Dear Healthy Friend: I'm Sorry I Grew Distant After Getting Sick
Dear Healthy Friend,
Imagine being trapped in a room with someone who was trying to hurt or kill you. You may be able to elude them temporarily or use your best maneuvers to ward off the attack momentarily. Eventually though, you would grow tired and your assailant would be ready and waiting to pounce on you. Eventually you would succumb to your wounds. There would be no more fighting and the person assaulting you would win.
That is what it is like to live with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and Chiari malformation. Or any chronic illnesses for that matter. I am trapped in a body that is trying, on a daily basis, to trip me up, knock me over and steal any clarity of thought I may have that day. These illnesses have not only taken a toll on my body but on my mind, emotions and self-esteem as well. I have walked through every emotion I can possibly think of to arrive at the goal line of acceptance. I accept my illnesses now and have begun to live within the “new normal,” but getting to this place was extremely difficult and heartbreaking.
I would have never shared this with you but there was a time where I harbored hatred and envy for you and your healthiness. I was jealous of your social media pictures of all the fun activities you were a part of and of how beautifully healthy you looked in them. I could not see it then, but I was protecting my heart from the pain of not being able to be there. I had no right to be hateful; it was merely a smokescreen for my pain and grief. If I was angry about what you had, I did not have to look at what I didn’t have.
I would have never shared this with you but I typed text after text asking for help or saying I needed you, only to erase them before I could hit send. I needed help but never wanted to admit it or seem weak. I need help but was always taught never to depend on anyone. I need help but am afraid of being a needy sick person everyone pitied. So instead of sending the texts, I erased them and sent nothing at all. I just stopped texting and got angry at you for growing apart. It was not fair of me but still I sit, mad at someone else for me pulling away.
I would have never shared this with you but I cried and grieved over the empty space that was left in my life where you used to be. Each time I had to RSVP no to an event because it was not disability-friendly, I sobbed. There have been times I have wanted to share something with you but after this new space and shift in our relationship, it did not seem appropriate. There are times I wish I could go back in time and enjoy some of the good moments just a little bit more.
I would have never shared this with you but some of your words and attitudes you shared with me in the beginning were hurtful. I know you never meant to be, but my pain was dismissed and my joy over little victories made trivial. Words can be so hurtful and the effect can last much longer than the split-second choice to say them.
I would have never shared this with you but the healthy, beautiful, joyful person you are is who I used to be. It is so heartbreaking to be around you because I used to be you. It is getting easier as I stumble towards acceptance but I am not convinced anyone will be waiting there for me.
Your Not So Healthy Friend
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Thinkstock photo via AntonioGuillem.