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To My Friend Who Still Makes Plans With Me Despite My Occipital Neuralgia

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Dear Friend,

Thank you for sticking by me even though my life has been consumed by chronic pain. Flat out, I’m not the same person I was a short time ago. Not only have I changed physically, but I’ve changed all the way down to my core. Pain changes a person.

You continue to call even though my phone and texts often go unanswered. Just seeing your name light up on that screen let’s me know you still hold me in your thoughts. You have no idea how this lifts my soul from a deep, dark place.

You still make plans with me, knowing I will most likely cancel last minute due to pain. You don’t get mad about it, you just keep trying. The important thing is you keep asking.

You understand that when we do meet up, I often only last 15 minutes before exhaustion or pain makes me leave. I’m racked with depressing thoughts when I leave you, but your understanding quiets them just so. Your understanding lessens that thousand-pound weight of guilt I carry around with me on my shoulders on a daily basis.

I’m really not social anymore. Yet you keep me in the loop of what you’re up to and what our friends are doing. You understand the importance of keeping me connected to life in some way.

I live in a world full of medications, doctors, research and, oftentimes, hopelessness. There are days when I just need to get out of my head, out of my disorder. You understand that sometimes I need to escape that world and not talk about what I’m going through.

You always ask about my pain yet continue to treat me as if I’m normal, not like the fragile piece of glass I’ve become that any sound or harsh movement can shatter. You treat me like your old buddy who you used to laugh and joke with. 

I look terrible. I know it. I can’t hide it. Pain has painted thick black rings around my eyes, and I’m no longer that gym rat I used to be. Yet you, my friend, don’t judge my appearance or feel pity. You continue to compliment me even though I don’t have enough energy to even do my hair.

You have no idea how many other friends stopped calling over time. Just stopped checking in or asking me to do things. Apparently I don’t fit in to their happy, pain-free world anymore. I get it. They don’t know what to do with a sick friend. How to just be there.

They don’t see that true friendship is ride or die.

No, I can’t go out for dinners anymore, gab on the phone, grab a happy hour cocktail, do a play date with the kids, meet up with you to shop. Does that mean I’m not worthy of your friendship? No. I am worthy despite my pain, despite my current challenges. You, my friend, get that. You make me feel worthy.

Most of all, I know that you’ll sit with me as I cry or sit with me as I attempt to have a few minutes of normalcy. A few minutes of what life was like before chronic pain became my story.

For sticking by my side and accepting me as I am today, I truly thank you. You’ll never understand what it means and how much I respect you for it. Your friendship is what keeps me going. It’s what I grasp for in my darkest moments.


Your Friend With Occipital Neuralgia

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Originally published: September 16, 2016
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