Friends without benefits

The one similar thing people with chronic illness say, is how it lost them friends.  Now you would think that’s not possible. You would also think the friends you have will be there for you more than ever now you’re ill. Unfortunately that isn’t the case and sadly it is true that friends give up on you when you have a chronic illness.

One of my theories on this is the fact they lose patience because they don’t understand you will not recover. You may improve as time goes by. You may even get back to virtually how you were before you got ill. Sadly though with chronic illness sometimes nothing changes or you get nowhere near back to the person you were and the exhaustion you suffer stops you from socialising either full or part-time.

What compounds this is social media. Before social media close friends would see each other on a regular basis and even if you’ve moved away then you would write.  An email tells you so much of what your friends are doing and how they are. You know things that acquaintances on fb do not, which is why you are a close friend.  However, now we have social media this isn’t the case anymore. We don’t write a personal email, we don’t share everything let alone our innermost thoughts. You become no different to a mere acquaintance. Someone who virtually may mean nothing to them at all suddenly gets invited into their lives. They now know exactly what they’re doing, where they’ve been holidaying, and then can browse their photos also. The privilege of being a close personal friend is well and truly lost. You’re just part of the process.  You’re just listed among all of their fb friends.  Your special status is lost.  The many years of being so close now has to be shared with any old ‘friend’ that’s been added.

Even Christmas and birthdays are changed forever. Gone are the personal cards and messages within. We now have e-cards or just a Happy New Year message through fb. Social media may bring people together but the damage it does to close friendships is here to stay.

If I was still living close by to my friends, I would like to think they would visit and be there for me now that I’m at my lowest point ever in my life. What worries me though is other sufferers of chronic illness aren’t just talking about people miles away, they are mostly talking about friends that are close by. They say they are constantly questioned as to why on one day they can seem well and on others they are not.  You definitely feel you have to justify a chronic illness to people who don’t understand.

I think you get left behind for a number of reasons. When you get invited to social events but are too ill to attend and decline several times, eventually the invites stop. Whether or not you would have improved enough eventually to go is irrelevant.  What’s important is that you’re still asked and not just written off forever.

I live a very long way from my old friends, but I still thought the support I needed would be there in the form of e-mails.  Just something to perk me up, but no, after the first few months my illness obviously became too boring for them.  In one way I was relieved to not have to reply to ‘’are you better yet’’? That question eventually became too upsetting to answer. I had explained over and over that I will recover from most of the Cushing’s syndrome damage – hopefully – but that there is no recovery from adrenal insufficiency and I would be steroid dependent for the rest of my life.

It hurts terribly that my friends knew the adrenal insufficiency had tried to kill me a few times but they still had nothing to say.  Maybe people don’t know what to say, but these weren’t mere acquaintances, these were friends that had been part of my life from fifteen to 30 years.

The hurt and pain will stop me from letting them back into my life.  They were there for all the good times, but not the bad.  The weddings, christenings, parties.  I’ve searched my soul to ask myself if I would also back away from someone who needed me more than ever.  I’m sure I would not.  I hope I would not.  The worrying thing is though, I just don’t know.

 

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