Relationship Lessons From the Golden Girls

The Golden Girls is streaming on Hulu, and in addition to holding up as a great show, it’s clear that the fab four of Florida were way ahead of their time when it comes to real talk about health issues.

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There was the one where Rose found out she might have HIV from a blood transfusion and was freaking out. Sophia started ghosting her in her own house, using a bathroom down the street and labeling her coffee mug so she wouldn’t catch it. Eventually they tell her they help her through this, no matter what her test results say, and all accompany her to hear the results, which are negative. ("72 Hours," Season 5, Episode 119)

The one where Rose has an addiction to painkillers. Apparently, she had been taking pain meds for an accident involving St. Olaf livestock that happened 20 years earlier.) The girls got her to face up to her addiction and make a call to a treatment center. (“High Anxiety,”  Season 4, Episode 20.) 

And the two-part episode based on the show runner’s real life, where Dorothy knows something is wrong with her but her doctors can’t say exactly what. (It’s chronic fatigue.) She really had to advocate for herself and the support of her friends helped her do that. ("Sick and Tired," Season 5, Episodes 101 and 102.)

What do all of these episodes have in common? The ladies made it through their medical dramas with the compassion and support of their friends.

There are stacks of academic journal articles about the benefits of peer-to-peer support. It’s when you can count on people who are dealing with the same issues. It’s kind of like having a gym buddy, except that you help each other with a specific issue, like dealing with grief, anxiety, addiction, or managing diabetes.

This is what makes someone a good peer to have in your group. It doubles as a list of things that make you a good peer as well.  

  • Talk/Text/Chat regularly with your friend
  • Know when to encourage your friend to see a professional 
  • Encourage healthy activities like exercise and good nutrition
  • Help your friend stay on top of their treatment routine
  • Be sensitive to their feelings
  • Know that you have limits to how much you can help

Now that I work in the addiction space, I’m learning a lot about the world’s most famous support group, A.A. It has saved so many lives, but without bringing in a mental health pro, it isn’t always enough. If there’s no Dorothy, Rose, Blanche or Sophia in your life you can find some peers online at Daily Strength or Patients Like Me. Or IRL group.

As Sophia said, “This is what friendship is all about. Banding together when the going gets tough.”

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Thank you for being a friend.