Every person who has ever been chronically ill will tell you that some of the most painful parts are not the physical symptoms but the emotional challenges we are burdened with.
After many years the emotional battles change us and the most important thing we can do is try to ensure those changes are healthier ones and going to help us rather than harm us further.
In the past decade I have seen the number of friendships and contacts dwindle as my ability to be actively in peoples lives changed. I can’t assist, support and fund friendships the way that I used to so it has broken down bonds that were built on those things. Sadly too many of my former connections were built on these shallow and meaningless attributes.
I no longer entertain people as I once did so people can find it very boring to be around me now and especially when I am unable to cater for them. An enjoyable time with friends is now usually a quiet coffee, a chat, a sit, a laugh and peaceful time, and usually at my home, this is not enough for most people so I have learned to let those people go and wish them well in finding more suitable company.
I was (and still am) a very caring friend who would work tirelessly for my friendships but this had to change, however what has surprised me has been my reactions and revelations to it all. Many years ago it would have deeply saddened me to lose a friend and I would spend time with guilt and remorse over what had gone wrong within our friendship, but today my spirit and personality has become incredibly resilient.
I look at it all in the following ways;
- If it was meant to be a lasting and close bond than it would have lasted. End of story. It is what it is…
- If something about me, and my changed abilities, are no longer attractive as a friend than it is better to end it rather than lingering and suffering.
- I realize that so many of my former friendships were skewed and imbalanced and I did much more and gave much more than I ever should have. It is my fault! I should never have developed such friendships and I only made a rod for my own back.
- I realize I don’t need a great many people or friendships to feel valid and worthy. A handful of people who really care is more than enough for me.
- I am far less sensitive to peoples thoughts, remarks and judgements of me. I have found it very easy to remind myself that very few opinions of me actually matter. Very few people really know who I am on a deeper level and so I don’t want to waste my love and efforts on unworthy situations.
- My understanding of real love and friendship has increased a million fold. The movies I saw of people together over the ages and soulmates are really incredibly rare. Many people like to say and believe that nothing will separate them but life events can and do! It doesn’t have to be a depressing or negative lesson of you accept the true nature of life and people. I don’t feel angry or bitter about friendships that did not live up to the together forever (BFF) ideals as that is not what most humans are capable of.
- As people go from our lives something always takes it place. Whether we learn to adjust and enjoy our own company or whether we find better suited relationships, something always takes its place. There isn’t a void unless we really want it to be. Learning how to better appreciate myself and appreciate quiet times has been an absolute breakthrough!
- I have finally truly discovered that my worth is not based on number of friends, visits, outings and social activities. In fact some of the most social people I know have been deeply disappointed when they found people had let them down or not shown up for them.
- True friendship makes you feel good about yourself when you are around them or in contact with them. If a phone call leaves me with a sense of disappointment, emptiness, confusion, unease, draining or one sided than I have decided to see it for what it is and cut it back or off! I find those calls where you struggle for something to say or there is no sense that the other person truly listens or cares very draining and a waste of my precious energy. Even relatives meet the same test.
- Just because I am not closer to someone or have a strong friendship with them doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate them or respect them. Far from it! There are many people I admire and wish well but I have no wish to be closer to.
- If I have to force a relationship or connection by always trying to initiate or approach a conversation than it’s a sure sign I need to let it be. Real connections don’t require forcing. I like the ones that develop and bloom with equal and honest effort.
- I see time as precious. I see effort as precious. I see energy as precious. I can’t afford to waste them so I have had to do very clear prioritizing.
- I used to think you had to share a lot in common to be close friends. As younger people we seemed to like people to thought as we do and acted as we do. I don’t have that thinking anymore. If we share some core beliefs and truly appreciate each other than that’s all I look for in my friendships.
- I used to let others opinions influence me a lot more. Their judgements of me and my life was ridiculously overrated. That was my fault. Illness has made me address this urgently.
- I used to keep my true opinions or truth to myself if it meant upsetting or offending someone I cared about. It meant I was always having to suppress myself for fear of what might happen to the friendship or relationship. Not anymore! I have lived through and survived the most loneliest and heartbreaking of times that I have a newfound respect for myself and anything less than the real me is not going to happen anymore.
- The connections, relationships and bonds that have survived these trials have truly amazed me. Truly. I am without words for those people who have stuck by me, encouraged me, treasured me, respected me, loved me and appreciated all that I am inside!! It’s hard to write this without tears of gratitude. Those people make every other relationship pale by comparison… and I would not have known all this if it had not been for these diseases.
My point, dear reader, is that despite the difficult life challenges they can also be the furnace from which we forge ourselves the strongest, most amazing, most loving, most authentic and most resilient versions of ourselves. Although I find I can’t talk or communicate as often as I would like with the people I consider real friends and loved ones, the fact is that when we do interact it fills us up with enough love and enjoyment until the next time.
The people that don’t want to embrace us or be part of our lives, and who can’t handle these changes, are better off finding their companionship elsewhere. The way I now see it is that someone more worthy and suitable can’t get in while someone else is using up their space and energy in our lives.