As chronically sick people, we often hear about how people should be friends to us or how we have lost friends due to illness. While this is important, I think it’s important to acknowledge the other side of the coin; what is it like to befriend someone who is nearly always sick?
I know for me personally, I feel a lot of guilt over plan cancellations I may need to make or for lacking energy to physically see my friends regularly. I definitely can’t hangout with people for long time slots anymore and often times, I need to do low impact things like watch movies. Here’s some things that I felt helped me be a better friend despite my illnesses. Please note, this is not to make either side feel guilty; it is meant as ways to facilitate strong friendships, practice empathy, and promote communication.
1. I check in on my friends regularly. If we haven’t exchanged messages in a day or two, I send a message asking how they’re doing. I’ll ask about their day and ensure I’m asking about THEM. I try to make sure I don’t make the subject about myself for a while so my friends feel heard and get their own time slot.
2. I remind them they’re loved. Sometimes this is through a small gift, sometimes a simple message. I regularly aim to express my appreciation for my friends. They are my rocks. I like to order them small gifts online because if I’m really feeling yucky, I can have it sent straight to them. Of course, you don’t need to send your friend gifts or invest money to show them they are loved. Telling them regularly gets the point across too!
3. I tell them what I need from them. Open communication in any sort of relationship is vital. It makes sure both parties needs are met and enables growth. I also ask what they need from me. It can be hard to want to ask for things from a sick friend, I’ve been told. But I want to make sure my actions are not hurting my friends.
4. I try to NEVER make our stressors or pains a competition. All feelings are valid, period. Someone who drowns in an inch of water is just as dead as someone who drowns in six feet. I give my friends their time to talk about shitty things in their life. Because things can suck for people other than me. I sometimes get swallowed up by my pain and limitations and grow bitter but when my friends need me, I try to make it a point to be there for them too.
5. I take care of myself the best I can. This one may sound odd; how does this make me a better friend? “You can’t pour from an empty cup,” rings true here. If I’m not taken care of, I will not be as equipped to help others. And I wouldn’t want to build resentment toward my friends for stacking plates on top of mine, if mine is already too food laden. Plus, I don’t want them to feel responsible for my well being. That job is up to me. That doesn’t mean they can’t support me, but my life is ultimately my responsibility.
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