Sunday, November 20, 2011

Friends... or not

I have learned a lot about friends over the last couple of years since I first got sick.  I have also learned a lot about myself.  I've never been one to have a lot of friends.  I'd rather have just a couple real good friends than to have a lot of not so good friends.

I have really struggled with friends over the last couple of years.  I've lost friends (or people I thought were friends).  I've gained friends and then lost them again.  And I've gained friends who I hope will become better friends over the years.

Friendships are so hard when you have a chronic illness.  First of all, I'm a different person than I used to be.  My self-esteem is a lot different than it used to be.  I've never been one to have an extremely high self esteem.  So the fact that it's been even lower since I've been sick has not been good.  I'm a lot more selfish than I used to be.  And I'm a lot more needy than I used to be.  Surprisingly to some, I am aware of both of those things. All of those qualities have made friendships difficult.  I know that.

I do tend to fault others a lot for my friendships failing.  However, a lot of it is my fault.  I expect a lot more out of my friends than I used to.  But, then again, I need a lot in this phase of my life.

Prior to getting sick, I was able to take care of myself physically, and most of the time, emotionally.  But the emotional toll my life had on me was no greater than most others.  I never needed someone to help me get to a doctor's appointment.  Of course, I never went to the doctor either.  I never needed someone to help me fix my meals, take care of my kids, etc.  Now I do.  And I rely on my friends sometimes to help me with those things.  My friends have their own families and lives to take care of.  They don't need to deal with taking care of mine as well.  That, then, leads to guilt.  I still struggle with guilt a lot.  That, I'm sure, has an effect on my friendships.

I also need a lot more emotional support than I used to.  Feeling like shit 24/7 takes a toll on a person.  That, of course, reflects back to my friends.  And with feeling awful all the time, I, then, end up complaining every now and then.  I really do try hard not to, but when your whole life revolves around the way you feel, it's so hard to not complain every once and a while.  It's also hard to lie all the time.  I do try though, because I wouldn't want to listen to someone complain all the time.  No matter how good of a friend they were.

I need a lot of support in other ways as well.  For instance, in the last 6 months there have been 2 fundraisers I've been involved in.  One of which was held by me, for me.  The other was to raise money for the disease that has changed my life so drastically and makes me feel like crap all day, every day.  Both of these things were VERY important to me.  Here we go back to how I expect a lot out of my friends.  If something is important to me, I would expect it to be important to my friends and family.  Therefore, if these two events were not important to someone in any way, then they must not be much of a friend.

I need a lot of understanding.  I may not always feel like talking on the phone when a friend calls.  It's nothing personal.  Then again, I would be sad if my friend(s) didn't call me but once a month or two.  I don't have the energy, or feel well enough to be able to go out to meet my friends.  I can't do the same thing with my friends that I used to be able to do.  All of this requires patience and understanding from my friends.

I know I am not the best friend a friend can have, but I do try.  I try to listen.  I try to be there for my friends when they need me.  I am always available to be a listening ear and/or a shoulder to cry on.  I may not be as fun as I used to be, but I try.  I try to let go of my pain, fatigue, and nausea when I'm with my friends so I can be a friend, not just a sick person.  I try not to ask too much of my friends so they remain my friends and not my helper/caretaker.  I do try to be a good friend.

With all of this being said, I don't know what to do anymore.  There are friendships that are hanging on by a thread.  I feel as though I'm the only one putting forth the effort to keep it alive, even if it's not much.  In fact, since I started writing this post a month ago, I have kind of given up.  With as sick as I have been feeling recently, I don't feel like I have the energy to make it work anymore.  Then again, part of me wondered if I disappeared, would it be noticed?  Well, I'm leaning towards "no".

Part of me understands; part of me doesn't.  Would I want to be friends with me?  I suppose the answer is "it depends".  It depends on how close the friendship was prior to me getting sick.  I probably wouldn't really want to be friends with me right now.  However, if the friendship was strong prior to the drastic changes in my life, I think I would do whatever I could to keep the friendship strong.  Then again, you never know what you would do until you're in that situation.

Maybe it's all just hopes and dreams.  I just wish that someone would still want to be my friend despite all the changes I've gone through.  I just dream of having a friend(s) that would go out of their way to help me through this shit that is my life.  I see/hear stories of people going through what I'm going through with friends or siblings who go out of their way to raise money for a cure, keep them company because they're housebound, or just generally make them feel loved.  Unfortunately, I'm not one of those people.

I have to ask for anything I need or want.  Whether it's help with anything from a cooked meal to chores around the house, help raising money for a fundraiser/charity that means a lot to me, or just a friend to talk to and laugh with.  Recently I have given up.  If someone truly loves me, they'll still be there, whether I ask or not.

Unfortunately, I see some friendships fading away.  Friendships that I thought meant a lot.  I know, friendships come and go throughout life.  However, Sometimes you have friends who you think are special and will be there for a long time, no matter what.  Friends who you think will be there for you no matter what.  Friends who you think will still be there, even if (and especially when) your whole world has turned upside down and you're not the same person you used to be.  It's when those friendships fade that you feel like you have lost something/someone truly special in your life.  I suppose it's just one more thing for me to grieve that I have lost from my "other" life.

I miss friends... not just my friends, but friends.  As I get more ill, I need friends to cheer me up, make me laugh, give me a shoulder to cry on, or just to let me know that I'm going through this alone.

I will get through this... just as I get through everything else.

A few quotes about friendship...

"The most I can do for my friend is simply be his friend."  - Henry David Thoreau

"The real test of friendship is: Can you literally do nothing with the other person?  Can you enjoy those moments of life that are utterly simple?"  -Eugene Kennedy

"True friends stab you in the front."  -Oscar Wilde   (LOVE this quote.  I have always said that I would much rather have someone tell me that I'm a bitch to my face than behind my back.  Then again, those people are hard to come by.)

"When a friend is in trouble, don't annoy him by asking if there is anything you can do.  Think up something appropriate and do it."  -Edward W. Howe  (I swear this didn't just come from me.)

"Sometimes you put walls up not to keep people out, but to see who cares enough to break them down."  -unknown

"Most of us don't need a psychiatric therapist as much as a friend to be silly with." -Robert Brault

"True friendship isn't about being there when it's convenient; it's about being there when it's not."  - unknown

"A friend is the one who comes in when the whole world has gone out." -Grace Pulpit

"When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.  The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares."  -Henri Nouwen

"I miss friends.. not just my friends, but friends."  -Robin J.


Michelle Roger said...

I often wonder about the friend and chronic illness issue. Like you, most of my 'friends' from pre-sick are long gone. I have one great friend who I met after I got sick(she has MS)but that is really it these days. When I look back on my past friendships I think part of the issue is the role I played. I have always tended to be the person others came to for support and I never asked it of others. When I could no longer provide that help it seems that many simply didn't have time for me. When I asked for help they turned away, unable or unwilling to take that role. I don't think I realised that until I got sick and now I have a clearer idea of what I want/need from a friend. The whole 2 way street, not just me giving all the time. I'm not interested in wasting my time and what little energy I have on what really aren't friendships when you look at it. It can be really hard at times, and like you I wish sometimes I had what others have, friends and family that come out of the woodwork to help and support. I don't know how to find that really. I can't leave home much now and I can't participate in normal friend activities like I used to. I am grateful for my one great friend as she gets it,isn't put off by my sickness and limitations and it goes both ways. But sometimes it would be really nice to have a group of friends who I could rely on. I treasure my online friends for the emotional support without which I wouldn't be able to function. But every now and then it'd be nice to have a friend come over and just vacuum, or bring over a meal, or offer to take me out for coffee. I don't know. Sorry now I've vented on your post. I am sending you big cyber hugs though.

Robin said...

Don't EVER be sorry for venting on my posts. Sometimes I feel that all I ever do is vent. I'm always happy to listen to others vent. Especially when I know exactly how you feel and vice versa. I would have to think about the role I played prior to being sick. I think, for me, prior to being sick I was never a very emotional, loving person. I didn't hug. I didn't talk about my emotions. I didn't cry in front of others. I didn't need to know in any special way that my friends cared about me. I didn't need to hear "I love you", but maybe that's because I was never good at expressing my emotions.

I am SO different now. Now I need to know that people care. However, actions speak louder than words. That's always been something that I've believed in. But since I didn't need my friends to show me how much they care, or be emotional with me, etc. prior to getting sick, why would they be that way now?

Chris Jones said...

Saw this and had to share:

"Sometimes we expect more from others because we would be willing to do that much for them"

Fits pretty well.

Love you sweetheart.

Robin said...

Yes, very fitting. Thanks.