When we work, a mentor can be a valuable ally as well as someone who steers us when we might be heading in the wrong direction. A spiritual mentor (or spiritual director) can be a wealth of wisdom and guidance, especially when life gets murky. And a mentor who has lived longer with the illness from which we suffer can be a tremendous support, too, a light for us when we might think all is darkness.
An illness mentor isn’t a doctor to us; we still need to work first with our medical team to manage our treatment, diagnoses, tests, and lifestyle issues impacted by our health challenges. But an illness mentor still fills an essential role in providing encouragement, a shoulder to cry on (yes, this is part of the journey!) and someone whose own life path can provide insight into how we, too, can “have a life” even if it is punctuated by frustrating and derailing symptoms.
I met my treasured illness mentor, who is now a great friend, at my first lupus support group meeting. Her humor, knowledge, and common sense approach to the disease was greatly steadying after I’d gone through my first gauntlet of specialists and website “information hubs,” which were unsettling (to say the least). Through the years, my mentor has been a rock of support and a source of humor and strength – an essential part of my life then and now.
It might take a few tries to find the right fit with an illness mentor. And it’s important to remember that he or she also is dealing with tough health issues, so at times, we will (and willingly) be support right back! But life with illness is greatly enhancesd by a mentor who has “been there, done that,” and can shine a light for us, even when it seems very, very dark indeed!