Finding a Balance as an Advocate

I have been toying with the idea of going back to school to get my masters degree in social work but since I started blogging and becoming more engrossed in the IBD and health care community, I began to question whether it was the right fit for me. I am someone who wants to help everybody and until very recently was having a difficult time figuring out how to go about helping all of the people who have reached out to me. In all honesty, the more people who I talk to the better I feel because it makes me feel like I have a purpose. It makes my heart feel so happy when I receive a message about a post I wrote or just someone who is reaching out for support. But sometimes, there are situations and people that aren’t good for me.

Since I started blogging and connecting with more people, I have heard many stories and tried to help anyone who reaches out to me. But there are some people who come across my path that is just too hard for me for one reason or another. Maybe something about their story triggers something in me. Maybe they are dealing with something that I haven’t yet experienced but am worried about. Or maybe I am simply not “clicking” with someone and for whatever reason, I am being rubbed the wrong way. As an advocate, I am trying to learn the ropes in every aspect.

When I started feeling a bit bogged down, I messaged my friend Sara who has been active in the IBD community for a lot longer than I have. I know she has encountered all types of people and stories. Her advice to me was so clear and sound. Sara told me that she learned that for her own mental health she realized that there are just some people and stories that are beyond her ability to deal with. And while I haven’t come across any situation where I feel like I am TRULY unable to help someone, I do feel like for the sake of my own mental health and well being I have needed to take a step back.

It is so interesting to me from a psychological point of view what I can and cannot handle. For example, I recently befriended a guy who in addition to his crohns disease is dealing with cancer and I am all ears when we talk. His story and his personality is just not triggering to me. And then there are some people who have been through barely anything more than a visit with a gastroenterologist who I can’t bear the thought of talking to.

It is so important to know yourself and know what you can deal with. Whether you are an advocate, or just a good friend in the life of someone who suffers from a chronic illness, it is important to know your limits.

I also try to remind myself that just because I am not able to help someone, doesn’t mean they won’t be able to receive even better support from someone else. We all bond differently to other people. There are people who I “know” from the blogosphere who I expected to form an instant bond with and unexpectedly had very little to say to them, and then the opposite is true where I have connected with people who I never thought I would. So if you come across someone who is looking for support that you don’t necessarily click with or feel like they may need additional advice, refer them to other people in the community. I do believe there is enough of us in the IBD community where we can help to support everyone …even if we need to pass their story along to someone who may be better equipped to help.

This has been a really important and necessary lessen for me that I hope to carry with me as I make my way out into the “real world” where I hope to continue to hear other peoples’ stories and help them realize that they are not suffering alone.

  • Jodi

    Keep listening to yourself…You are very right about not being able to ‘be there” for everyone…some people are a better fit than others. That’s why there’s more than one of every profession out there. You are doing great things with the people you DO connect with and sometimes the best service you can do for someone is to refer them elsewhere.
    Great blog Marisa.

  • val0525


    You are doing a great job. There will be some folks who reach out to you that will not be a connection for you. There are many other resources out there for everyone. If you are not a good fit with someone, you can direct them to another group or site. You need to listen to YOU. You know yourself best and it is not possible for one person to support everyone.

    You are doing wonderful things here.

    I am happy that you continue to write and look forward to reading each new post.

    You have grown tremendously ober the past several months.

    Great Job!!