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When Chronic Illness Makes It Hurtful to Look at Social Media

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I have to be honest with you. I don’t follow any of my friends on social media, often cancel an hour before I’m supposed to meet up, and may take days to respond to a text. This sounds horrible, I know. Something I think that people don’t realize that with living with a chronic illness, it that it is not just a physical thing. My mind is consumed. Consumed with the pain, the fatigue, the anxiety of the future, and the depression of today. So sometimes, it just takes every ounce I have to survive the day.

My close and small groups of friends understand this. They understand this and continue to support me without judgment. Others are not as fortunate. On days I am flared, or when my mind is attacking me, I don’t want to see that you went on a day trip. I don’t want to see that you, as my friends, went out together without me, because you know I am hurting that day. It hurts to see updates that you went to the park, went to winter formal with your handsome date, or held a party at your house. I want to see only what I can handle.

People don’t understand that it hurts every time I see posts like that. It is like a slap in the face or a stab in the chest with the glowing realization that I can’t do that. It hurts when I see those status updates, because I feel left out. I get to see the fact that they don’t even bother to ask anymore if I want to do something, because they know I can’t do them. I respect that and am grateful for that, but it pains me to realize it over and over. I monitor my feeds to protect myself.

This may seem so selfish when you are always liking my posts and status updates and I’m non-existent in your comment section. I am just protecting my mental health. I do not want to feel jealous or envious of you. I want to be the best friend that I physically and mentally can for you, so this is what I must do. My feeds are full of fellow people with chronic illness, comics, memes, and positive quotes. This is what I can handle. However, I am constantly monitoring, unfollowing, and switching things around as my needs evolve.

I want to thank those who have stuck by me knowing I am flighty. Knowing that when I make plans, there is a huge chance of me canceling. But to these friends, I also am continuing to show what it is like living with my conditions. One of my closest friends even said to me recently, “If you need to cancel last minute, you know that’s always fine. No worries!” That one statement touched me so much. People around me are watching how I am acting, especially when I am not around them. How I act on social media is helping to gain awareness, step by step.

So if you are a friend of someone with chronic illness, I ask that you take a minute to consider the other side. Even ask them if they have chosen to do the same as I with social media. Let your friendship grow into something beautiful, instead of letting it wither and die because of a misunderstanding. If you have a chronic illness or mental illness, I suggest looking into monitoring what you consume on social media. Be vocal with your friends and make your friendship the best it can be. Take care of yourself, for often times you are the only one who can.

Lead photo courtesy of Pexels

Originally published: January 5, 2019
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