Writing about Chronic Illness and the effect it has had on my friendships instantly breaks my heart. I am sick to my stomach as I type this with a flood of emotions coming to the surface. I have been sick for well over 10 years so a lot has happened within my “social life” and I will share my thoughts the best I can because I know that much of what I go through and have been through is very common for those in my situation. Phew, here I go…..
One thing that I used to pride myself on was the number and quality of my friends. I have been blessed with amazing people in my life. I loved spending time with them and if they were happy, so was I. We all got busy with life and husbands and kids, but we kept in touch and made a point to see each other and connect as much as possible.
Then I got sick and everything changed…..
At first, everyone showed a deep level of concern.
” What’s wrong?”
“Let us know if we can do anything.”
“Keep us posted on what the doctor says”
But I had no answers to most medical questions. And I am not a person who will ask other people for help, no matter how much I need it.
And I felt sicker and sicker. They would ask me to do all the regular things we would do and I was hopeful because sometimes I had a decent day. But often I didn’t so I had to cancel at the last minute. That get’s old when it happens almost all the time. So some just stopped asking.
What they didn’t know was that at that point, it took me days to store the energy for the outing. And the shower and effort to get ready to go out was so exhausting, I often couldn’t do anything else that day. And if I had to drive myself, that made it harder. And if there was a lot of walking or it was hot outside….you get the picture. What I hope they knew and what breaks my heart….I needed to see them more than anything. If I could have come, I would have. Canceling is so hard on me. I look forward to seeing them and having that time with them more than they could ever imagine. I spend almost all of my time home alone. I love my friends. And they eventually stopped calling.
But not all of them. I still have a few. I have a few precious friends that put up with the fact that I can’t talk on the phone. And that dropping me a line on FB messenger or text makes my day. And will spend time having full conversations over the computer (where I spend most of my day). They find ways to spend time with me and that means absolutely EVERYTHING.
And I have made some amazing friends online. I’ve never touched their face in person, but I consider them REAL friends. I have “talked” with them on the computer and connected with them in ways that are sincere and very special and I treasure each one of them!!!
I take full responsibility for the failure of some of my friendships and for the fact that I make very few new ones now in person. For example, I moved to a wonderful new neighborhood not long ago with a very close-knit community, but I have shied away from getting to really know anyone. The reason for that is that I don’t feel like I can “carry my weight” in a friendship anymore. I have been very self-conscious of that since I got sick. Our next door neighbors invited us over for dinner when we moved in and I was able to go and we had a wonderful time. Unfortunately, I have felt awful ever since because I haven’t felt well enough to reciprocate. One of the horrible things that chronic illness does is delete your self-esteem. You don’t feel worthy of friends much of the time. Who wants to hang out with a sick person?
Another thing that really messes with me in my friendships is when I think…well, I will wait until I am feeling better and I will get in touch with her and make some plans. You can imagine how that goes. I never feel better. Or if I do, it is unexpected and I have a husband and kids and a house and a business to catch up on. I always feel a bit like I am drowning. It’s impossible to be caught up, to please everyone, to do it all right.
I desperately miss the friends I used to have. I suppose they aren’t the friends I thought they were, but I still miss them. I assume at this point, they don’t care….which breaks my heart. To me, friends stay in your life in some form because you matter to them. We are all busy but we make time for what matters. I guess we all just do the best we can.
If you are reading this and have a friend with a chronic illness, here are some tips:
- Just because we try to stay positive, doesn’t mean we are all better. Chronic illness never goes away.
- Don’t be afraid to mention your health issues. We want you to open up to us about anything. No walking on eggshells. If your back hurts, it’s okay to complain about it.
- Please come see us. But no surprises. We hate surprise visits!
- PLEASE don’t offer advice on how to deal with our health unless you are our very best friend and you know we are open to it. We hear that stuff constantly and it drives us nuts!
- If you love us, keep in touch with us in some way. We are STARVING for social connection with people we love. PLEASE DON’T WAIT FOR “SOMEDAY”!! Crap, I was totally sobbing as I typed that!
- Know that we pretend to be much better than we are….always!
- We ALWAYS feel HORRIBLE for canceling! We would make plans to see you so much more if we thought we could be sure. COME SEE US WHERE WE ARE! But call first, of course 🙂
- Don’t give up on us…..we love you so much and our world has become very small. WE NEED YOU! Yep, more tears!
To my friends,
I LOVE YOU SO MUCH! You are a big part of what keeps me going. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!