Medical MondaysFriendship Guest Post #2

Last week some of you may have seen the first post in this mini-series on friendship, a series of guest-posts centred on how having a long-term illness or disability can affect the friendships you have, make & break; last week’s post was written by Megz Jones, a 25-year-old woman who has type 2 bipolar disorder. This week’s post has been written by Roxanne Michelle, a 29-year-old with generalised anxiety disorder.


 

Thank you Lucy-May for posting my contribution,
I’m so happy to be a part of Medical Mondays.

A little background for readers new to me. My name is Roxanne Michelle, @AnAverageLife88, I did/will blog over at www.anaveragelife.org which is currently down, preparing for relaunch on my 30th birthday 22.08.18

I was diganosed with generalised anxiety disorder in 2014. Let me tell you about the friendships that blossomed and those that died along my journey with mental illness. More importantly, let me show you why it’s okay to lose them.

Before my diagnosis I was always the ‘host’, an extremely social, outgoing person. I live in a small town & it’s easier to keep in touch with friends throughout your life when you constantly pass them in the street. It’s also very hard to hide from them, especially if you work in the town centre as I do.

In the beginning I withdrew. Completely. I didn’t want to go out, I didn’t want visitors and I cancelled plans repeatedly, often at the last moment with weak excuses.

The first round of friends to fade away were the impatient ones. The kind who get fed-up with cancellations and excuses, they just aren’t invested enough to keep trying. There’s no dramatic end to the relationship, its just over. They gave up and I was unable to reach out. We both quietly moved on.

Next the self-centred ones stomped away. These are the friends that take everything personally. They assume you don’t want to see them, they take offence or get angry when you cancel plans. Maybe they don’t believe in your invisible illness or only want your company during good days. Usually, these end with argument including phrases like ‘if you really cared you would show up’ or ‘I’m always the one making an effort’. You pass each other in the street sometimes, its awkward, you don’t acknowledge each other.

Now comes your own friendship cull.

The pressure posse. The ones who drown you in messages when you just need space. Sometimes its mentally exhausting to respond to messages and engage in long conversations. I don’t always want to talk about myself, or how I’m feeling, or why I feel a certain way, because sometimes I don’t know the answer myself! You’re invading my space and I need to breath. I reply less and less and eventually stop entirely. I might hide/mute/block the particularly perseverant ones, depending on my guilt level.

The ignorant. Friends who refuse to accept my mental health. These are the kind who are great fun to be around when I’m in the right frame of mind, but completely disappear the moment things get tough. They aren’t there when you really need them. The friendship remains, but usually through accidental meetings or social events with mutual friends. There’s no bad feeling. They’re relieved to be off the hook and you only see them at places you feel mentally prepared to attend. Its all cheerful reminiscing and zero obligation.

Here comes the huge glowing silver lining of friendships when you suffer an illness..

The REAL ones!

I am very lucky; I have narrowed down my friendship circle yes, it has massively decreased, but quality over quantity is a mantra fit for all aspects of life. There are two types of friendships I value above all others.

Laidback long-termers. I have friends from as early as 1995 that I still call close. We don’t see each other often but when one of us is in need the other will be there in seconds. They don’t expect anything from you, there’s no time requirements, no guilt or anger even if you haven’t spoken in a long long time. One can pick up the phone after a year of silence and the other will answer on the second ring. I can bump into them in a shop and we’ll chat as if we saw each other last week. These are keepers.

Supporters. These people are my life line. The people I can cancel on last minute and they understand. I don’t need an excuse, I can just tell them I don’t want to. They don’t ask questions or take offence, they just reschedule when I’m ready. They understand we might meet up for entire day-trips one week and only message once or twice in the next. Maybe I will call them last minute for a coffee, or maybe our only interaction will be funny meme tags. They are the ones I call to prevent panic attacks, they are the ones that will sit and listen or convince me I’m being irrational. We operate on blunt honesty and understanding.

These aren’t just friends, now they are my family.

An illness can make a friendship stronger when you find the right people.

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