Them: “Hey you want to go on (fill in the blank here) trip with us?
Me: “Uh, I don’t think I can.”
Them: ” Oh come on, you know you want to.”
Me thinking: Sure I want to but there is no way I can do that physically it would just be way to much. What to I say? Do I say I can’t because it will be too exhausting? Then they will probably tell me I should just go to bed early and the problem will be solved. How do I convince them to let it go but still include me next time?
This is a not infrequent scenario on my life. When I meet new people I never know when to come out of the chronic illness closet. At the beginning of the relationship it feels awkward to just announce it, but as a relationship heads toward friendship I can never find the right moment. Discussing illness is difficult and as a private person I am always trying to find the right balance. This is not made easier by the fact that on the outside I look completely normal. I am often in unbearable pain but I am great at putting on my game face and hiding it. Someone who doesn’t spend a lot of time with me might think I live a normal life. Even someone who spends a lot of time with me but always in a place where I have my game face on would not be able to see my disability. On the surface I look like a stay at home mom who involves herself at church and school to keep herself busy. That is true but it is not the whole story.
As my relationships develop at some point people start to notice that I tend to flake out a lot and that I’m hesitant to make commitments. I can look unreliable which is actually the complete opposite of my personality. I hate looking like a flake so I do want to explain what is going on. At the same time I know that few people can really comprehend why I flake out so much which makes me wonder if there is any point in making myself vulnerable.
I do not know the magic point in a relationship that chronic health problems should be revealed. What I do know is that I need to give my friends a chance. I need to give them a chance to help me and to try to understand. It’s hard opening myself up to their judgement. It’s embarrassing and difficult to explain and humiliating to share something so personal, but it needs to be done in order to have true friendship. Will I regret it? Possibly, but chronic illness is a core part of me now and I can’t heal physically or emotionally without sharing who I am.