Chill is for chronically ill people in their 20s and 30s.
Being ill is hard at any age, but a significant challenge of being chronically ill in your 20s and 30s is not knowing anyone else who is chronically ill in their 20s and 30s.
I contacted a few self-help charities, looked online, all the usual things. There were groups aimed at 60+ (which makes sense, as statistically there is more chance that over 60s will have chronic health issues compared to under 60s). I went along to the only ‘all ages’ group that I could find and met some lovely people. However, the youngest person there was 40 years older than me.
Because chronically ill young people are a minority among chronically ill people, we need to be intentional in finding each other. An age limit helps us do this.
An age limit helps us do this.
Isn’t illness the same for everybody?
No. Illness affects differently people differently. It can also affect different people differently at different stages of life. The battles and losses are different. Younger adults may lose things that older adults secured in a healthier past, such as friends, education, a career, or children.
I recently I realised that I can’t have children… I went to a group for support and met people my parent’s age who talked a lot about their kids who are my age. Their kids are working, travelling, and starting families. Often the group would reminisce about what they did when they were my age and enjoying the health they had. I need support from people who don’t just understand pain and fatigue, but who also know what it is like when life seems to stop before it starts.
Friends my age have careers and holidays and are starting families and I’m doing literally none of it. I have a carer not a career. Meeting older ill people was okay but they talked about work and families and I still felt left out. The only thing that helped was finally finding people my age who really were in the same boat.
It isn’t just support groups that tend to be older. It is social groups in general. I tried the local photography group, art group, philosophy club… I’m almost always the only attendee under retirement age.
Is there flexibility?
Yes. We have a few older members.
Some of them
- Have been ill from a young age;
- Were invited by other group members;
- Were regulars already;
- Or are only slightly over the age limit.
Imagine that support groups are patches on a quilt. Each patch has a unique purpose, but they all connect to form something bigger.
Some “patches” for ill and disabled people cater solely for
- A single, specific condition;
- Carers only;
- Parents only;
- Teenagers only;
- LGBT people only;
- Healthy disabled people (e.g. Deaf people, amputees, etc);
- Minorities (such as this group for Chinese people dealing with cancer);
- A specific gender, such as groups for men dealing with mental illness;
- And so on.
It makes me feel quite sad that people have a negative reaction. Having said that, I totally understand the feeling of unfairness and exclusion- I would imagine most of us feel that on a daily basis! Perhaps a better way to look at Chill is as a group that has guidelines so that younger people don’t feel excluded by the general older swing of other groups available. While I have fun hanging out with teens, and perhaps sharing a few pearls of wisdom, they find huge benefits in having a gathering of their own and I wouldn’t dream of denying them that. The same for parents, or people with the same condition as you: there’s such a relief in finding someone who just ’gets it’.