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18 Things People With Chronic Illness Wish They Could Say to Their Friends Who Left

The most helpful emails in health
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For better or for worse, you tend to discover who your real friends are when you go through a major trial in your life – like developing a chronic illness or struggling with a lot of health issues. Some friends really pull through and support you every step of the way, while others may slowly fade into the background, until it’s been months (or even years) since you’ve been in contact.

The friends who leave when you become sick often aren’t ill-intentioned. They likely don’t want to hurt you, but also may not know how to help you or be there for you. Sometimes people just get wrapped up in their own lives and their own struggles, and when another person’s struggles are chronic, a.k.a. never-ending, they unfortunately might shy away from that (not that the person with the chronic illness has that choice…). It’s sad, and maybe it’s not “right,” but it happens.

Those with chronic illnesses who have had friends leave may all have different perspectives on it – maybe they dearly miss their friend, and hope to reconnect one day, or maybe they’ve recognized, in retrospect, that the falling out was actually for the best. Everyone’s feelings are totally valid, as every relationship and situation is unique.

We wanted to know if there was anything our Mighty chronic illness community wishes the friends who left understood, so we asked them to share something they want to tell their friends. The responses vary, but can hopefully offer some insight into how you can support and show some love to your friends with chronic illness.

Here’s what our community shared with us:

  1. I was always there for you but when it was your time, you didn’t even bother to make the time to write a simple text. I wish you from the bottom of my heart that you have a good life while I keep on fighting like the warrior that I am living mine.” – Melissa O.
  2. I wish I could walk away from it all, too.” – Kirsten B.
  3. “I didn’t want to lose you as a friend, not at all, I cried for days and it was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. But I need to have healthy boundaries for my survival as a disabled woman. I can’t keep people in my life who believe my disability is something I can overcome by willpower. I couldn’t keep bearing the weight of your anger because you were offended by my body’s limits. I know you had your own troubles, so I completely forgive you for not being in a place where you could understand. Leaving was something I had to do, not something I wanted to, and I hope you can understand that one day.” – Ella R.
  4. I know I couldn’t always hang out. I wish you knew how hard I worked for the short times I did spend with you.” – Kaitlin H.
  5. My health made it hard to have a social life. I understand it was an inconvenience for you for me to have to cancel plans but I guarantee having a chronic illness is way more inconvenient for me!!” – Kerrie W.
  6. “[I wish you knew] how much it has taken. How embarrassing and difficult it truly is for me to not be able to be the reliable friend and true friend I am inside. I don’t even think my doctors grasp the full concept of all I have missed: the moments, funerals, weddings, days in the sun, friend and family gatherings, riding a roller coaster, going to a concert, simply hanging out. The worst part is knowing how much more I will miss. It has caused me to grow spiritually and mentally, and yet shrink socially and in my own confidence. It has shown me how precious things are and how much we take for granted. It has taken so much from me but it has not taken me away. I am here suffering, fighting, living any moment I can, finding joy where I can, and yet battling the sorrow, loneliness, fear, pain, anxiety, depression, symptoms and so much more. I am still here though. Please do not forget or judge me. Please forgive me my faults, my cancellations and absence. Please love, accept and try to understand me for who I am now.” – Jaye N.G.
  7. The one thing I need from you is to just show up. Visit. Invite me to all the parties even though I probably can’t go. Don’t forget me.” – Margaret S.
  8. When individuals are sick and spent, they need their friends and a good support system more at that time than during their times of health and wellness. Particularly when their illness and exhaustion drags on for months and years. Now isn’t the time for abandoning those who are struggling. Don’t be a fair-weather friend. Show your true colors and step up to the plate when the very definition of friendship is put to the test.” – Tonya W.
  9. “I’m not lazy, just constantly exhausted. Most of the time I probably look pretty normal, but that’s just because I’m giving 110 percent just to not look how I feel on the inside.” – Jessica S.
  10. I’m sorry I disappeared. I pushed so many people away when I first got sick because I didn’t want them to know something was wrong. It wasn’t your fault.” – AnnMarie M.
  11. “[I wish you knew] just how much you didn’t try to understand what was going on. Just because my health distanced me didn’t mean you couldn’t bridge that gap. Your silence made me feel unseen, unheard and misunderstood. You comparing my Lyme disease and chronic pain with your daily schedule and making excuses for not wanting to help/encourage me made me feel as if you didn’t want to know me or be friends with me at all. Not knowing what to do is not an excuse for not doing anything.” – Kelsey W.
  12. “I’ve lost too many friends. I wish I could let others understand how it feels to always be sick and in pain but go on anyway.” – Patti A.
  13. I used to miss you but now I wouldn’t even know you or me. We both changed and such is life. I have people who get my hurt and still say ‘come over when you want.’ They see my anxiety and try to steer what is causing it away. Thank you for leaving so I can grow.” – Roxy R.
  14. As frustrated and angry as you are with me, I’m 10 times as frustrated and angry with myself. Trust me.” – Beccah L.
  15. When I needed you most, you weren’t there! My kindest most thoughtful friend that I knew would be there, wasn’t! This is what hurts me the most of all, the loss of our friendship. I wonder what goes through your mind. Do you not believe I’m sick? Have you lost respect for me? You have no idea how you’ve hurt me.” – Tracey W.
  16. I’m sorry that I didn’t explain what I was going through, that I just faded away instead. I should have explained how my symptoms prevented me from participating in activities, rather than just saying I couldn’t make it. I used to feel like I couldn’t admit how sick I was because I didn’t outwardly appear so. I’ve since learned the importance of communicating more clearly about my challenges, but I still seek to be positive which still has me downplaying things sometimes.” – Alia G.
  17. I’m slowly disappearing. My friends tell me I’m anti-social. I’ve posted information about my chronic illness, but no one reads it. Take some time and learn and tell me you understand. That’s all I need.” – Glenis H.
  18. Nothing. I’m too busy living the best life I can, with the amazing friends who have stuck around to share it with me.” – Gemma C.

If you’re struggling with fading relationships or missing friends that have left because of your illness, you’re not alone. Below are several stories from our community that may be helpful to check out:

Photo by Soragrit Wongsa on Unsplash

Originally published: June 4, 2018
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