Chronic Illness Effects Your Relationships
Friends and Family – Then and Now
Chronic Illness Effects Your Relationships – One of the first things you will learn is chronic illness effects your relationships and it shows you how strong those relationships may or may not be. Not only will you find out the true strengths and bonds with your friends, but also with your family. We have all heard the phrase “If you need anything please call me, I am here for you”. However, when these phrases are said do people really mean it? A lot of the times the answer is no.
If you are diagnosed with a familiar disease like Cancer, friends come running from every angle possible. As it should be; fundraisers are held, meals are dropped off and GoFund Me pages are set up. However, when you are diagnosed with a chronic illness such as a RSD you soon realize the people who are supposed to be in your corner fighting with you, are suddenly gone. Even friends that you have had for a long time have changed or simply vanished from your life. Not only do the friendships of the diagnosed patient change, but their caregivers relationships change as well.
My daughter has had RSD for over three years. She has suffered daily for the good part of the THREE YEARS. I have watched her cry and scream in pain and have witnessed her life be totally altered in the blink of an eye. One of the most devastating things I have had to witness is her friends and family walking out of her life, like she has never existed. Some of these friends she has had since she was in grade school and as a mom there is nothing you can do about it. I have learned you have to let these friends go. Why did some of my daughters (McKenzie) friends just walk out of her life? We will never know. Maybe it was because they could not stand to see her suffer (this is a horrible excuse by the way) or MAYBE these relationships and friendships were never real to begin with (I am betting that the relationships were never real to begin with).
As I told my daughter, RSD is a horrific disease and it has taken so much out of your life, but it has also gives you something to. It has given her the ability to fight and find strength. It gives her a different way to look at life, and shows you that nothing should be taken for granted. RSD has personally delivered to her the true meaning of the word friendship and showed her the people who will be there for her through thick or thin.
I was talking to one of my daughter’s friend the other day, we were texting each other back and forth. She has been there for Kenzie and was friends with her before the RSD. I thanked her for being there for Kenzie and how much it means to me. Her response was “I am always glad to help her; I have seen so many people go in and out of her life especially with her RSD. I decided then and there that I’ll stick by her side no matter what. The only thing that baffled me was how could someone not stick by her side, I love all of you.” Now as a mother, you could only imagine the wave of emotion that came over me when reading that message. I cried so much, I almost shorted out my phone from all the tears flowing on it.
When you have a chronic illness no matter if it is Cancer, RSD, Migraines or Lyme disease YOU NEED FRIENDS AND FAMILY TO BE THERE, to understand. A word of advice to everyone with a chronic disease struggling with their friends in their life…. If you find yourself repeatedly explaining your actions, your medications and trying to make them understand… just STOP! You do not need that in your life, you do not have to try to make your “friends” understand that you can’t go out because you are in too much pain, or explaining the number of pills you have take. You should never have to explain yourself, your friends should not even be asking questions. You need people in your life for a shoulder to cry on, a pillar of strength. Not to have someone else to judge you. RSD is the most painful disease one could have, but yet no one really knows anything about. You fight numerous doctors throughout the course of this disease. You have talked until you are blue in the face to your medical care providers, the ER doctors and any other person in the course of your treatment. You do not have to fight or talk to your friends tell you are blue in the face, they should be there to listen to you about how hard you have had to fight.
As McKenzie’s mother I have had a lot of soul-searching with my friends. The friends I thought that would be there for me just to talk things through, were not. In fact, I started feeling a dislike from them towards my daughter. As if it was her fault that our relationships were strained. At first, I tried to make everybody happy. Trying to spread myself thin and give everybody my time, a little bit here and there. I became tired quickly; I needed to be there for my daughter. I also began trying to explain my situation to them, just as I was trying to plead my case to the doctors at the ER. It was as if they did not believe me, and even saying at times “that it was all her in head” (I’m sure we have all heard that before).
One time, was supposed to go over to my friend’s house, but Kenzie was by herself and it was a holiday. My daughter, Kenzie, is 21. I texted my friend and said “I am bringing Kenzie too” her response was “well there goes your fun”. Needless to say, we did not go over there and I was super hurt that she would say something like that. We did not choose this and I could not understand why after all these years of friendship she would act like that. However, this is just another example of what chronic illness and CRPS/RSD can do and how it can change people around you and your relationships.
However, I have also learned RSD/CRPS does not destroy all relationships (it can do just the opposite in fact). Like, Jennifer Penley, a neighbor down the street. I can say she is like my sister, whenever we talk she asks how Kenzie is doing or if we need anything. The statement “call me if you need anything” she would be the one I would call in a heartbeat. I know even if I called her at 3AM she would be there. If we have plans and I cancel (which I have had to plenty) because of my daughter, there are no questions asked. She doesn’t become angry because I have to cancel… yet again. She is always understanding.
In my next article, I will explain how my daughter’s RSD has affected our family and family members. Who is there for us and who accuses my daughter of being a drug addict and even worse what family member said she got what she deserved. Whatever the case may be, you must always remember support is a big part of getting through RSD or any other chronic illness. A lot of people come and go in and out of your life. Hold onto the ones who will be there for you with no questioned asked and remember if you find yourself trying to repeatedly explain your condition, maybe it is time to separate yourself and get some space.
If all else fails think about getting a pet that you can handle and that is easy to take care of. I bought my daughter a bearded dragon and it has far been one of her best friends, she can tell anything to it and it doesn’t judge her at all (kidding). But really, it has been a stress reliever for her and Mr. Nubs is a lot of fun to have around.
Until next time, stay strong warriors. -Jen Blum
Have you seen how chronic illness effects your relationships? Please leave us a comment in the section below.