Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What To Remember When Chronic Illness Causes Distance

From the corner of the living room, my medications and IV pole mock me as a group of friends parade through the front door. Medical supplies definitely do not make attractive home decor. It occurs to me such a spectacle is not common to the average.

Friends speak of education and internships, beginning a family, work, or the bold tales of clumsily stumbling home after an evening of fun. Tediums of life with chronic illness are all I can contribute to the conversation. On Tuesday I managed a trip to the pharmacy AND a shower. Awkward stares and silence meet my tellings of that one Friday I got really wild and attended two doctor appointments in the SAME day. I become removed. None are aware of what else to say.

There is significant focus on healthy friends fleeing at the first sign of chronic illness. Often, it is the healthy friend receiving the brunt of the blame. The difference in lifestyle is evident. They are not accustomed to the sudden need to accommodate illness and witnessing a loved one endure disabling symptoms. They do not desire to come off as boastful by sharing their own life, the kind of life their friend envisioned prior to chronic illness. Neglecting the friendship is easier for them than adjusting.

However, the distance chronic illness causes extends two ways. The unhealthy friend shares responsibility too. Admittedly, there are occasions when I isolate myself. It is simpler than wracking my brain for an interesting, non-medical related discussion or confronting the envious emotions from friends living the healthy life I so desire.

Inflicting pain through this cycle of isolation is never the intention, as the love in the usually remains in these situations. Yet, contact dwindles, seeming to coney the opposite. Periods of hostility increase while the occurrences of reaching out decrease. Despite sparing everyone's feelings, distance is not a healthy resolution to the unhealthy barriers chronic illness creates. Both sides of the friendship suffer.

Friends do not always deal with this in the appropriate manner, like distance, but friendship requires mutual effort. Surely I can speak for others with chronic illness when I say it is worth it though. In the moments of distance, understand that the silence of every unanswered text message communicates we care. Similarly, when we are bitter over friends not extending an invitation to hang out for months on end, we will remember it is not out of malice.

As much as I cannot narrate relatable accounts of my exciting weekend or complaints about my boss, my friends cannot elaborate on getting ten tubes of blood taken at the lab or the negative encounter with a nurse during the last trip to the emergency room. Although our lives may differ, the quality of friendship does not have to.