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To the Best Friend With the Same Chronic Pain as Me

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I’ll be the first to say it. Living with a chronic illness is hard. Finding true support is hard. Having people around you who actually understand what you’re going through is rare. Having people who decide to tough it out when things get bad is even rarer.

But, I guess that’s where I’m one of the lucky ones. 

Never did I guess that the girl who handed me my job application, for a job I walked in to on a whim, would instantly become the most important person in my life.

I guess that’s the magic of co-workers.

I didn’t know how bad things were yet. I could still participate in all aspects of life without much difficulty.

But she was there on those hard days where I had to sit at the bar eating mochi, waiting for the pain to crack. She was there to take over my tables. I’d pick up her shift and she’d pick up mine. Never once was there this feeling of “she’s faking it” or “she could just push through, it can’t be that bad” that was present from every other employee.

There were no hard feelings after the Fourth of July when, after a day out in the sun with not enough water or food, we were both simply ready to call it a day. No need to make up some excuse; we both didn’t feel great and we both went home without watching fireworks or continuing the celebrations late into the night. 

On an impromptu camping trip, I didn’t have to explain myself when we all ended up spending our night in the emergency room. Of course, I felt horrible, as if I’d ruined the trip and any potential for adventures the next day, but everyone there didn’t care; they just wanted to make sure I was OK.

At that point, it was this unspoken understanding — that we understood exactly where the other person was coming from and our feelings wouldn’t be hurt. 

This was a different kind of friendship. There wasn’t an obligation to care, and even when we stopped working in the same restaurant, it didn’t come between us.

But that’s the thing I’ve come to love so much about having a best friend who happens to suffer from the same condition I do… the understanding.

Fast-forward to spending nearly two years apart, and suddenly I was home. Lost. Unable to really understand myself and what all I was in for in quitting school and work and deciding my health needed to come first… and suddenly, there’s my best friend, bouquet of flowers in hand, just happy we were no longer 1000 miles apart.

And that’s the thing that gets me. 

After two years, and even a few months that were lacking in any communication… there was my best friend. 

Since being home, I’ve come to appreciate this friendship more and more. It’s the little things that matter when you’re this sick. 

It’s having someone who will be there to check in after a few days where they know you’ve been feeling bad. It’s having someone I can text to see if they’re feeling awful as well, because at least then we can blame the weather.

It’s having someone else who really would love to go eat at some fancy restaurant, but choosing to stay in, because let’s be honest — we are both probably way too nauseous to attempt to be around food.

It’s the understanding that hey, if you tried to eat, that’s all that matters. There isn’t guilt. There isn’t finger pointing as to how X and Y are making you worse.

It’s making plans that are contingent on if we’re feeling up to it. And continuing to make plans and invite one another regardless of how many times we cancel. It’s that full understanding that yeah, I’d love to see you, but neither one of us should be pushing ourselves too hard.

It’s also that recognition that yes, that glass of wine may make you feel horrible in the morning, but you’ll probably feel horrible if you drink the wine or not, so bottoms up.

Most importantly, it’s this system of support that exists so naturally. We aren’t limited to some conversation about how difficult it is to eat or what level of pain we’re in or having this constant revolving discussion about our health, because we’re friends.

We aren’t “sick buddies” — we aren’t “spoonies” who just get each other. We talk about how we’re feeling plenty, and yes, sometimes its really great to have someone we can turn to who gets it… but it’s even better to have someone to talk about everything else with.

We can sit for hours and talk about boys and talk about jobs, and tell stories about the silly things we did in high school, or the horrible customers we’ve come across.

And then we can talk about plants and decorating and the new and exciting things happening in our lives.

We can laugh about life. We can enjoy life.

We can take turns showing up at each other’s house, one of us looking homeless and like we could use a shower and one dressed up just because. And then we can laugh on the days where we both look and feel a wreck and have oversized comfy clothes on. And we don’t have to care.

So thank you for getting it, long before anyone else did.

Thank you for exploring hidden restaurants and coffee shops with me. And sorry for maybe influencing your coffee addiction.

Thank you for teaching me how to apply fake eyelashes and rescuing me from going stag to the senior prom.

Thank you for the uncontrollable laughs. 

Thank you for being you; I hate that we both have this pain, but I wouldn’t want to share it with anyone else.

Image via contributor.

Originally published: March 19, 2019
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