Life with chronic illness has been a maze of challenges; trying to pace, keep up with work, look after my home and pets and maintain a social life.
To my surprise, the biggest challenge has been keeping a hold of friendships. Granted, I do live 200 away from home so a lot of my (very) small group of friends and I keep in touch via text messages and social media (one of the few joys of Facebook). Over the last 5 years in Brighton I’ve also built up a small group of friends in my new home town. But the sicker I have become, the harder it has been to maintain these friendships.
Over the past year my health has further deteriorated to a point where I rarely leave the house apart from to go to work. When I do have the odd afternoon out, I suffer for days. This means I’ll possibly be too unwell for work, and with ever increasing bills, sadly this is just not an option. It seems that some of my friends have not always understood this. Popping into town for a coffee is quick and easy, right? Wrong! Apart from enduring the journey, crowds of people and battling with my anxiety (that’s a whole other blog post for a later date) the process of socialising itself is utterly exhausting. Visiting someone at their house is just as difficult, by the time I realise I’m feeling really unwell and need to go home the damage is already done and the days of suffering begin. Wandering around the shops, sitting on hard wooden cafe chairs and travelling are now tasks I really struggle to cope with unless I have days of rest and preparation beforehand.
While I’ve always had a very small group of friends, this itself seems to have significantly dwindled over the year. Explaining your illness to people of so very hard, especially when it’s invisible. But I also don’t want to spend what time I do have with friends explaining the ins and outs of my painful, exhausting life. I want to enjoy the time with them and be ‘normal’ for an hour or two.
I think what I am trying to say in this blog is “please bear with me. I’m much more poorly than I look or will ever tell you. Instead of coffee in town, why not pop over for tea, cake and kitty cuddles. Or maybe just send me a text, or post something on my Facebook page. I may not feel up to replying straight away but it’ll bring a smile to my face. I don’t need you to do anything, just make sure you stay in touch, because I value my friendship with you so very much”.