A common theme when speaking to others who have a chronic illness is the importance of friendships yet so many find that there are very few friends who stick about and understand when you have to call off for the 10th time and cancel attending things.
I have found over the years that this is all too true. I have a lot of people who I consider friends but when everything goes down hill there are very few who stick around no matter what, who drop everything and will come and help you even if it is just because you’re upset and need someone to talk to.
Speaking to others how have chronic illness they all same the same thing. The feeling of isolation can leave you so low and just feel like giving up. It is funny because so many people say they will be there to support you but they are not. Often you find people offer to help when at the start of something but then after a month or so it fizzles out and you are left.
What can we do about this?
I have found that tapping in to the chronic illness community very helpful. I have found that this group of people understand exactly about how important friendship is but then also how there are only a very few that stick around. Living with a chronic illness and having friends who also have a chronic illness is a very special bond as they get it. They understand about the unpredictability of health, the having to cancel thing, or just going off the radar for a while. If this happens it is this group of friends who reach out with a message asking if you need anything or they message to say they are going to the shops and will bring food round. They don’t ask how you are because it is a useless question. Normally if asked how you are we say fine or good. It is rare that we would open up and actually say how we are feeling because it brings a downer on the situation or catch up. These friends know exactly what it is like.
I have been so fortunate to meet some fantastic people in the chronic illness and advocacy network. I have had care packages from people met at the HEaltheVoices conference in Dallas. Even though I was there for 4 days I made friends for life. They know exactly what to say and when. The items in care packages are perfect often items that other friends would not get because they don’t know what it is like to be chronically unwell.
Having a chronic illness that is so unpredictable making plans is hard, you feel like you let people down. Friends stop inviting you to events because you either say no or have to cancel last minute- eventually they just give up.
Advice I would give people is your true friends will stay around no matter what. They stay for the long term. I like to refer to those who don’t stick around as acquaintances.
Always reach out shout you need help especially those who totally understand what you are going through.