meet in person through some of our travels) I have developed some amazing friendships and support as well. Some of these women I have “known” for nearly four years now, and even though we have not met in person, I cannot imagine life without them. They are the ones who truly “get” our situation, because they are going through the same things. We have been there for each other, through the victories and the disappointments… the only difference is that it is via a little chat box in the corner of my screen.
So, I guess Facebook saved my life- it saved a sliver of my “normal” life, and gave me something else. It gave me true friends that without it, I never would have been able to find. Friends that were just like us, even if we are from different countries, different backgrounds, or different socio-economic classes. Its given me help, and its given me hope. So yes, in a way, Facebook DID save my life.
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