If you live with chronic illness, you may put more thought into not making people angry than the average person. You don’t want to risk rocking the boat because you’ve learned that “friends” leave you quickly enough as it is, even when you’re being perfectly kind. Not in obvious ways, no, but by “losing contact,” “being busy,” or just choosing not to say anything. You feel scared to say what you really feel, at the risk of actually making people angry, because the ones who have been wanting an “out” use this as their excuse to finally leave. Others might think these things don’t really happen, and surely we thought at first that it would never happen to us–we have the “good” friends, don’t we?–but it does.
“After a while, and only a relatively short while, people grow bored with you not getting any better and just drift off. Phone calls stop. Visits stop. Emails stop. People drop you off their Facebook news feed. Eyes glaze when you say you are still not feeling well. Who needs perpetual bad news?
“This is an all too often common experience. The end result is, of course, that the sick simply stop telling people how bad they feel. They repress all their physical and emotional pain, because they’ve got the message loud and clear.”
Well, I’m here to reaffirm that I don’t care if I make anyone angry anymore.
Last year, my health took its second drastic turn for the worst that landed me here today. I experienced a lot of actual abandonment, even from my good friends, the ones I absolutely expected to be have been there. In my most crucial moments–when I needed someone to bring me to a doctor, when I needed help in packing up the house I’d become forced to leave–everyone from friends, to family, to friends of family, decided there were more important things to do. They just. weren’t. there. Even my landlord, who had treated me like I was her own for three years, bringing me dinner and checking on me when no one had seen me outside for days, abruptly ignored that I was losing my fight with life itself and turned on me over the last $175 of my rent (which I did pay her). These events severely damaged my trust and belief in a supportive community that took care of their own.
One of my M.E. support group members just died because there was no one there to help during her time of need. These things do matter.
And it’s so heartbreaking that we’ve been brainwashed by society and past abuses into thinking that it doesn’t matter, into thinking we’re really not worth the time and bravery it takes to care for another human being… Because we are worth it.
It’s still a struggle for me to find a balance between forgiving them for not realizing how much they hurt me, and not letting it happen again. I know people aren’t perfect and I know I will accidentally hurt others just the same. It happens. But I’ve recently started to backslide. I wanted to “settle” and let people back into my life who haven’t been there, and.. for what? Out of Guilt? No sense of worth? Fear of being alone?
But what purpose could you possibly have in my life if you’re only willing to be a friend when I can come to you, when I can be your idea of fun, or when I can help you?
What purpose could you possibly have in my life if I’m in a hospital, or feel like I should be in a hospital, and you can’t even be bothered to call, check in, or heaven forbid even send a text or e-mail?
What purpose could you possibly have in my life if, when I’m unable to be the person I was prior to illness, you jump ship, deceptively referring to it as “giving [me] space” and decide that we’ll talk “when [I’m] better”?
If you leave a person when they’re down, if you don’t think they’re worth staying in contact with just because they’ve gotten a disease that makes you uncomfortable, don’t be surprised when they don’t want anything to do with you, whether they get better or not.
As the adage goes, “If you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.” And that I’d personally even think of becoming friends again with someone who left me–so that when I succumb to disease in the future, they can leave again?–only shows me where I still have work to do.
I don’t want to be that person I used to be, who let destructive trespasses slide by without saying anything, who allowed others to neglect their side of the relationship but still come to me when they were having a bad day. I need to feel appreciated just like everyone else.
I am so much more than any disease, and if you can’t see that, then save us both the hassle of pretending we’re “friends” and just get lost. I’m tired of placing my worth and value in the hands of people who don’t think I’m worth it.
My ultimate decision was to stop trying to “keep” everyone and instead use my very precious energy on those who are there for me. Everyone else, I just let them go. And oh, it hurt to figure out which ones didn’t think I was worth the effort, who weren’t strong enough to deal with this extra challenge with me. It hurt even more to have assumed someone was one of the “good” friends, only to find out otherwise. That was the worst.
But in the end, what remained was only true friendship, because instead of wasting time catering to others’ needs who didn’t give a second thought to mine, my energy could be devoted to those who would actually return the love and consideration and support when it really counted. If a relationship doesn’t meet those standards, it isn’t truly a friendship at all.
It does matter to have people around you who are mature enough to handle what Real Life entails. At this point in my life, I don’t have energy for anything less.
“I am sick of this tawdry game. I am sick to death of comforting people when all I want is to be comforted. I am sick of being abandoned by people for months on end only to be told eventually that ‘I knew they were thinking of me, right?’. . . I am tired of the discomfort that surrounds the chronically and terminally ill. I am tired of the abandonment. I am tired of having to lie to people about how I am feeling just so I keep them around.”
Source: “The Silence of the Dying” by the late Sara Douglas
♥ a rainbow at night