Monday, February 22, 2010

Relationships & Chronic Illness

I've written before about how my chronic mystery illness affects my primary relationships, those with my husband and daughter. But I wanted to contribute to the new Health Activist Blog Carnival, which you can read about over here, so I thought maybe I'd examine a different type of relationship: friendships.

My relationships with people have changed so much in the almost three years since I got sick and never got better. My world has shrunk, and my friendships have shrunk too. I've never been one of those people with dozens of close friends. I still have plenty of acquaintances, but real friends? The people I can call any time and will drop everything to help me out? Not so much.

I think it hit home for me when my weird intestinal problems started in January. It was incredibly painful, but while I got a few sympathetic posts on my Facebook page, no one local called to see if there was anything they could do. Not even the support services person for my MOMS Club chapter, which I've been throwing away dues money on for the past few years.

I find it interesting that although I felt painfully isolated early in my illness, I don't feel particularly isolated at all anymore. I don't know if that's because I have lost track of how unconnected I am with my local community, or if the online connections I've made with the chronic illness community have replaced my need for a local support system beyond my immediate family. I'm guessing it's the latter, but it could also be a combination of the two.

Meanwhile, I'm not sure how much of a friend I've been to the folks I've had in my life, either. Friendship is a two-way street, but I feel like I need to save my limited energy for Scott and Ellie, and there's never much left over to offer to anyone else.

So for those of you dealing with chronic illnesses, how have they affected your friendships? How do you stay a part of your friends' lives if you're not able to get out and socialize with them? Do you force yourself to get together with friends even if you're feeling flared?


Shiri said...

This is something that is on my mind a lot, especially as yesterday I canceled dinner with a friend I hadn't seen in months (for the second time) because I couldn't get up. She thought I just didn't want to take the subway all the way up to her, so she called to vent at me. As soon as she heard my voice, she felt so bad.

I sometimes think my closest friends get it, but even if they get it, they don't see me when I'm down anymore and it still means, even if they're understanding, that I don't see them as much. Either way, intimacy wanes.

And I hope your mystery GI thing gets better :) I'm listening along, even if I haven't been commenting...

Aviva said...

Shiri: I've been thinking about you lately, so I'm glad you spoke up!I'm glad you were able to clear the air with your friend, but I know what you mean about the loss of intimacy with friends. I'm sorry you've been so sick lately, too! Here's hoping we're both feeling better soon!! *hugs*

Anonymous said...

Whatever's wrong with me has definitly hurt my (few) relationships. They were sparse to begin with, but now, it seems whenever I hang out I only have bad things to say, and it's sometimes hard to follow conversations you don't care about anymore, like what this starlet did in this show or what your friend's doing with this one guy. All I can think of sometimes is 'what's wrong with me, why am I feeling this way, I'm bad for not caring about what's happening in their lives, I'm not normal anymore, I just want to get back to my old self.'

So ya, it's hurt.