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To the Friends I Miss Dearly Because of My Chronic Illnesses

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I miss my friends and my life. I have amazing friends. They really are wonderful. We used to have a blast. We would have girl’s nights and get together and chat about our love of nutrition and gut health. We took trips. We went to really cool places. The Grand Canyon, Washington D.C., Orlando, Phoenix, Maui and more.

Travel is and always will be my most favorite pastime of all. My husband and I used to adore road trips. Oh, and live music and dancing. We loved to go dancing and hear some good music.

But things are really different now. I don’t get to see my friends very much. Well let’s be honest, I don’t see them at all. See I got sick. It was not planned and the profession of my invisible chronic illness has been swift and cruel. One oral dose of a broad-spectrum antibiotic and one IV dose of another in the same class took me from being a thriving, happy, healthy runner who did half marathons to someone who cannot even stand up from a sitting position without excruciating pain.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am blessed and have a lot to be happy about. But the new me with undifferentiated connective tissue disease (UCTD), fibromyalgia, a pesky meningioma and fluoroquinolone toxicity syndrome is no longer the organizer, the doer and the life of the party.

I was a leader and the planner. Things are different now — very different. In the midst of battling this illness, my husband and myself opened up a catering and meal preparation business, as well as a healthy café. Being a nutritionist is my passion and honestly, I have been able to use good clean food and gut health supplements to help me stay mobile and not bedridden most days. Some have asked me why in the world we started our meal prep service, 1031 Meals, while dealing with all of this.

My answer is this — my life of pain needs to mean something. If I can help even one person by giving them good clean food, my purpose is fulfilled. We really believe this is our calling from God, to do something. But the problem is energy, or rather my lack thereof.

Running a café takes a lot of energy. We work extremely long days. My husband is the chef and I am the nutritionist, recipe creator, administrative person, retail manager for our Grab and Go meals, bookkeeper, scheduler and anything else not related to the kitchen or social media. (My daughter Amanda is the social/marketing genius and she’s amazing!)

My customers would never know I was sick. I can count on one hand the days I have brought my cane to work. See, you cant carry food or ring people up with a cane in one hand, so I just decided to forget it and fight through. My wonderful clients who are like family to me have no clue what my days are like. They see me smiling and talking to them about the meals and nutrition, and just going about my day. I certainly don’t want to bring anyone down with my whining. But it takes a huge toll on me.

This is where I miss my friends. I know most of my friends are thinking I started this business and just forgot about them. Nobody has said that to me but slowly people just stopped messaging. It’s my fault really. We had chats on Facebook and group texts and I know I pretty much vanished. I miss that so, so badly.

I miss the chats, laughs, trips and fun banter more than they will ever know. I didn’t just toss them aside for 1031 Meals. I really did not. I would give anything to be able to chat on Facebook, go out for dinner, take a trip and just be with my tribe. But I cannot do it, I just cannot. Here is why.

When I get home, I am spent. I usually am limping to the point where my husband has to help me up the steps to my porch. My feet will be throbbing and the joints in my ankles, feet, toes, fingers, elbows and shoulder will be swollen and so painful that often the sheets cannot even touch. My sweet husband runs me a hot bath and then spends sometimes an hour (after running our café and cooking all day) trying to massage my feet, ankle and shoulder joints to the point where I can sleep for three to four hours. Many nights, he automatically just goes to the guest room because he can see how much pain I am in. I cry sometimes — only in front of him. I cry and sometimes vomit from pain — and he is the only one who sees and knows.

I have a cocktail of supplements, medications and lotions that he helps me be sure to complete each morning and evening. I have to get on social media long enough to check orders for my customers and maybe try and scroll a little bit — but then I get sad and stop.

I am so emotionally drained. In addition to the physical pain, I do not even have it in me to make small talk or chat or comment on friends posts. I just do not have the energy. Doing what needs to be done to keep the business going (thank God for employees for those times when I just cannot do it) and to take care of myself is all I can muster most days. I try to lose myself in a book or TV show during the times I am unable to sleep.

A lot of my friends used to comment on how I sure am a night owl and how late I am up commenting on their posts. Well see, it usually takes a few hours after my bath, massage and meds to have it in me to read or scroll, so that’s why I do a lot of those things late at night when sleep is evading me.

I promise that my friends and how they are doing are part of my daily thoughts. Sometimes, I scroll past a post of them and their families and I smile. Sometimes I cry. How do you convey to someone you care about that you love them, pray for them and try to watch their life events as closely as you can? How do you explain that you miss their company and friendship terribly, but there is just no energy to talk, chat and pretend to feel good after a long day at work?

I have told a few good friends to come visit me at the café because that is likely the only time I will get to see them. See, I have a husband who takes care of me and supports me, so the little tiny bit of anything I have left each day I owe to him. And sometimes he gets nothing.

To my awesome group of friends, I didn’t just go away and forget you all. I didn’t decide the job is more important than all of you. I just know this is my calling and part of the purpose behind my suffering, so I keep it up.

Yes, it gives me joy. I can no longer run or teach Aquafit or even take long walks — but I can help people eat real food and get off processed fake junk. So I try my best to smile and be helpful and friendly everyday. I absolutely love my customers. I am grateful for their support of our little health ministry in the form of a café and meal prep service.

So my sweet friends, when I ask you to come see me or have lunch with me, it is not that I am trying to put you out or that I do not want to make time for you outside of work. It’s just that this is my only little window of feeling slightly like myself each day where we can visit and I can seem semi-normal. I still love and miss you all more than you know and pray daily for a cure or to be “normal” again one day. Chronic illness sufferers do not mean to cut you out. We really do not.

To anyone reading this, if you have a friend with a chronic illness who you have felt was slipping away or pushing you away, or who doesn’t seem to have time for you anymore, just keep texting and messaging. Let them know you care and understand. It will mean more to them than you can ever know. Those of my friends who continue to message me daily, and who ask how I am and if I need anything, will never understand what that means to me.

Getty Images: AntonioGuillem

Originally published: December 5, 2019
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