These communities exist in many different forms. They are certainly not one-size-fits-all. There are a myriad of disease specific communities, and communities for disease in general. Here are some places you might find your community.
- DailyStrength. DailyStrength (called DS by it's users) has a multitude of support groups for all different illnesses, as well as for interpersonal problems ranging from loneliness to divorce. I've mentioned this site before, and I'll mention it again, because I've found it to be a wonderful place to get support and ask questions.
- Hospital-Facilitated Support Groups: Many healthcare organizations run patient-to-patient support groups face-to-face a couple times a month. Most places have things like cancer and dialysis support; finding a chronic pain support group might be a bit more difficult, but certainly not impossible. Most hospitals keep listings of support groups on their websites; the local newspaper is another place to look.
- Awareness activities: Organizations hold events to promote awareness for various conditions, and if you're able to attend it's a great place to meet other people suffering the same thing. This type of event is much easier to attend if you live in a larger area, but sometimes they pop up in small towns too. The Americaan Chronic Pain Association's calendar tracks chronic pain events, here's a schedule for Arthritis Walks by state.
- Social Media: If just the idea of going the an arthritis walk makes your knees ache, social media is another viable way to connect with other people in the chronic illness community. Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook... all have huge amounts of followers, and many accounts held by people with chronic illness. Searching tags is often the best way to find these groups; once found, suss them out of a few days to make sure it's the type of community you'd like to be involved in and have your name/handle attached to.