The longer I’m sick the more friendships I lose.
I wasn’t a social butterfly before becoming ill. Although, I did have many friendships and acquaintances that crossed social and generational lines. However, a lot of those lines are fading or they’ve been cut by the people who once held the other end.
The friendships that have disappeared the fastest are work related. Networking is something I always considered important for career longevity. Knowing someone who knows someone has proved advantageous in many work and personal situations. Being able to trade favours or get support from a colleague can sometimes mean the difference between success and failure. There were many times over my career when I was able to reach out to connections I made years before to get much-needed help to complete a task or project, get invaluable feedback, or secure a new role.
Sadly, the longer I’m away from work those connections are fading or have already disappeared. When I first became ill I reached out to some of the colleagues that I considered more friends than acquaintances to let them know what was happening. With some of them there were lunches and coffee dates – time used for venting and brainstorming our way out of difficult situations – we would have to rebook. The news was met with concern and promises of visits or calls to check in on my progress. Those visits never arrived and I’m still waiting for the calls.
Relationships closer to home have suffered too. Friends I used to have lengthy phone conversations with, now text sporadically to see how I’m doing or if I have any updates about my treatment and recovery. The spontaneous meet ups for a good meal and lots of laughs squeezed in on a day when schedules magically align have evaporated into the ether; there are no invitations to girls’ nights out for dinner, drinks and dancing; and definitely no loud weekend hangouts.
At first I put the lapses in contact down to people being busy. Then I excused it by telling myself that some people aren’t comfortable or able to cope with serious illness. But I stopped coming up with excuses for people when someone I believed to be one of my closest friends suggested that we should take a break and pick up our friendship again when I get better.
That suggestion to push pause on a friendship knocked the wind out of my sails for a while, but it forced me to look at who has stood with me since the start of my illness. Which friends and family members answer when I call? Who gets up in the middle of the night to sit with me in the emergency room? Who rearranges their schedule to go with me to doctors’ appointments? Who checks to see if I need errands run or if I have enough groceries in the fridge? Who makes time to come over to hang out with me on my couch because that’s all I can do?
So, I recognize that friendships are dying. But the relationships I need are growing. I have friends and family supporting me in ways I never imagined I would need at this stage of my life. They remind me that my illness is not the thing that defines me and that if someone chooses to walk away from me now – when I’m most vulnerable – they probably had no right to be in my life in the first place.
Queen – You’re My Best Friend