One of the casualties for many of us who are chronically ill is friendship. I have ME/CFS and while I have been living a more normal life the last few years, for over a decade I saw almost nobody outside of my family. And though I had many friends before becoming sick, the vast majority of them fell by the wayside. I know some chronically ill people whose friends stuck with them. But so often this is not the way.
I guess this is natural. After all, when a friend is turned away at the door or phone calls are not returned for long enough, they may have no idea what to do, and often they give up trying.
It may be understandable, but this doesn't make it any easier for the ill person to deal with. The hours lie empty, the need to talk about what you're going through is unfulfilled. And even when friends try to be there, it can be hard to sit through some of the conversations the sick one needs to have with ... someone.
How many times do they listen to the symptoms, the fears, the pain that overwhelm their sick friend? How do they respond when there's nothing they can do to fix things, especially with an illness like ME/CFS?
Online relationships can help fill the gap. I don't know where I'd be without my friends around the world.
But sometimes I've felt like I'd give anything to have someone stop by for a chat, to laugh with, to listen, and who trusts me enough to share their innermost thoughts with me.
I've had a couple of short-lived friendships in my town in the last 10 years. It had been five years though since the last one.
And then my old friend Cheryl started showing up. We'd known each other two decades ago when our kids were small but hadn't been in touch for years.
Cheryl needed some typing done and knew that I could do that. She paid me for my time which I appreciated.
She brought me yarn from a yard sale because she knew I love to knit. She brought goodies she'd baked. She would just show up at the door bearing gifts, then give me a hug and smile goodbye as she went on her way.
Last fall I needed someone to watch my dog Cleo during a family wedding. Cheryl understood that Cleo was a rescued dog and couldn't be left alone without becoming hysterical and hurting herself. She volunteered to doggy-sit so we could go to the wedding.
By this point I smartened up and realized I had a rare gift being presented to me. And I decided to take it.
Most weeks, we'll spend an afternoon together. Those three hours are like therapy for us. We've both been through some tough times, and we were both surprised and grateful to find a friend who could listen and empathize.
We never plan what we'll talk about, but our visits have been therapy for us both. Things come up that lead to personal revelation and sometimes take us further on the path of personal healing.
So simple. Sit and talk, about things that seem important and things that don't. We've laughed ourselves silly and we've sat quietly with each other during times of sorrow.
She asked me the other day, "Do you know how many people need three hours of therapy every week? Do you know how many probably aren't getting it?" Too many. And we both used to be among their numbers.
So here's to true friends, who live nearby, and who make time for each other, without judgment and without ego. Here's to friends who want the best for us and are willing to put themselves out to help bring that about. May their numbers increase.
Visit Jody's website at http://www.ncubator.ca