To Friends I’ve Lost Because of Illness

To the friends I’ve lost becuase of illness: I understand.

I understand that it would be hard to befriend someone who seems like a flake, who is unpredictable with keeping plans, who always seems like a “no” RSVP.

I know it would be difficult to trust that someone would show up if they were wishy-washy about committing because their body is unreliable.

I realize that it may be hard to have a friend you’re always worried about, a friend whose health concerns are always one of the primary topics of discussion.

I also recognize that illness can sometimes make us unintentionally self-absorbed. Not in a narcissistic, shallow way — but in a way that is crucial for self-preservation. When you are managing multiple lifelong illnesses, some serious, some debilitating, you sometimes have to put yourself first.

Sometimes, I’ll have to say no to something that I want to do, or back out of plans when I’m not feeling well.

Trust me, friends, I would rather be doing the fun thing. I’d rather be doing the thing you asked me to do, every time.

My life is beautiful and awesome but it is also difficult. Don’t let the positive attitude and the attempts at normalcy fool you: being sick is hard. I know I look fine. I know I may “seem” fine to you. But you only see what I show you.

I once was so offended that a friend told me that she was glad I had a good support system but she chose not to be a part of it. But now, I understand. It would be hard to be friends with someone who was unreliable with plans, whose health was always such an ISSUE that painted every conversation.

It can’t be easy.

Illness ravages your life in so many ways, big and small. I’ve been late to things because of allergic reactions or being able to lift my arms easily to change my shirt. I’ve had to cancel plans an hour beforehand because a severe migraine or rheumatoid arthritis flare came on, or because my tachycardia was acting up. I’ve double-booked social outings and doctor’s appointments. I’ve even had to be taken away by ambulance in the middle of a mani-pedi session with my girlfriends, half my pedicure done. I think I forgot to pay.

So I get it. You’re planning on a girl’s night out and I text to reschedule. I change my RSVP on your kid’s birthday party from a yes to a maybe to a no becuase my health was on the decline all week. Or we are out at a bar/restaurant and ordering is a big ordeal becuase I can’t eat anything on the menu and then our next stop is a big ordeal because I cant walk far.

I understand that this isn’t ideal.

My body being unreliable is something I’ve had 33 (almost 34) years to adjust to. Not everyone realizes how unpredictable my day-to-day is, or how unpredictable my health can be even hour-to-hour. And that’s fine; I wouldn’t expect most people to understand, becuase it’s pretty darn crazy.

When someone is sick, it affects everyone around them: friends, family, spouses, colleagues. Just like every patient handles their diagnosis differently, so does every member of that patients’s support system. And we all have different definitions of what the “right” way to handle these things might be.

I understand that businesses can’t come to a screeching halt becuase I’m not sure I’ll make my appointment and I understand that me canceling or rescheduling might cause them to lose money. I understand that my friends and family are human and may feel hurt or disappointed that I don’t show up to something — AGAIN. I understand that bosses and co-workers may never be able to wrap their head fully around my medical situation.

And that’s okay.

I’m here to say I forgive you if you’ve excused yourself from my life because of the chaos and collateral damage that chronic illness can cause. But please forgive me when these factors beyond my control play a role in our relationship, whether it is a friendship, a professional relationship, or a familial one.

To the friends that have stayed, I thank you. I value my friends more than you know, and I appreciate you always being there. Don’t give up on me!

3 thoughts on “To Friends I’ve Lost Because of Illness

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