How 'Unfriending' Makes Life With Chronic Illness Easier

I intend to be a nice, kind and courageously loving person. For the most part, I pull it off. Living with several chronic illnesses has increased the value of my time, energy and mental space. As time goes by, the importance of the quality of each relationship and personal interaction has increased, too. Mitochondrial disease and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (parts of my puzzle) are exhausting conditions, physically and emotionally. I’m one of the people who got diagnosed as a teenager, and I dealt with plenty of judgments and negative people while I was a “mystery.” So now, I reserve the right to protect myself against likely stressors. While that may sound negative, giving myself permission to “unfriend” has actually been a great step.

Many of us with “invisible illnesses” are aware of how other people see us…or, what they don’t see. There were people in my life who refused to see the truth of my illnesses, and that was hard when I was still trying to grasp the hardest truths myself. As much as I care about those people, living with these illnesses means “wellness” is a priority. These relationships weren’t “well,” and stressing because of them was only going to do me harm. After facing that, I looked to social media. Did I want these people to observe big parts of my life? Did I want their commentary? Not really, and that doesn’t make me a horrible person.

Part of managing my health (as much as that’s possible) is managing energy drains. One by one, I plugged those slow trickles of energy by hitting “unfriend.” Little by little, I felt more peaceful and safe on my personal accounts. Even in “real life,” I set boundaries where I had previously gone out of my way to be accommodating. Stopping the emotional energy leaks allowed me to breathe and focus on the positive people in my life. Gone are the unnecessary reminders of particularly difficult moments, and at the top of my feed are sprinkles of humor and strength.

It’s not possible to block every negative influence or reminder in the world, and I believe there are many healthy coping strategies. When that doesn’t feel possible, it’s important (and constructive) to seek help. In my case, closing a few digital doors helped me to move forward. I’m actually more open about my health through writing, and I have a mix of old and new friends along for the bumpy ride. People with chronic illnesses can feel guilty about taking steps to protect their physical and emotional health, or feel defensive about their situation. Having a space where I can share both the joyful and painful parts of this complex life is something to be celebrated.

Follow this journey on Maria Gracefully.  

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Thinkstock photo via jacoblund.

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