I’ve written a lot in the past about how drastically relationships can be affected in living with a chronic illness such as Crohn’s Disease. Mainly because it’s something I have struggled to adapt to since I became ill myself.Anyone who has experienced a prolonged period of illness, or suffers from a chronic and/or incurable condition, will more than likely have established rather quickly who you can count on in your hour(s) of need. This discovery in itself can be both a blessing in disguise and a heart-breaking process in equal measure. People you have perhaps known the majority of your life or felt close to, are suddenly starting to distance themselves from you and you can’t quite put your finger on why. Of course you know it’s because you are sick, but you don’t want to accept that this person would back away from you now; at the moment you need them most. It can be difficult to admit to yourself and can leave you feeling worthless, alone and in a strange state of limbo whereby it seems the illness is changing every aspect of your life.
Personally, I’ve been incredibly lucky in my own relationships. There are a few acquaintances that have slipped by the wayside as I’ve travelled along on my diseased journey, but that’s ok. I know now that I’ve changed in a few ways; for the better. I’m the same woman I always was but now I don’t tolerate nonsense. I don’t tolerate anyone making me feel small or in some way less of a person because I am ill. I choose to have people in my life who make me feel loved and who make me feel safe, happy and like ME. I’m sick and will be sick until I’m here no more, so I want to make the most of my time. Especially when so much of that time can be spent with my head/backside down the toilet, in bed or in hospital.
There is absolutely no shame in discussing these feelings with your friends. If they feel initially uncomfortable in talking about your condition that can be wholly understandable. There can be a huge shift in your lifestyle that can affect your social life/romantic life which can’t help but affect those around you. It’s important you make allowances for that and allow them time to accept these changes too. However I’ve done that for too long. I now know that the friends I have put my well-being above anything trivial like a night out. If I can’t make a date I let them know and they never pressure me, never show annoyance (even though I’m sure sometimes it must grate) and always ask for my welfare above all else. They know how much I try and how much I care for them and I’m finally accepting it’s ok to be cared for in return.
I’m sure that’s perhaps not as much of a revelation to lots of you as it is to me but I suppose that says more about my lacking feelings of self-worth. I’ve allowed myself to be worn down my Crohn’s over the years and that in turn has given me cause to be walked over like a badly worn doormat.The men and women in my life are the best people I’ve ever known. I have a close knit group of friends and close family who are there for me 100% of the time. They know they have this unspoken promise reciprocated and it makes for a feeling of security and love that leaves me blissfully happy. I love my friends and feel that love in return like a cold flannel on the face when I’m having a hot-flush. Sometimes literally.
Ridding your life of toxic people or just dead-wood in your friendships makes more room for the good ones to get in. It can be hard enough to make time for your loved ones, so don’t waste valuable time on those who don’t deserve it. That should really be a general rule for life, illness or not.
Making allowances for the way your illness affects those around you is crucial. But accepting feeling like a burden is never ever to be tolerated.