Anyone who has ever had a basic psychology class will be familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. In specific, Maslow references the human need for each of us to feel loved and to belong. When I was in my teen years, my need to belong was driven by a shallow sense of what I thought was important. Things like brand name clothes, being one of the “popular” girls, making the cheerleading squad or joining the most popular clubs at school.
And once you were “in”, you could not help but gain a sense of confidence that you were among kindred spirits, no matter what your motivation was for being there. Memories were created, character was built and bonds were made between friends. The reality was what was true back then about belonging to a group with common interests, is still true today.
As I scanned the daily topics on The Sjogren’s World Forum (my online club), I was struck by the various degrees of needed support. There are members who are: grieving the recent loss of two members; those who are in fear that they may have lymphoma; more than a few folks who are battling insurance and medical bills; some who have little or no support from family, friends or co-workers; and most, if not all of us, who just want a solid diagnosis (es) and treatment plans that work, and on and on.
Ironically, this “Sjogren’s Club” is not a club that any of us wanted to join. It is a group that was born of necessity. A collection of people searching for answers and support. And just like the kid who sat alone at a lunch table or didn’t get picked for a team in gym class, it can be very lonely for people living their life with Sjogren’s Syndrome and chronic illness.
I did not choose to be a part of the Sjogren’s Club…it chose me. Living with the complexity of an obscure and ‘difficult to diagnose’ illness is not easy on many levels. Our human need to be loved, supported and belong still drives us, no matter what our situation is. If there is a silver lining in any of this, it is that for those of us who reach out to others who are living the same Sjogren’s journey, we can find the support and belongingness that helps to navigate our rocky paths together.
So..welcome to the club. While the membership fees are costly, the support benefits help to defray the costs.