Guest Post: Chronic Illness & Friendships
I know for a lot of people who have a chronic illness, losing friendships because of being ill is probably one of the hardest things. Without friends to support you, life can be really lonely. And when you’re fighting a chronic illness and now have to contend with loneliness, life just seems like one big struggle.
But I’ve learned a lot about people and friendships in the 10 years I’ve had M.E. First of all you learn who your true friends are. I know that sounds like a cliché, but it’s true. If a friend isn’t willing to make the effort to come see you or even stay in contact with you then, to put it bluntly, they don’t care! We live in a world where staying in contact is made so easy by phones and internet.
Someone once told me I should surround myself with only people who make me smile, who support me, encourage me and care for me. I remember sitting there thinking that’s impossible, I didn’t have even one friend that did all those things. Over the years I lost all of my friends as they moved on. I was so upset and mad at the world for a long time. All sorts of nonsense went through my head like ‘I must not be a nice person’ and ‘I must be unbearable to be around’. Then I remembered what that person once told me and I started to realise that I was so much better off without those people I used to call friends. Although I was finding it tough being lonely, I had become happier as my self-esteem wasn’t being constantly knocked by so-called friends. I started to find my spirit again. After years of hating myself, I really started to let myself make friendships with others who have chronic illness. It was hard for to trust people again, but they were a great support to me. I finally had people texting me again just to ask how I was and it felt great! My new friends gave me the ability to be positive through their support and understanding.
Do I still feel lonely sometimes? Yes, I do unfortunately. My new friends live all over the country so I don’t have people to pop to a cafe with or have a movie night, so my life is still very much indoors without seeing actual faces. But I’m so thankful to the friendships I’ve made online. If you’re struggling with loneliness but are able to get out a little bit I’d suggest reaching out to your local community through clubs and charities. In all honesty it took years for me to get to where I am today. It seems there’s not a lot of opportunities out there for people in their 20s to make new friends. But a couple of months ago I was asked if I wanted to go along to a bowling meet up with other people in their 20’s set up by a charity. Everyone seemed lovely and I hope I can be friends with them.
I think people who haven’t experienced chronic illness in any way have no idea how to be around people that do, and they find it easier to distance themselves. But there are people out there who don’t have a chronic illness and are willing to come along on the journey with you.
I’ve gone from being scared to make friends to being friendly and chatting with everyone because no-one should feel lonely or feel they have no one to talk to and you could be that friend that someone really needs. That’s why I love all these online support groups, forums and blogs. They help us gain friendships and make us realise we are not alone.
I think there are two things we should all remember:
- It’s far better to have one quality friend than to have lots of friends that are not there for you when life is rough.
- It’s important to remember your friends should make you smile, support you, encourage you and care for you.