4 Ways I've Strengthened My Friendships While Having a Chronic Illness
I’d like to share what I’ve learned through trial and a lot of error, lots and lots of error, over my lifetime of dealing with chronic illness. Things that strengthened friendships in my life and things that broke them.
1. Canceling plans.
It’s pretty much a given that there will be the need to cancel plans. Some things that can lessen the chance of hurt feelings or a friend getting upset are to make sure you tell your friend, right when the plans are being made, that you are going to do all you can to come, that it’s very important to you, you are looking forward to it, but there is a chance you might have to cancel. If your friend doesn’t know the details about your health enough to know why you might have to cancel at the last minute, make sure you explain it to them.
If the plans are for something where you canceling would cause a huge problem, only confirm those plans if you have a back up plan that works for everyone involved. This could mean arranging to have a replacement friend who can take your place at the last minute, or you being willing to pay the fee you would have paid if you had gone, if a friend will have to pay it even if you don’t show up. It could mean having a possible alternate venue, like holding the outing at your own house, to ensure you can be there. There are many ways to make a back up plan, and it depends on the scenario. Be sure you discuss and agree about the details with your friend, though. Make sure it’s a back up plan that everyone will be happy with.
2. Communicate that you want to communicate.
What I mean by this is, make sure your friend knows that you want to still hear their happy news, you want to rejoice with them when they have good news. Reassure them that it won’t make you sad, that they don’t have to feel guilty for finding joy just because your health is struggling.
On the opposite end, make sure that they know you want to still be there for them. In all ways. That if they’ve had a bad day, and need to vent to someone, you want to be their support system. Let them know that their pain, their struggles always matter, even if they feel they are small in comparison to yours, they matter to you. You want them to come to you. You are strong enough. That friendship means being there for each other, through all things, the good and the bad.
3. Show them that you appreciate their friendship.
Let them know that you see how much they are supporting you.
Thank them. Often. Send a little text. Send a thinking of you card through snail mail. Phone them. Be supportive in return. It’s not easy watching someone you care about struggle. It’s not easy being the one struggling either. Together, you can make it a bit easier for each other.
4. Remember to laugh and be silly.
This is so important. It’s not just important for the friendship. It’s important for your overall health. Your being. As they say, laughter is the best medicine. You are still yourself, you haven’t become only a sick person. Remember to take the time to be goofy and ridiculous. It’s a wonderful thing.
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