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What I Wish I Would Tell My Able-Bodied Friends

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Flare-ups make me very secretive. I isolate myself from all those I love. Asking for help burns like defeat. I’m awed by the people who can ask, but I simply have too much hubris — and perhaps that’s why I write. A large audience seems less intimidating than my dearest friends. It’s absurd, right?

I have a theory why I believe it might be easier to deliver this to a large audience, because I’m not asking a specific person, because I’m not taxing any individual. We chose what to read, fishing each article from a sea of stories. Friends don’t really choose to listen — they do just because they care, and maybe that’s why even the thought of talking to them about my illness makes me cringe. I’m afraid my illness and the needs that it creates may turn me into a burden. I’ve spent the last four months jumping between what I should and should not share with them — and wishing I had the courage to say these few things:

I love you and I worry about you. Tell me about your trials, your difficulties — I’m here to listen. Don’t be afraid that because I’m suffering, I can’t handle your bad days — or beam because of your successes. Tell me when you succeed — don’t stifle your joy around me. My heart is still well, even though my body may not be. Please, just keep being yourselves — I’m not fragile. I need you to be yourselves.

I’m grateful for your offers of help, but I want to handle things on my own. I’m fiercely independent — and right now, accepting your help feels akin to giving in to the fire in my veins, and I fear it will turn me into the burdensome beast that I distain so much. I know this may sound bizarre to ask, but please, don’t stop offering to help — teach me that I can lean on you, without being a burden — but also, accept when I say “no” — I know myself best. When I do admit that I need to accept the offer you give, it takes all the courage I have.

I know you feel alone. I feel alone too. I know that senior year is hell, I know that final projects are torture, and I’m well aware of the stress it causes. You are not alone. Take care of yourselves, as you’ve been taking care of me. I need you to stay well. You’ve been fighting so hard to get through the year, take a break for a moment, and just have fun. Drink tea, dance in your room, scream, watch silly movies – don’t work and worry yourselves to death. You’re not alone. Let me say this again: no matter what, I’m here for you, I love you.

Lastly, be teenagers. Hang out. Go on adventures. Leave me behind — and don’t be afraid of it hurting me — the stories of your escapades are enough. Remember to live, and feel the cool, crisp air in your lungs, and sing. I’m here to listen to your vivacious song.

I’m excited to see where you’ll go! The world is our oyster. Claim it!

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Thinkstock photo by oneinchpunch

Originally published: February 16, 2017
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