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The 5 Types of People I've Met Since I Was Diagnosed With Lyme Disease

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In 2016, an unplanned life event happened to me. After my plan of graduating from college, before my plan to get married and have children, and during my plan to spend a year abroad in France, something I never wanted or dreamed of turned all of my plans upside down.

When the dust finally settled, and I had a diagnosis of Lyme disease and a plan to fight it, is when it all became real. I was looking at a fight of one to two years (making me one of the lucky ones), that was going to require all of my physical, mental and emotional strength to get through. For a few months I tried to fit my recovery into my already planned life, but that didn’t work. After a while I realized that this was going to be my life for the foreseeable future, and I had better get used to it.

Like any major life event, it has affected everything. My ability to work, my future timeline, and even my social life are all different now. The last was maybe the most surprising to me, as I had always had a large group of caring friends, and I didn’t see that going anywhere. While these people haven’t exactly gone anywhere, the roles they have played during my recovery have been varied — some bringing comfort, and others adding to my grief.

The first type of person is the person who stops in once and a while to give me a piece of advice, and then shuffles back into the woodwork. This person loves to comment on social media, especially when I’ve just bared my soul about my latest struggles, and tells me I need to watch a certain video or try a certain supplement. Or worst of all, “hang in there!” I usually wasn’t close with this person before my illness, and their sudden involvement in my life to solve all of my problems is curious to me.

The second type of person is the person I reach out to when I’m missing human company, and we meet up and have a great time. Then I never hear from them, unless I am the one to initiate. I wonder about these people… do they think I’m just so busy living my exciting Lyme life to want to see them? Do they think I’m too sick and they should just leave me alone? I wish they knew that the worst thing about this disease is how isolating it is, and that it would make my day to be invited to do something. That’s all I, and a lot of people with this disease want, is to be made to feel like we still have some value in our friends’ lives.

The third type of person is the person I thought I was close with, but I hardly hear from anymore. When I try to tell them how I’m really doing, I get a blank stare, and I can tell they’re relieved when I change the conversation. They are usually in the midst of some very happy time in their life, and they don’t seem to have time for my sadness. They may ask how I’m doing but after a while I stopped giving a real response, so all we talk about are trivial things. I think of them when I’m going through a rough time, and then remind myself that they don’t seem to care or have time for my problems.

The fourth type of person is the Good Time Charlie. They’re all happy faces and celebration emojis when I cross a major milestone, but they were nowhere to be heard from when I was in the darkest of dark times. Yes, it’s great that you’re happy for me, but it feels weird when you don’t even know all that I’ve been through. And the fact that even when I have beat this disease into remission, it will likely haunt me for most of the rest of my life. Do you know that the disease in my body could cause miscarriages and birth defects down the road, that it can flare up after the longest absence, that it has ravaged my body for so long that the possibility of escaping without collateral damage is next to impossible? I understand celebrating the small victories, but let’s not pretend like everything is perfect when I’m “healed.”

The fifth and final type of person is the person who has gotten me through this disease. It is the person who has let me cry on their shoulder, or on the phone, or over Skype. The person who sends me a note every so often just to say “I’m thinking of you.” No advice, no forced positivity, just plain old-fashioned support. The person who leaves a nice comment on my blog, related or unrelated to my illness (sometimes when it’s unrelated it’s even better, because it shows that this person just wants to participate in my life, wherever I’m at at that moment). The person who invites me to do something — even if I wasn’t able to make it, know that your invitation meant so much to me. The person that does so much by just saying “I’m here for you” and actually means it.

At the end of the day, most of my friends don’t fall into just one of these types. They move from type to type, not knowing how best to respond to this major unplanned life event. We weren’t socialized for this in elementary school, when we learned how to make and keep friends. From my own experience, I can say the best possible thing is to be there. Be present in my life, however you can be. Don’t help me fix my body — I have a doctor for that. Don’t tell me to look on the bright side — I have God for that. Just listen to me talk and let me know that you still care about me, even though my life looks a lot different from yours, and from how it did before. All I really want is to know I’m still a part of your life, and you are a part of mine. And I will remember you when this disease takes a back seat to the rest of my life someday.

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Thinkstock photo by Morgan David de lossy

Originally published: March 5, 2017
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