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15 Things Friends Don't Realize You're Doing After Your Illness Makes You Cancel Plans

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Having to cancel plans with friends because of your illness is one of the hardest “side effects” of having chronic health challenges. When your illness already makes it difficult to go out and do fun things, it can be especially disappointing when your friends invite you to hang out, and maybe you even said yes at first, hoping you’d be up for it — but when the big day rolls around, you realize your illness just isn’t going to let you go.

You know how heartbreaking that feels, but people who haven’t experienced chronic illness may not understand the struggle. They might compare it to their own lives and wonder why you can’t just “push through” or if you secretly don’t actually want to hang out. In reality, you’re probably thinking the exact opposite!

So we asked our Mighty community to share something they do that their friends don’t realize they’re doing after they cancel plans for health reasons. Having to turn down plans doesn’t make you a bad friend — and a little understanding and compassion for the choices you have to make means everything.

Here’s what our community told us:

  1. “I’m honestly partly wishing they would be like ‘I understand’ and then show up at my house and say the plans were to hang out with you… but normally I feel guilty and am hoping they aren’t offended and that they still continue to invite me to things.” — Sabrina H.
  2. “I beat myself up and sometimes cry because I don’t want to seem uncaring. I don’t think they realize how bad you feel about canceling or leaving early. You feel like you are letting everyone down. It can make you feel very lonely, too.” — Rebecca G.
  3. “I’m wondering if I’m being talked badly about because I had to say no again to doing something… because I ‘didn’t feel good.’ Wondering if they think I’m just making up an excuse to not have to go out. But the reality is none of them are excuses, I really am hurting, I really do feel sick, and I really do want to go out and have fun when asked to do so.” — Kim R.
  4. “They don’t know I’m probably fully dressed, or close to it, for whatever we were going to do. They don’t know I’m thinking they’re not ever going to ask me to do anything else. They don’t know I’m going to be in bed, in my clothes at first, miserable with whatever symptoms made me cancel and miserable about letting them down. They don’t know that if it was bad enough for me to actually cancel, then I’m probably going to be in bed for a day or two. They don’t know because when they call me the next day, no matter what, I’m going to apologize and say I’m doing much better.” — Sheri J.
  5. Sleeping. I’m usually so tired I have no time to go out with friends and even if I bring myself to do it I have to drink coffee like crazy to stay aware and awake.” — Elizabeth H.
  6. I’m sitting there second guessing myself, could I have pushed myself and gone anyway and had been miserable the whole time? Or did I do the right thing and stay home to rest and recover but feel horrible guilt about letting people down again? I hate it.” — Sarah C.
  7. Either obsessively checking social media to live vicariously through photos and videos of what I’m missing, or steadfastly ignoring social media so I don’t have to see all the fun I’m not having. Which one I do varies by the occasion, with myriad contributing factors.” — Samantha A.
  8. Usually I’m curled up in bed, sometimes watching Hulu to distract from pain. But mostly sleeping/laying in bed. Sometimes a hot bath.” — Chelsea S.
  9. I am laying in bed or on the lounge in the worst pain and fatigue of my life. The heart wants to go… but the body says not today!” — Nicole F.
  10. Cry. I’m grateful to be asked though, many times I’ve had friends say ‘I didn’t think you could’ or ‘Well you’re always ill so I assumed…’ etc.” — Alexandra H.
  11. Feeling very guilty and scared they won’t ask to make plans again. It’s hard to cancel when your heart breaks to do so, but your body controls you and you have no choice!” — Amanda E.
  12. “They don’t realize how guilty I feel about having to cancel plans or not being able to give them a solid ‘yes’ when they ask to do something down the road. I never know how I’m going to feel. They also don’t realize that I sit in anger about it either. I get so mad at my body and brain for not working right.” — Valerie F.
  13. “I almost never cancel plans unless I feel so awful that I physically can’t go. Plenty of times I still make plans when I feel moderately sick. Me canceling likely means I’m having a fatigue crash so bad I can barely move, or a migraine where all I can do is just lie in bed, take painkillers, and attempt to sleep it off.” — Lindsay-Sarah C.
  14. “I’m at home always ‘free’ but busy with my illness. I wish they would just come over and chill. That would be the best. Because the feeling of being lonely is so present that you feel left behind a glass. You can see them having fun and all but can’t come in.” — Marie-Eve P.
  15. “I used to feel guilty because I hid it so well, but I cannot be who I used to be. The present me has to be honest, forthcoming and real. If that is too much for someone to handle then all the better for me that they walk away.” — Julie G.

When a friend cancels plans because they aren’t feeling well, it can be disappointing for both sides. It’s important for healthy friends to remember that their sick friends still value their friendships so much, and showing them kindness and understanding instead of frustration can go a long way. If you’re reading this because you have friends with chronic illnesses, check out these articles for insight into their experiences and advice on how you can support them:

15 Things to Say to a Chronically Ill Friend Who Just Canceled Plans

Canceling Plans Because of My Illness Is Not a ‘Cop-Out’

5 Things a Chronically Ill Person Needs From You, Their Healthy Friend

And if you’re reading this because you have health challenges and have to deal with the complicated emotions of canceling plans, remember that it’s OK to put your health first — and friends who are worth your time will still want to be in your life. Read these articles today if you need a little support and reminder that you’re awesome even if sometimes you have to turn down plans:

3 Tips for Coping With the Disappointments of Chronic Illness

5 Things to Remember When You Feel Guilty for Being Ill

To the Person With a Chronic Illness Who Feels Like a Burden

Originally published: September 6, 2018
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