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 get about chronic illness. In their lives if you get a horrible flu your friends jump in and help ferry your kids around or help with your laundry or maybe they’ll bring you dinner. 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 there are a couple different reactions:
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.
2) Total denial. This is the there is nothing wrong with you a good (insert controversial treatment here) wouldn’t cure or the you are just a crazy psycho belief.
3) Fear and avoidance. This involves wonderful people are sympathetic and want to help but are scared by your situation. They disappear because they don’t know how to deal. Seeing you so sick reminds them that it can happen to anyone and we have very little control over our health.
4) Total abandonment. This involves the people who take fear and avoidance to the next step. They 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 such 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 a relationship with such a person because they are so much better.
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 totally alone. Not because of stubbornness or unfriendliness or my hermit like tendencies, but because chronic illness is for life and nobody can carry me and my burdens every minute of every day forever. Nor do I don’t expect them to. Part of chronic illness is learning to handle your problems alone. When I am totally alone I turn to my faith to carry me through and that is how I keep on going (that’s a post for another day), others have different tactics. We all do the best with the lives we are given and sometimes we fall short, but that doesn’t mean we are failures when we find ourselves lonely or alone.