Congratulations, you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic illness. You will never get better, you will never lead an ‘normal’ life again. Sucks, right?!?! You will always be different.
Life can be hard at times for everyone, but having a chronic illness complicates even the simplist of things. But what does that mean for your friendships? People will fade from your life, sometimes even the people you wouldn’t expect. True, it happens to everyone. But people get scared off even more when your sick. It gets awkward. People don’t like you talking about your life now, because it makes them feel awkward.
But what about when you find it hard to leave your home, to go out and socialise? Then people show their real worth. It becomes pretty obvious who will put the work in to visit you, and who wont. I like having friends, I do, but having ME/CFS, EDS & GAD means I can’t always leave my flat to see people when I want to. I go to very few social occassions these days. Each time I try, something holds me back. Right now, it’s anxiety. And I miss out. I miss out on keeping existing friends, and making new ones. It’s hard, and Facebook especially makes it even harder to deal with.
The next section is the most emotional thing I have had to write in quite some time. I want to be clear from the start: it is not intended to make anyone feel guilty, it is not directed at any one individual. and it is not to get pity. I 100% understand people have other committments than just being my friend.
The 4th of December was my 23rd Birthday. I had to study all day, and that combined with being a spoonie led me to plan a film night in the communal movie room of my accomodation. Something simple, that didn’t require much commitment or money from me. I haven’t celebrated my last 2 birthdays because I was too ill at the time, so this year I wanted to be realistic.
I invited 30 people, but I was not expecting everyone to turn up obviously. I’ve just been in the position of not being invited to things, so I didn’t want anyone else to feel left out. In a way, maybe I wanted unexpected people to pop up. I guess I always use my birthday as an attempt to reach out to people I haven’t spoken to in a while. I miss talking to people, and I am very much aware that I am by no means the perfect friend. Being sick is rubbish.
I will admit, I was getting pretty excited. My mum had come up the day before to visit, and to take me shopping for some food for my guests. I didn’t get too much, as I knew many of my favourite people would not be able to attend due to other commitments.
If the people who went to the extra special effort to pop me a message on facebook or by text to explain are reading this – thank you. And of course, I completely understand!!! It was hardly an exciting black tie event anyway, literally my plan was to watch movies whilst eating as much as I could before my digestive system disagreed.
Putting it bluntly, only 4 people turned up. And thank you to those, especially since 2 were new people in my life, and I hadn’t seen the other 2 in quite a while because life got in the way. You all tried you best to make the night special, and I really do appreciate the catch up. Laughs were had, and it was substantially better than if noone had attended. Thank you for making me smile, and enabling me to forget about my health for a couple of hours. It was just what I needed.
But it still hurt. It was quite a large room, and I think that just made it look even worse that there weren’t many people in it. GAD crept in and made me feel like I didn’t have any friends. It was tough, arguing with my brain throughout the night. I know I do have friends, truely I do. It was just an unfortunate set of events which just so happened to come together on one night.
Just to reitterate, this is not to guilt-trip any of my friends who may be reading this. Seriously, it isn’t.
Anyway, I ended up making the surplus food into packs and wheeled around the city centre giving them to the homeless people on the streets that night. It wasn’t a lot, it wasn’t going to change their circumstances, but at least it made some people smile on a cold winter night. Again, this is not to get recognition for what I did, but it was better than me throwing it in the bin. Food waste is a very real problem.
I guess I just wanted to type this up to make people realise how hard it is to keep friends at the best of times, let alone when you are ill. If someone – even if it’s completely unexpected – reaches out to you, grab the opportunity with both hands. Be kind to everyone, you probably have no idea what battles they are fighting.