Someone told me the other day that there was no excuse for feeling alone, and if I felt alone it was all my fault.
Words failed me.
Two house later I finally thought of a great response, but it was too late. It struck me that this is what people don’t understand about fibromyalgia or any other chronic illness. In their lives if you get a horrible virus your friends jump in and help ferry your kids around or help with your laundry or maybe they’ll bring you dinner. You might have to stay home from work a day or two, but pretty soon you’re back on your feet. If you have a wide social circle your needs will be met until you feel better and then your life gets back to normal. When you have chronic illness your life never gets back to normal, and most people don’t have patience or the time for that. At first your friends and family are as helpful as they can be while they are waiting for you to get better and for life to get back to normal. When that doesn’t happen people react in different ways:
1) Blame the sick person- This is the “if you would just try harder “or the “if you would just have a better attitude” phenomenon. People like to think that you can work you way out of an illness because it helps them to feel more secure. That way they know it won’t ever happen to them and they can pretend they have total control over their own life.
2) Denial- This is the “there is nothing wrong with you a good (insert controversial treatment here) wouldn’t cure” or the “you are just faking this for attention” belief. These people are happier living in a world where they can deny that bad things happen to good people, so they look for excuses to explain the situation.
3) Avoidance- This involves wonderful people who are sympathetic and want to help but are scared by the situation. They disappear because they don’t know how to handle things the right way. This is an understandable reaction because so many of us don’t know what to say to someone who is suffering. It feels like words are not enough, and as a result many people just don’t say anything.
4) Abandonment- This involves people who use their fear as an excuse to end their relationship with you. They excuse their abandonment by comforting themselves that you are depressing to be around and are a negative person. After all nobody wants to be around someone who talks about themselves and their problems all the time. They tell themselves it’s best to sever such a toxic relationship.
5) Love and acceptance- These are the magnificent people who feel for your situation and who are there for you every step of the way. They are rare but they do exist and are a reminder that there are truly good people in this world.
I have experienced relationships with people in every one of these categories. I have figured out who my real friends are in all this and am also lucky enough to have a supportive family. And yet, there are times when I’m left alone. Healthy people want healthy friends. They want friends they can regularly rely on. They want friends who’s lives are not regulated by pain, medication, exhaustion, sleep patterns, and doctors appointments. Very few people can see past these barriers to practice love and acceptance. Which means I love and appreciate everyone in my life that has managed to do this, I don’t know what I’d do without them.