In Which People I’ve Never Met Become My Friends

In Which People I’ve Never Met Become My Friends

I’ve always been a difficult person to be friends with. And I’m not easy to love.

Although life didn’t start out that way. One day in pre-school, my mom was shocked to see me sitting at a table with all the little boys in the class crowding around me, the only girl at the table. If only I had such admiration ten years later!

In all seriousness, I think a lot of my friend-making difficulty stems from my social anxiety, which started baring its teeth around the age of nine. There were really a lot of people who didn’t like me for reasons explained in that post, and it scarred me for life. I still remember the torment and how it made me feel. I was always the smart one, not the pretty one, and brains didn’t earn you many friends. Middle school and high school were awful for obvious reasons, so I was thrilled to go to college over 400 miles away from home where I didn’t know a soul. Friendships were much easier to maintain there because everyone was starting on a clean slate. Although I can still recall during the last two or three years (of a six-year program) a few examples of downright deliberate cruelty perpetuated by young women I thought were my friends…

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But it’s now been almost seven years since I graduated from pharmacy school. I’m almost seven years into my career. But for the past ten months, I’ve been on medical leave in order to have and recover from three surgeries in a four-month period:Β hernia repair, brain tumor removal, and aneurysm stenting. However, just as I was about to go back to work, POTS happened, likely as a result of all those surgeries. And having POTS sucks incredibly. It’s not something I would wish on my worst enemy.

But what does this have to do with friendship?

Everything.

img_0999See, it’s often said that when you have a chronic illness, or multiple chronic illnesses as in my case (see my About page for the full list), you learn quickly who your true friends are. This is not a cliche; it is the flat out truth. But it’s not always the fault of the healthy friends. For awhile, they really do care that you are ill or have a new diagnosis. You get a nice card signed by everyone. Then comes the inevitable, and not always well-meaning, question: “God, aren’t you better yet?” I explain no, it’s a chronic illness. There’s no cure and it can only be managed with {insert treatment or lack thereof here}.

And I have literally had the response to my statement be, “Well, you’d better get it together.”

That was over a year ago, in February 2016. (At least I know I received the aforementioned card on the 20th, since I still have it in my box of things that make me happy.) The card was mailed to me at the start of my first extended leave of absence.

Unfortunately, things continued to tumble downhill from there.

Just like Buttercup…

As my brain tumor progressed, I was no longer able to work, and after weeks of trying and trying as hard as I could, I went on extended medical leave starting on June 10th. I had surgery in September to remove the tumor and another surgery in November to fix the aneurysm. I was scheduled to return to work part-time on January 1st. But by then, the POTS had made itself known, keeping me almost permanently in bed due to my incapability to stand long or even sit upright in a chair for long. I spend about 90% of my time in a reclined position now in an attempt to control my symptoms. So here I remain on medical leave, which will soon turn into unemployment as soon as my replacement is hired.

img_1001And then, gradually, there was silence. No e-mails. No cards. No Messenger. No response to Facebook posts. And then, no text messages. Their lives have moved on without me being a part of it.

I understand, really I do. I remember what it was like to be well and busy. I’m sure they just don’t know what to say anymore. After all, my major health fiascos, including celiac disease and endometriosis, began five years ago. I’ve been through a lot, and they’ve been through all of that with me. But at the same time…aren’t I still one of them? Or have they already written me off in their minds and didn’t like me enough as a coworker and friend to bother maintaining contact? Hence the overall lack of visitors during my two hospitalizations, perhaps. And I guess I’m not really a co-worker anymore, either. Just a disposable sick person.

It’s been the same with my friends I grew up with back home. Out of the seven of us, only one has maintained contact in any way, and she truly shows me support when I need it most. You know who you are. Thank you.

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Now I’m left to seeking friendships with people who understand, which translates into people I’ve never met.

  • Who message me from literally the other side of the world (Australia) to see if I’m ok because I sounded a bit down in my latest blog post. (This was in August.) She supported me when I received the terrible news about the aneurysm and let me “cry on her shoulder.” We have since become great friends. She supports me as I struggle with the daily challenges of living with POTS, and I support her as she deals with an extensive recovery following her tumor removal that ended up with unforeseen complications. She said to me just the other day, “Let’s keep praying for each other, ok beautiful girl? We have each other.” That made me smile so hard. 😊
  • A former co-worker of my mom’s who I feel like I’ve known for forever because we have so much in common, including our faith and being healthcare professionals. (Thanks for the introduction, Mom!) I think it’s safe to say we love each other a bit like sisters.
  • People I don’t know who offer their email addresses so we can just talk and vent back and forth in private.
  • Offers of phone numbers (from people I know better) to text or call if I want to talk.

I received so many of those offers after publishing this post that I was in tears. People were saying, “Me too, let me help you!” And that’s the beauty of blogging when you have a chronic illness. We’re all going through many of the same things, which is a camaraderie you can’t replace. It’s a bit odd that now my closest friends are people I’ve never met in my life and in most cases, probably never will.

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I’m not knocking those who have chosen to walk away. I get it. I forgive them. It’s an unpleasant side effect of being chronically ill.

But I’m still here, even if you’ve forgotten me. And I’d still love to hear from you some day.

πŸ’›ribbonrx

 

 

0 thoughts on “In Which People I’ve Never Met Become My Friends

  1. Although I have some great friends “irl,” the chronic illness community has provided me with some amazing friends who really get what I’m going through. I’ve lost some friends but I’m glad I have so many who are here for me.

    1. Me too! I can count on one hand the number of friends I have irl, but my friends from the chronic illness community are too numerous to count!

  2. I’ve certainly experienced this too. I am so grateful for my parents, who have always stuck by me and been there when no one else have. It’s easier for others to walk away, to develop their life and move on without consideration. It hurts, but like you I have found the online community through blogs and support groups to be absolutely fantastic, like a chronic illness family that listens without judgement and offers reciprocal support to each other. x

    1. Thanks, Dannie! That means a lot to me!
      By the way, sometimes I have the strangest thing happen and I was wondering if you’ve ever experienced it. I’ll be asleep, usually laying on my side, and when I wake up, I feel like I’m about to pass out (not fall asleep, but legit pass out). My arms get warm and tingly and my chest feels very warm. I could understand it happening at other times, but immediately when I wake up? Seems strange…it happened this morning again. Weird thing is, it started happening a month or so before the rest of the POTS symptoms started. I wonder if it was the first sign…

      1. Any time! I’ve never felt that myself, so I wouldn’t be able to tell you if it’s POTS or not unfortunately. πŸ™ Definitely talk to your doctor about it though! Maybe it’s connected somehow.

  3. I know when you have a chronic illness, “get well soon” cards are a bit…weird. But honestly, when they stopped coming, I felt “disposable” like you said. When I had to withdrawal from college years ago, friends and I kept in touch by sending letters back and forth. Eventually I wasn’t getting letters back. Like you said, life for them kept moving. But for me, that’s what I held onto–those letters. Yet there’s a spoonie friend I have known for over (seven?) years now who I have never met “irl” who checks in on me almost daily, sends me funny cards and SnapChats just to cheer me up, and honestly–is just a friend. I know it’s a bit different because she experiences the same things I do as well, but I am still so glad to have met her and the others in my support group (and the many others I’m still meeting!).

  4. “I forgive them.” Is my favorite part. I’ve been using so much energy being angry and hurt, both at them and myself…
    thank you for sharing,! πŸ’•

  5. Great post ! I so relate. But the flip side is ALL the friends I’ve made that I never would have met otherwise. there are blessing hidden in even the worst of situations if we look for them. I wouldn’t trade some of my spooniepeeps for the world. These are people who know how to be there no matter what. It makes my heart happy to know them.

  6. This is one of the wonderful things about the internet. I’ve been very lucky, I’ve always only had a very small number of friends but they have all supported me with my chronic illness, but I didn’t know anyone with a chronic illness. Finding others that are going through the same thing is amazing.
    Can’t believe I’ve only just found your blog aswell! It’s brilliant. xxx

    1. I agree, the Internet is great in that regard; it’s so easy to connect to other people who know what you’re going through. And thank you for your kind remarks! 😊

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