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To the Friends Who Stuck With Me After I Opened Up About My Chronic Illness

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Recently I took a trip to Chicago for pain management, and I decided to bring one of my friends with me. The appointment went without a hitch, but I realized throughout it how much I was sharing with the doctors that I would never share with a friend. After the appointment, my friend pointed this out to me, too. She finally saw that there are only certain people I let into my world of health problems. Usually I am outgoing and share as much as I can, hoping for others to open up to me. Yet, when it comes to my chronic illness, I shy away.

The reason why is fear. I am afraid of being hurt. I am afraid of being abandoned. I am afraid of your perception of me changing. When I meet a new person, I try not to let my illness define me. I stick to, “Hi, my name is Katy” rather than, “Hi, my name is Katy, and I am a chronically ill teen.”

As I become closer to a person, I do open up, but not as much as one would think. When asked how I am, I always reply, “Good,” or if it’s a particularly bad pain day, I reply, “OK.” I put on a facade so those people can get to know the real me. This is the me that existed before I became sick. I want to be the fun-loving girl who can be asked out on a date rather than the “weird” sick girl. So I underplay my symptoms. If a dislocation occurs while I am with you, I will explain, and I will answer questions honestly, but I do try to avoid bringing it up. It hurts me sometimes, but I hold it in.

When I become close enough to a person, it gnaws at me that I can’t share more, but for me, the cons of sharing outweigh the pros of opening up in most cases. There are always exceptions, though. Sometimes I do need help, and I have friends who are kind enough to provide it.

Thank you to everyone who has stuck with me after I opened up about my illness. Thank you to the girls who kept carrying my bag months after they had to just to make my life a little easier. Thank you to the boy who became one of my best friends simply by trying to get me to class in one piece. Thank you to the person I can go to on my bad pain days and never feel judged. I don’t know what I would do without people I know will stick around even when life throws a curveball.

I do still avoid talking about my illness, but you have shown me I can still be loved as a chronic pain patient. You make my life easier in more ways than one, and I will forever be grateful for those of you who got me through this year. I feel so blessed not only to have found one amazing friend during this process, but many. You have made me believe there are people out there for everyone, chronic illness and all.

For anyone still looking for these people, please keep looking. The people in your life you can truly open up to about your struggles are worth the wait. I am forever indebted to my amazing friends who kept me in one piece this year.

Originally published: August 20, 2016
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