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The 3 Types of Friends I’ve Encountered as a Person With a Chronic Illness


People are messy. If you’ve ever raised a toddler, you’re most likely nodding your head and offering me a hearty “amen!” However, I’m talking about a different kind of messy. The one that implies we humans aren’t always simple, drama-free, uncomplicated or easy to understand.

Perhaps you have experienced this “messiness” in your friendships as you navigate the highs and lows of chronic illness and rare disease. You love your friends, but you don’t always love how they respond in your time of need. You adore your people, but you wonder if perhaps they might be available to come down off their high horse any time soon and give you a hug? In general, I’ve found my friends have a myriad of responses to my ailments and illnesses. There are:

1. The drifters.

These friends might be what your parents would have called “fair-weather friends.” Whatever the reason, they aren’t equipped to cope with the magnitude of your pain. Maybe they don’t know what to say or feel about your circumstance, so they end up vanishing.

2. The coaches.

These friends can’t understand why you feel the need to talk about your illness so much. They’re perplexed by why you can’t do the things you once could. They continue to pressure you to do things you’ve told them over and over again your body can’t do. They’ve never faced anything remotely similar to what you’re going through, nor have taken the time to learn about your illness. Yet, they feel it’s their job to coach you on how you should handle your circumstances. They tell you how you should and shouldn’t feel and what you’re doing wrong.

3. The keepers.

These friends are in it with you through thick and thin. Their hearts break to see you hurting. They constantly ask, “What can I do for you? How can I help?” Your grief and processing are met with love and not judgment. They love you on your worst days just as much as your best. They meet you with practical help whenever possible and go out of their way to let you know you are seen and your story matters. These friends carry you through the darkest days of your life.

Illness can be the great “friend sifter,” and while I wouldn’t wish illness on anyone, this friend sifting doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Knowing who is in our corner for the long haul and who we can count on when it really matters is a gift.

We all reach a point in our lives where we no longer wish to invest in fruitless relationships. Illness pushes us to this point much faster. We no longer have the energy to invest in relationships that lack depth and staying power. Now, it’s all about quality versus quantity. All we really need are a few friends we can count on when things get hard.

A version of this post originally appeared on Rare Daily

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