The Importance of an "AS Buddy"
Ever since we've moved to Philly, we've been incredibly fortunate to find friends who have helped us through a baby and two total hip replacements. We live in a suburb within city limits and within walking distance of the main street lined with small businesses. After we first moved, Keegan would walk down there and check out the shops, including a great coffee shop, a comic book store, and many incredible restaurants.
It's almost like dating
Since being diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, Keegan has been looking for what I'd call an "AS buddy." That is, a good friend and someone who he can be open with emotionally and socially. We were both shocked how much work it took for us to find friends after graduating from college. We learned quickly how school immerses you in a huge body of people, and it's easy to find friends in that group.
Once we moved to Philly and had more places to go to, it was easy for Keegan to find his "AS buddies." I call them that because they're unique friends that provides Keegan with some additional support, including:
- Can provide physical support when needed
- Calls Keegan if he's too tired or in pain, instead of going out
- Listens to Keegan openly and empathizes
- Shares common activities with Keegan to encourage Keegan to get moving
Keegan never called finding these friends "AS buddies" but I always did internally. When you look for groups of friends, I always tell Keegan you have different friends with different support skills. Given that he has AS, he has some additional needs, and I can't fill all of those.
Having an AS buddy affirms Keegan's pain, and provides hope
The beauty of Keegan's close friends who give him this support is that they validate what he's going through. There are a lot of times Keegan wonders if he's just making up what he's feeling and thinking. Having these close friends means he can open up to them and be told, "Wow, that sounds really tough." I can see relief in his face when he hears this, especially when I'm not the only one telling him.
Having people willing to listen, and wait to offer solutions, is key. We've all been there--when you're in pain, upset, etc., the last thing you need is someone telling you what you could be doing to make things better. I truly appreciate those AS buddies Keegan found because they know when to just listen, and when to offer advice for Keegan.
AS buddies helped Keegan overcome depression
As Keegan grew his social life here in Philly, I watched his depression begin to slip away. Science shows that finding solid, deep connections with others helps with overcoming depression. This absolutely was the case with Keegan. He had folks to open up to, sometimes they actually were able to help with treatments like how to get a medical marijuana card. And sometimes they just got him out of the house.
I'm incredibly grateful that we have these friends in our lives. Without them, the suffering that comes with AS would be much bigger, heavier, and feel impossible to overcome. Do you have an AS buddy? How have they helped your life?
Other than back pain and fatigue, what is the most common symptom that AS patients experience?