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Why I Always Meet in Familiar Places as Someone With a Chronic Illness

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“Where shall we go for tea?”

I hate this question, because I am very conscious of the fact that I ask to go to the same place every time we eat out. Even before I became chronically ill, I’ve always been very easy to please; I could eat the same meal every day without getting bored if it was a food I liked. However, I am aware this is not “normal” (Me? Ha!) and that variety is the ever-desirable spice of life. When you ask me “Do you want to go for dinner?” I want nothing more then to be able to say, “Let’s go try that new Japanese restaurant,” or even just “What’s your favorite place? Let’s go there!” But in reality it would be horrible.

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The magic words

Unless you struggle with anxiety, I don’t think I could ever make you understand how being in an uncomfortable situation can be incredibly draining and make things even more difficult for someone. The best thing you could possibly say to me is something like, “Let’s meet up for dinner at Pizza Hut,” or “Are you busy on Friday? We could go to Pizza Hut.” This takes away any anxiety and worries I might have – that I am boring you by going to the same restaurant, whether the venue is accessible etc. It means I can focus all my attention on catching up with you and actually being present in our conversations and enjoying our evening together. Unsurprisingly, this makes for a much better time for me than thinking “How am I going to get to the toilet?” or “I’m really tired from navigating those obstacles just to get in here; I think I’m going to have to go home early. How do I tell them?”

Pizza Hut? Is this post sponsored?

Haha! No, although if you know any Pizza Hut employees that can make that happen, I would be so down. It just happens this particular restaurant is pretty much the only place in my town that I can get to without needing assistance from a carer. There is a big difference between being wheelchair accessible and wheelchair friendly – including things like whether any ramps provided are too steep to manage alone and how far the car park is from the venue.

My local Pizza Hut is a safe space; somewhere I feel completely comfortable and independent – the latter of which is incredibly important to me. I know there is an accessible toilet. I know I can move easily between the tables without people having to awkwardly scooch their chairs in, making me feel like a right pain in the ass. The regular staff know my preferred table and make no fuss about clearing it for me, even when it’s really busy. Maybe I do go there a little too much, but I don’t care! Going to Pizza Hut is relatively easy for me, and so little of my life is now. It’s one of the few places I can still be totally self-reliant, and I love it.

What I’m thinking

If you couldn’t bear the thought I’m having to eat at Pizza Hut for the gazillionth time, you wouldn’t suggest we should go there. The fact that you have reassures me and makes me feel confident that I’m not being a burden or difficult. You also get major brownie points with me!

It’s pretty easy to avoid me altogether, and I really don’t think any less of people if they do. So if Pizza Hut is too expensive, or too mainstream for your highly-refined and cultured palate, there’s no harm in chatting with me online or some other social interaction that doesn’t involve us going anywhere. If I’m not asleep or something.

These are things I personally find helpful or positive. If you are seeking ways you can help someone you know with EDS or another chronic condition, please feel free to use this post for inspiration, but remember everyone is different. If in doubt, check with the person you are supporting.

This story originally appeared on The Stripey Wife.

Getty image by Norton RSX.

Originally published: December 30, 2018
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