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To the Friends Who Stayed When I Became Chronically Ill

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For lots of people with chronic illness, receiving a diagnosis and finding out that there is no cure results in many friends walking away. Some get overwhelmed by the seriousness of what’s happening. Others simply have no idea what to say to you anymore and get sick of trying to make plans with you just to have you cancel. To some you are suddenly this completely different person. And truly there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s OK to be overwhelmed. It’s OK to walk away if you know you can’t handle what is going on. I’ve had a few people in my life who couldn’t handle everything going on and I honestly don’t hold anything against them for the deterioration of our relationship because I probably had something to do with it, too. Chronic illness adds stress and pressure to so many parts of your life.

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But this isn’t about the ones who left. It’s about the ones who have always stayed. Becoming disabled and chronically ill changed so much about my life and how I look at the world. It completely changed what I’m able to do and what I’m not able to do. But through it all I’ve been lucky enough to have some of the most wonderful friends in the world who have not only stuck by my side regardless but have also helped me stay me.

To the friends who’ve stayed:

Thank you for always sticking by me, regardless of time, distance or health. I don’t think you even truly realize how much your support has meant to me through everything. I don’t think you know how much your FaceTime calls, silly articles or memes and visits make my day. You aren’t just there. You go out of your way to keep up with me and my health. It’d be so easy for our friendships to fall apart. We lives hours apart and I’ve become a pretty awful texter because I sleep basically whenever I’m able. But you text me anyways. You never stop even if it takes me days to answer. You don’t give up on me or our friendship.

Thank you for adapting with me. You don’t know how much I appreciate every day I’m able to go out and do something with you. How much it means that you are always willing to make plans around my restrictions instead of acting like my illnesses are inconvenient and holding us back. That you don’t care I’m no longer able do all those sometimes crazy things we used to do. You don’t know how much it means that you still treat me the same and that you don’t get freaked out by any of the medical stuff going on. In the chronic illness world, being able to say I have so many friends who stayed is rare.

Thank you for never doubting me. In the early years of my symptoms (Seven years ago?! What?!) when I was bouncing around from doctor to doctor and no one could figure out what was wrong, you never doubted me. You never even considered that it was all in my head. So many people did. So many people thought I was faking it or trying to get attention. But you never did. You supported me. You did research with me. You visited me after surgeries, went to the ER with me and just constantly lifted my spirits during those scary, frustrating few years. Having you rooting for me then and now has meant so much more than I can ever put into words.

Thank you for helping me realize that I’m an improved version of myself now. That these illnesses have made me stronger. That regardless of the fact that I now need a service dog, central lines, IVIG, so many antihistamines, IV meds, backpacks full of saline, Benadryl and EpiPens and some days a wheelchair to keep my body going, I’m still the eternally optimistic, way too peppy and giggly girl I’ve always been, and no disease can ever take that away. I’ve had points in time where I’ve worried that I was losing the girl I was before these illnesses took over. I’ve worried that I’ll never be the same. But you’ve showed me that it’s OK that they’ve changed me. It’s OK that I’m not exactly the same. Because now I’m better.

Thank you for letting me vent and always trying to understand. I know there are so many aspects of my complicated medical life you don’t understand, but I also know there are plenty of parts of your lives I don’t completely understand either. But you don’t know how much it means that you try. That you ask questions. And even more that you know some days I just need to be ticked off and complain. That some days I need to be mad. Some days I need to be sad and have a pity party for myself. You know I’m not looking for answers or solutions because there often aren’t any, so you let me vent. You let me get it out and then I normally feel better.

Thank you for never letting me forget how strong I am, even on the days I feel weakest. For always lifting me up when these illnesses drag me down. There are days I text you or call you and I feel so truly defeated but you simply remind me what I’ve been through so far. You remind me what I’ve survived. You remind me that if I could handle everything before then there is nothing I won’t be able to handle because I’m one tough chick. I don’t think I can ever thank you enough for helping me realize that and always reminding me anytime I forget.

Thank you for always, always making me laugh. Our friendships have basically always been full of sarcasm, ridiculous inside jokes and being silly for no reason at all. Most of the time we confuse everyone around us with our silliness or our random bursts of laughter that make sense to only us… but those mean so much to me. You know laughing is my favorite. Along with sarcasm. Which is part of why you are my best friends to begin with. But thank you for not letting that change. Thank you for the hilarious and often TMI stories, the silly memes and the articles that I had no idea I needed to read until you send them to me. You always distract me when I need it most. Those are the best things to wake up to when I feel bad. They are worth the pain when my head hurts. Getting those messages reminds me even if I feel alone that day I’m not.

Thank you for making me part of your support system, too. For still talking to me about your problems and letting me do anything I can to help. It may seem like an odd thing to thank you for but you’d be surprised at the amount of people who are afraid to tell me things now. But you aren’t. You know me. You know how much I care about you and how I always want to know everything that’s going on in your life. Being so far away from you and unable to drive myself or not being well enough to visit can be hard because I do often feel so disconnected from the world, but having you share your life with me and catching up with you always reminds me that nothing has changed. We may be in different parts of our lives. We may be experiencing very different things but at the end of the day, we are still best friends. I’m so proud of all your accomplishments and everything you’ve been able to do, and I love when I get to celebrate them with you even from afar.

I also want to say a special thank you to the friends who have come after my diagnoses. The ones I met not despite my illnesses but because of them. Those who at first were simply someone I shared a diagnosis with but have now turned into beautiful and silly friendships because it turned out we have so much more in common. A lot of the things above now pertain to you, too. It’s pretty cool that I now get to have friends from all over the world who have truly changed my life and it’s all thanks to our rare diseases.

I love you all more than I’ll ever be able to explain but I hope this helped even a little to show you how much you are appreciated. Basically, thanks for being you.

Pexels photo by Tatiana Vavrikova

Originally published: November 12, 2017
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