Over the past year I have witnessed the slow and lingering death of a friendship, and I have done so with some very mixed feelings. We tend to see things so much differently at the end and although I feel a sense of loss for the 20 years I feel that I have given a great deal of devotion, care, love, time, effort, assistance and money, I also feel like I have learned a lot too.
Back when I thought we were friends I called when [they] were sick. I visited when [they] were going through a difficult time and break up. I remained [their] friend when everyone told me to let go and that my friendship (and me) were being taken for granted. Repeatedly. Yet I continued on trying hard to be the friend that I hoped I would eventually get in return.
… I should have listened to those other voices. Hindsight is always so much better!
I know that there are so many people out there with similar stories and similar circumstances and they will relate to the sense of sadness and loss that I have been through, they may even be able to grasp the sense of profound foolishness I feel, yet it still doesn’t make it feel any easier or better. I am also sad to admit the there is a piece of me that feels like I knew this is how it would end and I should have known (and done) better.
Back then I made poor choices. Back then I was too quick to give love and loyalty away. Back then I probably felt, on a very real level, that I didn’t deserve better. It’s strange that it took getting to this level of illness to see that I do! … and I deserve so much better!!
People rarely understand some of the profound and incredibly important things we learn and see as a physically impaired person and a chronically ill person. They don’t tend to see how much wisdom and personal growth we can experience because they only see the external and the shallow.
However, with reference to the above relationship, this former friend always seemed to have an excuse for why they didn’t put in the effort and why they took advantage time and time again. Perhaps they truly believed all those poor excuses as it served their own purpose. Who knows? Slowly it also occurred to me that not only do I deserve better than that but I am now the caretaker for my emotions and efforts while my body is at its weakest and most vulnerable.
Let me explain a little more please …
Twenty years ago when my relationship and friendship started with this person I was much less careful and conscious of the work, effort, time, energy and treatment of my heart and emotions. I would give too much and to the wrong people and situations. I would then find myself asking why has this happened and what about me? It now seems like such a self harming mentality. It was very humbling when I came to see it all through new eyes… I also had to own my part in it all.
Since becoming this ill I have seen many things through new eyes and every part of life has been put under the microscope. Friendships are a very difficult topic for the chronically ill and illnesses can also act like an antibiotic will in killing off the weak or harmful presences in our lives. Illness will destroy all relationships that are weak or not real. Therefore It can wipe out a lot of relationships. Sadly, this can also mean that after a short period you are left with very, very few real and strong bonds.
As I write this I am surprised how retelling and writing this feels much more like a revelation and not simply a tale of woe.
The challenge now is finding stronger, equal and healthier relationships whilst in these new circumstances, and amidst these new challenges. That is my new concern and where my mind has been focused of late. It’s been incredibly challenging.
I do get to meet people with similar illnesses and similar physical challenges inside support rooms and chat rooms but that never means that they are always the right fit for us simply because they share this physical aspect of life. We are still complex characters inside with different perspectives, experiences, likes, sense Of humors, hopes, goals, interests etc…
A meaningful friendship and relationship is based on a meeting of the minds just as much as sharing some physical interests and attributes. Also, all those wonderful physical cues that our bodies can provide in a one on one situation are not available through a computer. Things like a smile, a hug, empathy, a knowing look… these are all important to developing relationships and trust.
So here Is the challenge… Trying to find and forge new connections in these current circumstances.
It’s incredibly difficult.
The rules and rituals for making new friends are so much harder in these circumstances. It’s difficult to schedule meetings and activities together. It is hard to commit to outings and timelines. It’s hard to be seen as reliable when my body is not in control. Unreliability is often confused with lack of interest and being untrustworthy.
I also don’t want to make friendships which are entirely based on health struggles… I don’t want it to be all about illnesses. I would like to make a deeper bond with someone who can see the inner me and someone that connects with that person. I am sure every chronic feels the same!
There are no easy answers for finding, forging and maintaining new friendships with the chronic bodies we now have, and this is far more the most painful part of all for me… Far more painful than losing the friendships I thought I had.