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What I've Learned From Losing Friends Since My Fibromyalgia Diagnosis

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Being diagnosed with a chronic illness is not easy. Some people don’t seem to understand the absolute heartache you feel when you find out there is no cure for your pain.

Some might say that people will never truly understand your situation unless they’ve been through it themselves. I beg to differ.

You don’t have to have a chronic illness to show empathy toward those who do. That’s not how empathy works. Empathy is basically the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes, hypothetically, to gather an understanding of how that person may be feeling. Not everybody has the ability to do that.

My partner is living proof that you don’t have to relate to someone to show them empathy. Although she may never feel the pain I feel, she understands me better than anyone else.

At the same time, not everyone with fibromyalgia will show empathy toward others who do. I’ve had friends who coincidentally shared my diagnosis, yet turned it into a competition against me, and invalidated my struggle just because their situation was different to mine.

I also had a friend who would talk to me for hours over the phone about all their worries or concerns, yet as soon as the topic turned over to my problems they would quickly hang up.

There was a sudden change in dynamic with some of my friendships as soon as I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Since then, I have lost friends. They are now complete strangers to me.

The thing is, I’m not upset about that anymore. I can see now that I am better off surrounding myself with people who truly care about me. Luckily for me, I do have those people.

True friends stick by you through the good, the bad and the ugly. Difficult situations show you who your true friends are. Sometimes the people closest to us let us down. It doesn’t matter how strong the friendship was or how many good memories you’ve shared.

When life throws you a curveball, some people run away to avoid getting hit instead of sticking around to help you. What these people fail to understand is the damage this curveball can cause.

When you’re diagnosed with a chronic illness, it is a natural reaction to go through the stages of grief. When you’re going through the stages of grief, you need all the support you can get. Unfortunately, not everybody will allow us the time we need to grieve. We need to allow ourselves that time, and surround ourselves with people who can empathize with that.

So, if you have lost friends since your diagnosis, please know that it is not your fault. You didn’t get a choice here. The friends you lost actively chose not to support you. That’s on them, not you. Don’t blame yourself for the friendships you’ve lost. If they’re not going to be there for your struggles, then they don’t get to be there for your joys.

Not everybody has the ability to empathize with others, but trust me, there are people who do. Once you find them, hold onto them. Those people are truly worth your time and energy.

Photo credit: santypan/Getty Images

Originally published: May 19, 2019
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