This qualitative study used a grounded theory approach to explore adolescent conceptualizations of their chronic illness experience and related life events. A purposive sample of 20 adolescents (12-18 years of age) with cystic fibrosis were interviewed. Adolescents used three protective strategies for reducing a sense of difference from peers: (1) keeping secrets, (2) hiding visible differences, and (3) discovering a new baseline. "Good friends" were a critical source of support and decreased the importance of differences in their social world. Interventions should focus on strategies for dealing with difficult peer situations and the negative reactions of others.