September’s Heroes are the dynamic duos Caide and Madi, who run Recovery Buddy Parcels together. A new service, Recovery Buddy Parcels works worldwide to pair people with chronic health and mental illnesses together. These Buddies then lend each other support and occasionally exchange small, inexpensive gifts to help raise flagging spirits during tough times.
The service, which is free to anyone with a chronic illness, mental illness or both, was the brainchild of Caide, a 22 year old neuroscience major at UC Santa Cruz. Caide felt motivated to start Recovery Buddy Parcels because she recognized the need. “As someone who started just as a part of the mental health recovery community but also deals with chronic illness, I know how common it is for people to struggle with both things… Most people are only really involved in one community or the other and get lots of support for chronic illness and very little for their mental health, or vice versa. Everyone needs at least one person who just completely understands everything you are saying and that can be hard to find with rare illnesses, so I wanted to try and help pair people up.”
According to Caide, they came up for the idea of doing package exchanges, “because…when I was inpatient or in residential facilities for treatment getting mail was pretty much the only thing I had to look forward to, and even if you aren’t in a hospital setting it’s still nice getting a letter or a package from a friend and can make a hard day a little bit better.”
Having experienced the devastating isolation of chronic illness and mental illness for years, combined with the frustration of having my CPTSD flare due to the accompanying anxiety caused by POTS and MCAS, I couldn’t agree more with Caide’s point of view on this. Even if I were not housebound, I know I would still be incredibly lonely without the friendships I have formed with others in my rare illness communities, as few people can understand a zebra like a zebra. Even better are the friendships I’ve managed to form with the zebras I’ve met who also suffer PTSD and POTS or MCAS like myself, as the combination of rare illness with mental illness definitely means we’re dealing with an interplay of symptoms no one else can really understand. Just knowing you’re the not the only one who struggles this way helps, but having someone to actually confide in who relates is truly priceless.
Caide and Madi are no strangers to these struggles themselves. Caide, who has hearing impairment and has struggled with an unidentified chronic illness for some time, also deals with chronic anxiety and eating disorder. Madi, who had joined Caide in making Recovery Buddy Parcels a success, is a 16 year old from Missouri with Autism, bipolar disorder, PTSD and an eating disorder. Both Caide and Madi are thrilled to be working on bringing into being a service they’ve long imagined and the success they’ve seen thus far. They hope the project helps to bring awareness about how many people cope with the dual struggles of chronic illness and mental illness together.
When asked what advice they would give to people with similar conditions, they told me, “Recovery is probably the hardest thing you will ever do and cannot be achieved without a solid support system. There are many days where it sucks and you will just want to give up, but it is important to remind yourself that healing isn’t linear and the goal of recovery is progress, not perfection. Without accepting and seeking treatment for our physical and mental health, we would not be able to be where we are today or accomplish future goals.”
Making friendships can be tough, both online and in person, especially for those of us with special needs and social issues. There are always support groups, but the support group atmosphere is not for everyone and it can take a long time to find one that’s suited for you. If you aren’t the support group type, sometimes you can make friends on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook just by posting and commenting, but it takes a lot of time and you have to be pretty gregarious. For those of us a little more introverted, Caide and Madi make meeting that one special friend easy by pairing people based on the information provided in the application and making introductions for you. They even set a few guidelines to follow, such as including “small gifts… handmade crafts, inspirational messages, letters, and small inexpensive toys/stationary/snacks/etc” in packages and making them no more than $10-15 so anyone of any budget can become a Buddy.
Even if you already participate in community support groups, you may still find the idea appealing. Maybe you still haven’t found that one special friend to confide in. Maybe you love the idea of receiving the occasional care package, picked just for you by your special friend. Maybe you never get things like this from family or friends or don’t have many family or friends and just want more. Maybe you simply love letters and postcards and putting together care packages.
Or perhaps you’re more concerned with what you can give to the person on the other end. Becoming a Buddy can also be about what you can get out of giving. Your Buddy will receive all the same wonderful things you do, provided you’re as caring and compassionate a Buddy as he/she/they. It feels good to know you’re helping to brighten someone’s bad days and support them through the dark times in their lives, just as they are yours. The best part is there’s no need for either of you to feel like a burden or a hero, as you’re there for each other facing similar struggles. A Recovery Buddy Parcels friendship is one of many gifts, both symbolic and literal.
A new program, Recovery Buddy Parcels proved very popular its first 6 weeks, matching over 70 pairs of Buddies worldwide. They hope to continue to grow and reach as many people across the globe as possible to help them establish their own support system. If you’re interested in being paired with a Buddy of your own, fill out the application or visit them on FaceBook or Instagram to learn more.