October 22, 2012

The Discovery of Friendship

Posted in Progress tagged , , , , at 7:35 pm by Reva

Developing a chronic illness has opened my eyes to different types of friendships.  I know it’s a cliché, but you learn who your real friends are.

Soon after my diagnosis I returned to Melbourne for a friend’s engagement party.  It was a big deal for me.  I didn’t really know anyone else going, I had to travel which is exhausting – the waiting around in airports, sitting in uncomfortable seats, carrying around luggage, getting across the city. I wanted to catch up with so many people, but I knew that I had to be careful so I decided to email the people I hoped to catch up with.  Some of the people who made the effort surprised me and I was so excited that they’d made the effort as they’d been people who I hadn’t spent a lot of time with in the past.  On the other hand some who I’d felt really close to wanted me to travel 20minutes out of town to “meet me halfway” (I’d already travelled interstate so felt I’d already come halfway) obviously having no comprehension of what that further 20 minutes (or 40 minutes return) on public transport meant for my capabilities of getting through the weekend.  Others still who I’d considered close friends didn’t even respond.

Over the years this pattern continued, the people who I thought were my closest friends were there when the going was good, when they were celebrating or when they needed someone to talk to.  But the moment I was sick, too unwell to travel, to celebrate or I needed to talk they were busy, or they simply disappeared.

I spent too much time dwelling on this, wondering if it was the ME/CFS, the natural course of growing up or maybe it was just me.  Slowly over time I worked through this and eventually I accepted that no matter the reason I had nothing against these friends but I no longer had the energy for one sided friendships.  My condition was draining and it was time I took a step back and focused on myself.

I realised I’d reached a level of acceptance when I found out via Facebook that someone who I’d considered a close friend had recently had a baby.  I didn’t know she was pregnant.  The last time I’d seen this friend I’d travelled into the city, 3 hour round trip by public transport, to meet her for lunch.  When we left off she was going to get in touch – she was going to be in my area in a few weeks so she was going to let me know what the dates were and we were going to catch up for a girls night.  I haven’t heard from her since.  I few years earlier this would have had me in a complete mess but when I saw the pictures I actually laughed out loud.  I was surprised but it finally hit me how much energy I’d wasted over the years trying to keep some friendships alive.

I now have a new outlook.  The people who matter understand that there are days I can’t do what I want to do.  There are times when my life is pretty mundane and boring purely because I physically am barely keeping up with day to day life.  They understand that talking on the phone can be draining but send me text messages, talk on the phone and when I do the interstate trips they understand that I need a day of rest when I arrive and need to factor in another at the end.

ME/CFS is a socially isolating condition, and while it has taken me some time, letting go of those one sided friendships has ironically made me feel less isolated.



  1. decimawho said,

    This has been the upside to my illness for me – realising who really are my friends. I think I always kind of knew deep down that most of my ‘friends’ weren’t really friends but I was desperate to keep them anyway. Now I just don’t care as much. I have a couple of good friends and the weight of constantly desperately trying to keep everyone else has gone and I feel loads lighter.

    • Reva said,

      I like that you look at it as an upside. I guess in the long run thats what I learnt too. I wish it didn’t take me so long to learn it 🙂

  2. Fiona said,

    It’s true. Poor health will definitely sort out your true friends from the rest. It’s just without this change of circumstances you may never have known or tested their friendship as you’d still be able to “keep up with them”. Some people cannot accept another person’s limitations when they are ill. Especially when this involves a condition that is non-visible. In the past and still now, I go to great lengths to hide my fatigue. It’s easier for a woman – you can just put on some make up and nice clothes and you look a lot better than you feel inside. And I tend to focus on the things I’ve done and achieved, when most times I’ve done it in my pjs (cooked or crafted) so that I can go lie on the couch for the best part of the day afterwards. 🙂
    Don’t feel bad about sharing your condition and limitations with people if you’d like to develop meaningful friendships. It’s not something to hide. If people can accept it, so be it. If they can’t, they’re not good friend material. 🙂

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