Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Chronic Illness and Friendships

Ever since I became ill, it seems as though I have gravitated towards friends who also have a chronic illness. Maybe that's because some of my old friends have fallen away. At first, I was feeling sad about what I'd lost; but, now I look at things differently. Who better to understand you than someone else who lives with some of the same challenges? We may not have the exact same disease, but those of us with chronic illnesses have to deal with doctors, medicines, limitations and expectations that other people do not.

I'll try and explain myself a little better. I miss making plans and being able to go out. It was nice to have plans and I'd look forward to a particular event. But now, instead of excitement, I have feelings of dread. What if I'm having a bad day? What if I start to feel bad and need to leave early? What if this is the second (or third) time we've had to schedule due to my illness (this has happened)? The stress I feel over friend dates is real. With my friends who have a chronic illness, none of this is a real issue. We get each other. If we aren't able to get together, we have a phone date or text each other. Sure there will be disappointments, but we make the best of the situation and don't secretly resent the other person for yet again breaking a date.

Most of the time, when a friend who is chronically ill is having a bad day, I know what to say and what not to say to help. Many times, they just need someone to listen. More importantly, they need someone who understands. Whether they are dealing with an unsupportive family member, worry over an upcoming doctor's appointment or side effects over a new medication, it's something that I'm usually familiar with and if they want advice, I'm able to give it.

Many of my friends who are chronically ill are friends that I've met online. So, some of the usual friend activities don't apply. It's nice to hop online if I'm unable to sleep because almost always someone will be on going through the same thing. We chat for a few minutes, sometimes more than a few minutes, then, I'm usually able to fall asleep. Sure, non ill friends could do this, too. But, I find it's us sick people who are up more in the middle of the night.

I read an excellent article today about friendships and chronic illness: 6 Ways to Keep Friendships Strong While Living with Chronic Illness. I love the way the author shows that it's possible to still have fun with friends even if things are done a bit differently. I particularly love the ideas of a texting party and a wine (I almost said whine...Freudian Slip, possibly?) and cheese party in bed for my closest friends.

Maybe it's all about reaching out to all of our friends, those who are sick and those who aren't, however we're able. Perhaps, we are too stuck on doing things the way that we've always done them. It doesn't have to be dinner and a movie out. Having dinner and a movie night in with my closest friends (in our PJ's) sounds more fun to me than sitting surrounded by strangers in a dark, crowded theater.

Next time I'll have an update on my upcoming doctor's appointment. Good thoughts and prayers are appreciated as I have a lot to discuss with him.

Have a happy, friend filled week!

"One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood."
~Lucius Annaeus Seneca

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