When Friendships Don’t Survive Your Chronic Illness
Lil and I met at work in our early 20s. She was hilarious and outrageous and we clicked instantly. Going anywhere with her was an adventure. Something spontaneous would always happen and it was guaranteed to be a good time. Our friendship continued for many years, through marriages, and babies, and changing careers. She remained her funny, entertaining self and I still saw her as my "good time friend" who could light up a room.
When Lil went through a bad patch in her marriage, I stepped up to support her. After the birth of her children I cooked and dropped off food for her. We stayed involved in each other’s lives and spoke almost every day.
Getting AS was the first in a string of major life challenges for me. At the same time my health fell apart, our family experienced a number of deaths and other traumatic events. Many friends stepped up and offered help and comfort, but Lil was never among them. She would still call from time to time but if I began to give an honest answer to her vague “How are you?” she would quickly change the subject.
Hiding my feelings, feeling exhausted
I stopped talking to her about the difficult things and tried to be my old fun self whenever we spoke. I often noticed how exhausted I would feel after our conversations and how she still expected my interest and support in everything going on her life, even though that interest or concern was never returned.
We rarely saw one another, and when we did catch up she would tell me I looked tired or needed a haircut. “What’s wrong with you?” She would sometimes ask. “You just don’t get excited about anything anymore.”
I began to deeply resent Lil and knew I had to stop pretending things were fine between us. Interacting with her wasn’t fun for me anymore, it made me feel like a sub-standard version of the person I used to be. It was a relationship where I could only give, not receive.
It occurred to me one day that if I was in a romantic relationship I would never put up with the things I was experiencing in this friendship. The changes in my life were not things I had chosen, and I just didn’t have it in me to keep faking that everything was fine when it so clearly wasn’t.
It was time to break up with my friend
We met for coffee and I tried to tell her as gently and honestly as I could that I no longer wanted to have contact. I think she was shocked, but didn’t really have much to say, especially when I told her how I felt.
She asked me if we could keep trying but I said I was done. I was hurt and I didn’t think she was capable of being any different. We said goodbye and went our separate ways, and I’ve never seen her again.
I still think of Lil. At times I miss her, and she’s often in my dreams. It makes me sad, but I know I made the right decision for me.
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