Chronic illness affects every aspect of your life(I mean, I'm literally creating this blog through voice typing because my joints feel like they're on fire) Recently, in therapy I have been reflecting on the people and friendships I have lost, so today I want to talk about how my chronic illnesses have affected my relationships.
The first relationship my illnesses affected was my relationship with my parents. They initially had no idea how to handle having a child with multiple illnesses- both mental and physical. Just like how it was unfamiliar to me, it was unfamiliar to them as well. This definitely caused some acrimony between us.I felt like an awful daughter because I was now different and had to figure out how to regulate my emotions and symptoms, and they felt like awful parents for not knowing how to help me and not handling it in the best way sometimes. However, we eventually started listening to each other more and expressing how we feel, and over time we improved and ended up becoming closer as a family. Unfortunately, a lot of disabled people cannot say their families finally came around and offered them the support they needed and it’s important we listen to their stories and uplift them in any way we can.
When it comes to my friendships, a lot of my friends offered support and kindness, but I definitely had to lose some of my friends due to their lack of consideration and empathy. Friendship loss is part of life. People will surprise you when you least expect it and I feel like the Disabled Community certainly has to learn this the hard way. A lot of people who I originally felt safe around ended up mocking me and my illnesses. they started questioning whether or not I knew how to take care of my health and would laugh at the fact that I couldn't do simple things like carrying a backpack. This was a painful reminder that I am different from everyone else but in a way, it compelled me to set boundaries and create a safer space for myself and my mind. It certainly took some time though and hurt a lot.
I also had to become more comfortable asking for help. At first, I felt uncomfortable asking my friends to help me with tasks that were so simple for them. I was afraid they would think I am dramatic or exaggerating my pain. Furthermore, due to the unpredictable nature of my illnesses, I have to cancel plans frequently. Some days I have a splitting migraine, other days my joint pain is awful, and some days it is just too hard to leave my room because of anxiety. At first, I felt inferior(sometimes I still do) because I did not have the same abilities as my friends and thought I was a burden. Moreover, due to my anxiety disorder and depression, my friends ended up seeing me in a vulnerable state more frequently. I felt like I was making them uncomfortable and ended up feeling worse about myself. However, as time progressed I realized that it's okay to not be okay. With the help of my loved ones and therapist, I started to feel more comfortable asking for help. My friends and I also started to find a middle ground that worked for all of us. For example, if it was too hard for me to spend time at the library we would end up studying at my dorm. My therapist also offered me the perspective that my experience with chronic illness has compelled my friends and loved ones to better understand what the disabled community goes through, and actually, a lot of conversations with my friends have corroborated this idea.
Good relationships are essential to our wellbeing, and as I have said before, make sure you surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself; surround yourself with people who love you all the time, not just when it’s easy. I know this is easier said than done, it took me a long time to identify the unhealthy relationships in my life, but it’s what you deserve.