Almost every day I see articles about answering, ‘I’m fine’ because people really don’t care anyways. Why are you talking to these people and why are they your friends?
My friends are caring. Sure, some openly say that they don’t know exactly what to say or how to respond if I say that it’s a shit day and I’m dizzy and nauseas and passed out 5 times. I’ve always told them to say what they feel. There is no magic cure or anecdote that is only delivered to me if they say the magic words. Just asking at all is saying to me, ‘hey I recognize things aren’t great with you. I care and I’m here.’ I don’t require medical advice or anything else specific.
One of the physical therapists who I used to work with but isn’t treating me always asks how I’m doing. I usually say that I’m good or I’m great. Then when he looks at me oddly I clarify that, “I’m good and happy mentally, but my body isn’t great.” Easy enough.
I recently had a friend in the hospital with ulcers. He said he’d be there that day and the next for sure and maybe the next. Since I didn’t know exactly why or understand, here is what I said, “forgive my ignorance, but what do they DO for ulcers? And why do they have to keep you there? To monitor if what they are doing is working? Sorry! That’s not the most fun.” I feel like that is caring, but also honest saying I don’t understand, please educate me. I don’t feel like he took offense. He explained what they were doing and I said that if they needed anything at all to have his wife text me. Can’t it just be that simple?
Some friends have asked me if it’s ok to ask specific questions about my health or symptoms. That tells me they care about my feelings and want to go out of their way to make sure they don’t upset, anger or offend me. I’ve had other friends say that they feel like they are heartless when they ask how I’m doing because they realize that technically I’m not great most days. I said I’m not offended by that, but they can always ask specific questions if they prefer.
“Is today more of a good day or bad day?”
“Which symptoms are the worst today?”
“How did physical therapy go?”
Make it specific or make it vague. If you ask I’m assuming that you care until I see some serious evidence to the opposite.
A friend is someone who just simply makes it known that they care and are willing to help, even though they realize they can not fix my health. We’ve had friends offer to just be there and listen if we want to ‘vent’ about life or be frustrated. What a kind thing to offer.
I’ve had friends offer to bring cheesecake over and just be there while I eat it and cry.
Last week a friend brought over pie for breakfast. Did that make my POTS go away? No. Did it give me a pleasant distraction and something fun to look forward to? Yes.
Plenty of people who are in my house now-a-days frequently will dust the living room while they are chatting, load the dishwasher, or wash and dry a load of towels. It’s not rocket science; it’s any small gesture to show they care. Some of my friends are super busy and I totally get that. For those friends it means a lot to get a sweet text or voice mail. I have had friends send me cards in the mail just to say they are in my corner and praying for me.
These are the things that friends do; and for the record, I truly mean it when I ask how they are too. When I ask if their kiddo is feeling better, it’s because I actually care and I’ve usually been praying that he or she would get better quickly.
According to the internet, people who have chronic illnesses are apparently the most sensitive people ever. I’ve seen several articles teaching people ‘what not to say’ to someone with a chronic illness or ‘how to talk to them’. What? Just be a normal human. If every day I have to prove to you whether or not I’m really sick, I’m gonna probably get bored of that and stop talking to you. If you continually tell me it’s all in my head don’t be surprised when I don’t invite you over to our BBQ. Isn’t that just common sense though? I remember reading a similar article about what to never say to a pregnant lady. One was to never say that she looks big or looks heavy. Really? Again, I’m going to go with common sense. I’m pretty sure that’s a rude thing to say to any human.
I’m not going to be mad if you tell me that ‘others are worse off than me’. That’s true. I’d rather not be in a forever ‘me, me, me’ mindset. That’s rather unhealthy and selfish. Can’t I have POTS but recognize that other people are still going through stuff, losing limbs, going blind, losing loved ones and everything else? Maybe I do need a little perspective. If I turn into a Negative Nora or a Drama Llama (thanks for teaching me that phrase Rachel!) feel free to remind me that I am incredibly blessed. Maybe I need that reminder.
If you tell me to ‘be positive’ or ‘focus on the good’ maybe I need to hear that. If I’m cranky about it that day, don’t think for a second that I will forget when it’s time to give you that reminder down the road one day, but by all means be my friend and be there for me.
I do not want to have a pity party for the rest of my life.
So, to sum up:
- My friends aren’t dicks.
- I’m really thankful that I have nice friends.
- I’m going through life just trying to be a good friend too.
- You should do the same.
- It’s exactly that simple.
I feel better already after saying that.
But seriously, thanks for being such awesome and supportive friends. I appreciate each and every one of you. For real.