Guest Post by Angie Alt: Unsupportive Friends & Family, A How-To Guide

September 23, 2013 in Categories: by

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Angie Alt Guest Post PhotosAngie Alt is wife, mother, world traveler & blogger. She’s also a warrior in the autoimmunity war. Angie confronts three autoimmune disorders each day, including Celiac Disease, with powerful management techniques like AIPaleo & the Paleolithic lifestyle. She blogs regularly about the emotional side of tackling autoimmunity, adopting Paleo, and how it impacts her, her family, & their way of life. You can read more by Angela Alt at her blog and connect with her on Facebook.

My friend, Whitney, over at Nutrisclerosis, recently posted to her Facebook fans, “Good morning from the pink bubble . . .” She went on to explain that she considered her life a “pink bubble,” because she has been so well supported by those close to her on her journey with MS.  I thought “pink bubble” was such a fitting description of what it is like to have that crucial support when you get a life changing autoimmune diagnosis.  She pointed out that without the “pink bubble,” the journey is likely to be much, much more difficult.

Unfortunately, large portions of those fighting the autoimmune battle do not have the “pink bubble” luxury.  I’ve noticed two important things in my time blogging in this community:  1) Those who are most successful at turning their health around with a Paleo Approach, have enormous support from immediate family (those in their household).  2) Many of the questions other bloggers and I receive have some version of, “What do I do about my unsupportive family?” embedded in them.  With those two observations in mind, I decided to write a “how-to guide.”

How To Deal With Unsupportive Friends & Family:

1)  Consider how long it took you to get a diagnosis and then move forward on a course of action.  For many of us in the AI community, the road to diagnosis is very long, often measured in years.  Some of us know something is wrong, but remain undiagnosed.  From that point, deciding how to respond to your AI can be a lengthy process, as you weigh the options.  Finally, if the course you choose is non-traditional and requires major dietary and lifestyle changes (i.e. Paleo), adaptation can also take a lot of time.  It may take those close to you that much time to understand and accept the new you.  You have been forced to steadily alter your frame of reference for yourself from the onset of symptoms all the way through to the new “empowered to act” version of you, but their frame of reference has not had to evolve at the same pace.  Try to patiently give them time.

2)  Adjust your expectations about how much support the people close to you will be able to provide.  There are definitely varying degrees of severity with autoimmune conditions.  Some are extremely aggressive and life threatening, some are manageable, but leave behind terrible physical damage, while others are slow moving, but painful.  No matter what, for the person dealing with it, an autoimmune disease is life changing.  What any AI sufferer wants is complete love and support as they tackle the condition.  The truth is that just like AIs vary, so does the amount and kind of support the people around you will be able to offer.  Maybe your husband is happy to massage sore joints, but cannot make the leap to a grain-free household?  Maybe your sister is happy to have a Paleo holiday dinner, but when you need a sympathetic ear she is completely annoyed?  Try to acknowledge the positive support that is offered by each person, allowing it to form a “whole” and let go of your wishes for more “complete” support from everyone.

3)  Form a network of people that get it.  Your mom may not ever understand your decision to manage your autoimmune with diet and lifestyle changes.  Your brother probably won’t ever validate the severity of brain fog.  Seek out and get active in a community of people that are going through the same challenges and tackling the disease with similar approaches.  There is a lot of valuable healing that comes from interacting with others that truly understand, from personal experience, what you are going through.

4)  Respect yourself.  If there are people in your life that are not only unsupportive, but actively undermining your efforts, stand up to them about the unacceptable treatment.  Let them know that if they are unable to understand or offer support, you can accept that, but that you will not fight the double battle of your AI and their sabotage.  Often negative relationships are a major player in factors that need to change for autoimmune recovery (check out Dr. Terry Wahl’s advice on this topic).

If you’ve got incredibly supportive people around you, spread the love!  If you don’t, you can still have success.  Take action to move yourself forward.


Angie – I’m so glad you wrote about this challenge. Reading the paleo bloggers I often feel alienated from them when I hear how on board their families are and how connected they are to a network of other Paleo/AIPers. I feel that this is a big departure from the reality that most people have to deal with who are addressing their illness with AIP diet. I have been on AIP for 1 year and although my family is supportive, there are still many clashes in our household over food! Even though they have adjusted over time, they may still never share the views on diet that I have acquired. This can be very demoralizing!

This is a great article. I find the most support online with all of you wonderful bloggers. You’ve given me the best ideas, great recipes and wonderful, up to date information. Thank you for taking the time to share your stories.

Angie, these words are… well I can’t describe the effect they’ve had on me. Thank you for writing this certainly useful how-to. Can I (pretty please) translate your post into Spanish and post it on my blog?

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