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What I’ve Learned About Reconnecting With People as I Cope With a Chronic Illness

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When I was a little girl, the world usually seemed scary and cruel. As I grew and matured, I realized that not everyone’s life was full of such sadness and trauma.

As a young adult, and then wife and mother, I wanted more for my little family. I worked to nurture an environment where we surrounded ourselves with God and good, loving people who made us feel like we belonged. There were always events and gatherings where family and friends would come together at my home for food, fun, laughter and unconditional love. 

But the world changed. 

I got sick. Really, really sick. My world — our world — fell apart. I remained frighteningly sick, unaware of the passing weeks, months, years.

For almost three years I tried a multitude of medications, therapies and diets just to be met with more sickness, pain and fear. 

After I began to feel some improvement, I became aware of how isolated I had become. With that awakening came many questions: What happened to that large, loud, loving family that had dwindled down to a precious few? Where were my many friends – the gals I had spent so much time with volunteering at church, school and the Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts?  

All but two of my friends no longer had time for me or the long telephone conversations we used to have. It was as if they were afraid they’d catch what I had just by talking on the phone. I have spent way too many months, even years now, trying to figure out why.

Why weren’t they here to support me in my darkest hours? Why haven’t people called to see how I’m doing? Why has no one ever reached out to my husband or my kids to ask how they were doing? Where were all those people who I helped in their time of need? Why wasn’t I worthy of that love and care in return?

The little girl in me struggled to find that perfect world I thought I had created and nurtured. But it was gone. Maybe it never really existed the way I thought it was. With the help of hard work, prayer, meditation and a brilliant, tenacious therapist, I have finally come to realize many things.

This is not about me. That was a hard one because it certainly feels pretty personal. I am a very humble, loving person. I am selfless and giving to a point of sacrifice. I am loyal, always kind, honest to a fault and I love deeply and unconditionally. I foolishly have fallen under the misconception that everyone thinks like I do.

The world is not universally kind and accepting. People can be selfish and even cruel. People can be opportunistic and take advantage of a good-natured person. People can be in your life for just long enough to get what they need from you, and when you are no longer of any use to them, they just disengage.

I am learning to let go.

I am learning I cannot change the way people are. God knows I have tried and even asked for his help, but people are who they are and you can’t paint over their true colors, which sadly show up when you are in your darkest hours.

I am learning I cannot expect people to respond or behave a certain way because that’s how I would respond in that situation.

I am learning that to truly heal, I must work on these emotional issues that weigh so heavy on my heart. I’m not going to allow them to have that power over me anymore.

I am learning that I have so much to be grateful for. I love my little branch of the family tree, my team of supporters and my precious few who have not just stood by my side but held me up during the most difficult of times.  

I love the rest of my family, too, but I have lowered my expectations because the only person hurting is me. Those who haven’t supported me aren’t maliciously trying to hurt me. There has never been a dividing event. They just disengaged when I was too sick to even realize it was happening.

As chronically ill people, it shouldn’t be our job to reconnect with people who have disengaged. Don’t ever beg someone to love you or care about you. You are worth so much more than that. So am I.

I love what I have in my family. I am content with the precious few friends who never left and realize the others just could not rise to the occasion. I love those who have disengaged and wish then all happiness and great health, and I will keep them in my prayers. 

I’ve accepted my illness and its volatile, ever-changing nature. I’m seeking serenity that will allow my body to heal completely.

My journey has changed. I’m driving the car, but I believe God is my navigator, and I feel safe in his care.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Originally published: October 6, 2016
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