5 Reasons People Abandon a Sick Friend
5 Reasons Friends Leave:
1. Fear of Death: Pardon my French but hearing that a friend has been diagnosed with a serious illness can scare the crap out of people. It forces them to confront their own mortality and acknowledge that we’re not in total control of our destiny.
2. Fear For Us: The irony is that some people love us so much that they are scared for us…too scared to stay. They can’t stand seeing a loved one in pain or watching that person die if he/she doesn’t make it.
3. Fake Friends: Five years into MG, I’ve gained perspective and realized some “friends” were never true friends—many of those relationships were one-sided. I was always giving while the other party was always taking. That being said, it’s also important not to make hasty judgments. Judge a friendship over time—not one moment in time. Even though I lost some friends after getting MG, that was not the case with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or Bipolar Disorder diagnoses. But my friend, Carol, who has Lupus and Bipolar Disorder, did lose friends after getting diagnosed with Bipolar. (Part of that is mental health stigma. When people are educated, however, some of them change and support their friends.)
4. Inexperience: Some friends who have not experienced loss cannot fathom our daily pain and fatigue. This is especially true when a friend has an invisible illness—diseases that cannot be seen. Examples of invisible diseases are mental illnesses like Depression and neurological disorders like Fibromyalgia. Some people with MG are told “but you don’t look sick” because they don’t carry a cane like I do for MG.
5. Dunbar’s Number: This is the least explored explanation. According to anthropologist Robin Dunbar, our brains can only handle 148 meaningful relationships at one time. (Having 1,500 Facebook friends ≠ 1,500 meaningful relationships.) Have you ever had a moment when you ran into an old friend and reconnected instantly? It made you wonder how you ever lost touch; it’s possible that your friend had his/her own dragons to slay while you were fighting illness. Recently I left a church I attended for nineteen years. I’m making a concerted effort to make friends at my new church. As I make this transition and meet other people (like cool followers of this blog), I find it harder to maintain friendships from my old church though I’m trying my best. This is a complication that accompanies life-changing events like becoming sick, getting married, or having a child.
Being Open Despite the Pain
Because I have to work while juggling all my illnesses, a Herculean task, I don’t run after long-time friends who left . I let things evolve organically. For example, last year I ran into an old-friend, “T,” who never once visited me in the hospital or at home. It was confusing and painful. “T” and I used to go to concerts and movies together.
When we saw each other again, we had lunch. It was wonderful. But even now I’m not entirely sure why she left. Letting T back into my life has been a blessing. It’s up to each person whether he or she chooses to forgive. Either choice is understandable. I forgive because I am a Christian. Also I’d like to be forgiven if I make the same mistake one day. We’re all human and therefore fallible. Letting go of the bitterness and accepting that I may not get all the answers has been liberating.
76 thoughts on “5 Reasons People Abandon a Sick Friend”
Great post. It is sad but true and I am glad you took the time to write about it.
Carrie, the Just Mildly Medicated gal 😉
First I am very sorry that this disease has come your way. There will be wonderful people in your life who will always be there for you. Count on it. However, you are young. You are at an age where you are in love with your friends. You might be expecting too much and getting your heart broken. That might sound like blame, I do not mean it that way. I just mean that those friendships started based on other things than serious illness. I am glad that you are ready to forgive them for being thrown by it. Some will come back.
Thanks for the feedback. I agree that we don’t know what the future holds.
But what about this. I am the one who always forgives and they don’t even say sorry or act sorry. I am the only one who always forgives and they know this so they never bother to act nice to me
HI Nadya, I’m so sorry that people have treated you this way. Have you ever asked someone to apologize for what they did?…HUGS to you – J
*sigh* I get so discouraged when I see people making judgments about other people’s lives. Terese how do you know this young lady is “in love with her friends”? How do you know she might be expecting too much and getting her heart broken? I am 56 years old and was diagnosed with a catastrophic illness 2 years ago. I had very similar experiences to Jessica’s. Many people left- life-long friends just vanished or were busy or…. Some new friendships have emerged and I’ve learned a lot about human nature. I think Jessica’s explanation about why some people leave makes sense. I’m so looking forward to the day where we just accept one another without judgment or discounting people’s experiences. Thanks for your courage in posting, Jessica.
Thank you so much for your encouraging comments. It does take a lot of courage for me to share these articles, and it’s nice to know that someone else appreciates it. I agree with you that illness teaches you a lot about human nature–the best and worst it has to offer. These experiences are pretty universal regardless of your age. I’m sorry that some of your friends left you. That’s part of why I started this blog and the Facebook page for it so that people with a wide variety of chronic illnesses can find support in each other. Bless your heart.
I have riend of 3 years, we text often ive been very sick the past 3 months, I may have a very rare auto inmune disease. Every time I’d tell him how sick I was he would say you’ll get better. Last time I texted was 11 days ago, he hasn’t answered. If he texts Back, should I ignore it.
Hi Gladys, Maybe wait to see how he responds to your next text? See what he says in his next text before making a decision. Sometimes people take their time responding because they aren’t sure what to say — applies to many situations such as when a friend loses someone. I’m sorry he hasn’t been more understanding! Regards, Jessica
Thank you. Just a simple, “Thank you.” You seem to have a very caring, understanding, heart.
I also was diagnosed with MG. It was at the age of 59 and in the 3 years since then I have realized that if you aren’t keeping up with the social scene (the parties, the ‘happy hour’ spur-of-the-moment get togethers after work, concerts, bingo, or lunch with the girls then you are definitely out on the fringe and sooner than not, untouchable. Along with the above listed reason, you are simply forgotten as the fun person you used to be to hang out with.
I have also found that those that DO keep in touch (even a little) expect you to be available for their presence when you’ve told them about the daily ebb & flows of your disease…. ie: afternoons & evenings are tough for me but I have lots of strength in the morning.
Now that I am ‘stable’ I have backed away from those ‘friends’ who seemed to shun me when this weak state came on, and cherish all those who don’t care that I can’t get out as much as I once did. Together we plan fun things to do in a less physical setting and have a blast. Just because I have a muscle disease doesn’t mean I ceased to be a fun person to be around!
That’s such a good point you make. I’m so glad that you have friends who understand what you can do and know what you’re still a fun friend to be with. It’s good that you still have true friends who have stood by you despite those who have forgotten. Thanks for sharing your experience and shedding some more light on this topic.
I too was diagnosed with M.G at 16 years old and faced the same kind of issues in high school , and even in some of my adulthood. Its sad but some people just don’t take the time or just don’t want to understand especially with M.G. just because people can’t always see it on the outside doesn’t mean we aren’t going through it on the inside. It isn’t easy..
Yes it’s true that having an invisible illness can sometimes make it harder to show empathy. I also believe that when people can’t pronounce an illness they’ve never heard of, it’s harder for them to be compassionate.
i can’t believe people can be so cold when i talk about friends not being there for my spouse of 31 years i am talking about friends of over 30 yearsr more even my spouces cousin who lives 15 minutes away, when i talk about seeing who by the way has stage 4 cancer one says no time, one says were too far and my offer to help in any way, it is craps and people are just plain selfish, they will be boo hooing when the person passes, don’t come crying to me then it will mean nonthing!
Thanks. It explains my MG journey. Going to forward to a few other partners in chronic illness. Keep on writing.
I am so sad for those who suffer the loss of friends in addition to suffering with painful illnesses. It makes me feel extra grateful for my family, particularly my husband, who are very supportive. I forget that not everyone is so blessed.
Hello, thank you so much for your empathy and taking the time to comment. (I’m trying to respond to every reader…but I’m tired a lot.) I agree. In the midst of the chaos, we should always remember to be grateful for family if we’re blessed enough to have helpful family. –Blessings, Jessica
Nice explanations. My illness (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome) is invisible, so people think I look healthy. I understand that people don’t understand long-term illnesses. They just expect you to get better.
Hi Lisa, thanks for the feedback! Ehlers Danos is something I’d like to learn more about. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I think you bring up a great point about long-term illness: it’s harder to be supportive of someone who has an illness that has no “finish line” so to speak. We’re trained by movies, TV, and society to think everything should have an ending, every trial is temporary, and that there’s a light at the end of every tunnel. I share my story not just for chronically ill people but for people who’ve never been through what we’re going through–that they may better understand what we’re feeling.
I have been living with heart disease for 7 years. It has been my experience that healthy people don’t ‘get’ it. Thanks for writing this blog.
Thank you for this insightful article! I’d also add that often we can’t hold up our end of the relationship as well as we used to, and that contributes to the isolation. I’ve had fibromyalgia and depression for 15 years and had a 6-year battle with leukemia during that time as well. I’m just not as fun as I used to be, and the physical, emotional and financial toll these years have taken often sideline me. Add to that the misunderstandings about fibro and depression, along with the discomfort of being with someone who has changed so much, and it starts to feel pretty lonely. Thanks for writing about this important topic that so often is brushed aside in the drive to be “positive.”
You bring up an excellent point–something I’ve been coming to terms with recently. In my friendships, I was the one who initiated things. Now that I’m tired it’s harder for me to organize things. The more honest I’ve been about my limitations, some family and friends have taken greater initiative to organize events whether it’s one-on-one lunch, a visit, or something like Christmas or my birthday. I’m sorry you have to juggle Fibro and Depression. I agree with you that society has unintentionally confused positivity with hiding our true feelings. (Admitting you’re in pain doesn’t create your pain. Your illness did that for you. You’re just telling the truth. I blogged about this in greater detail here: https://jessicagimeno.com/?p=868)
Thank you for your insight.
“I agree with you that society has unintentionally confused positivity with hiding our true feelings. (Admitting you’re in pain doesn’t create your pain. Your illness did that for you. You’re just telling the truth. I blogged about this in greater detail here: https://jessicagimeno.com/?p=868)
Thank you for your insight.”
In addition to my own depression, debilitating ADD, (yes, debilitating!), several sleep issues, etc… I am familiar with the phenomenon of people only wanting to be around ‘happy’ people, fun people, or at least people who don’t ‘complain’ about their health problems. They get tired of hearing the same old answers to the same old questions.
I’ve been reading about endometriosis in order to get some clarity since we are starting to believe my Partner has been suffering greatly from it. Aside from that torment, she has had other chronic pain issues, things that limit her energy, or her mobility. I started to tell people that if you aren’t actually bleeding profusely, or if you don’t have a major body part that is obviously ready to fall off… people not only have little empathy, but they can also be self-righteous about it. I really like what you said about disclosing pain or suffering can be looked at as ‘negativity’, or as actually ‘drawing’ your pain to you.
These gentle folks are supposedly well-meaning, but I think it keys in to a huge well of fear. We can all find ourselves afraid of what would happen were ‘WE’ the ones to get ill, run over, shot… whatever… So to believe that terrible pain can exist in a state unaffected by our lofty attitudes can be scary or even depressing. It is basically a selfish reaction to fear of losing our own health, and an unwillingness to accept that we cannot always make ‘bad’ things go away… I can have some empathy for that fear, however, with so many folks suffering from invisible things, or unrecognized or undiagnosed illnesses, I have much more empathy for folks like us. It is a lonely place, full of judgement, loneliness, and even shunning. We used to think Cancer was contageous! We know so little, really, about ourselves and the mind-body connection, and also the limits to the mind-body connection. Thanks for this forum… It does help.
This happens alot with illnesses. I was diagnosed with a rather severe case of Tourette Syndrome in my early/mid teens. I was trapped a home for a long while, unable to walk much due to the severity of my health. A lot of people both in church and out walked out of my life, due to the “distractions” I caused, or because of they couldn’t face what was going on. Even now, getting jobs is hard, due to the media making light of it, and misinforming people about the disorder. From what I’ve seen it’s a mixture (in my case) of people being uneducated (for instance, according to society, I have the cussing disease), or because people want to fix the problem and can’t. While it’s a struggle to move on, I am trying because as a Christian, I should forgive and move on. Thanks for the post. It’s nice to know others are out there struggling the same as I, and overcoming the hurt of the past.
I’m sorry to hear about the discrimination people with Tourette’s face. You bring up a good point about the role of media and pop culture in cultivating misunderstanding and fostering discrimination. I hope that over time people will develop a greater compassion for those living with Tourette’s. I am glad you have your faith. Thank you for sharing your story.
I have MS and have gone thorough some of the same things. Thanks for writimg this!
As a Christian I am also trying to forgive unsupportive and fearful people. But it’s my pastors who are leading the effort to reject me from my church of 30 years since I became disabled by Ehlers-Danlos. This from the most inclusive and liberal church in town, in a very liberal town, in the most diverse state (maybe other than California). It’s wrong, and the guy gets away with it because people love him and he can do no wrong, but his obnoxious behavior towards me shows he’s an insecure, self-hating bully who is terrified of being found out. He’s still faking, not making, at being a confident, sincere and empathetic human who deserves the respect afforded to one in his position. He’s the type who can’t work well with others and has to be his own boss.
Your words are so true. As a mom, it is heartbreaking watching this happen to your child. I know the friends that don’t hang around aren’t true friends but it is so hard to explain to your child. It is also hard to make new friends when you are not feeling well. Thank you for sharing! It truly hit home!
It is not a matter of forgiveness to me, but I do not blame my friends. I think we’ve all moved on in our lives and left others behind. Distance, change of employment or other life events can cause these losses.
I know what I’ve become and so do friends. Expecting them to always come to me can make things difficult. Pencil in a visit, if it goes south, cancel. Try again.
The few friends I have make next to no contact, save for one. He as you mentioned is fading after years of trying to see me.
I find it difficult, my life and personality have changed and so has my age.
It’s difficult to think of anyone but ourselves, so we may lose touch just from that alone. I’m nearly all I talk about, so I try to be quiet around others, and that is a big change for me.
I hope everyone gets healthy, or feels better soon. Call that old friend, settle it. It’s baggage. Something sick people shouldn’t carry.
I have an invisible illness as well. I have Cystic Fibrosis. It’s hard to ignore the stares when I park in a handicap spot and step out of my vehicle because I don’t look sick. Despite undergoing 2 separate double lung transplants my body/lungs aren’t on the same page medically and so many people are under-educated about all the invisible diseases. I also have diabetes which is another invisible disease. Blogs like this one can go far in educated the public about invisible diseases.
When I had a motorcycle accident in ’05, my life was completely turned upside down within two years. Unable to keep a job due to my physical limitations and chronic pain led to foreclosure on my house, repo of my vehicle and suicidal depression. I left southwest Colorado and moved to Denver. Many people who lived where I moved from would come to Denver over the course of the last 5 years for one reason or another, but not a SINGLE one of them ever contacted me to meet up. I finally stopped mentioning that if they were in Denver, I’d love to get together, because it hurt too much when I found out they were here and never let me know. I realized then where I stood. I did a whole lot of Facebook purging at that moment, but I still have a couple of people that I should probably “unFriend” but it’s been hard for me to burn those bridges. I still have medical issues related to the accident that limit my activity, so I have no friends here, either. I’ve come to rely on Facebook to have at least some semblance of non-work human contact.
I remember when I was the, very young and naive, friend who wasn’t there. I went to hospital and visited my friend but didn’t know what to say and so tried to buy a book that conveyed my understanding and well wishes – which naturally went unread. I didn’t want to be intrusive and my friend didn’t have the energy to reach out to me. I often thought about her and hoped she was doing well but it was years before we met again.
Hospitals should hand out a little guide on how to be a friend to someone who is ill because a lot of us are such blundering idiots when it comes to this.
Thank you for this! I have Intracranial Hypertension. What I hate is when I volunteer to help at church for something and I get the “oh, that’s ok. We have it covered.” and then I hear later them complaining that they can’t get anyone to help. I keep telling people to please ask me to help with things. I had ONE person say that they didn’t ask because they didn’t want to make me feel bad if I couldn’t do it. I told them if I can’t do it, I will tell you no, but please let me be the one to decide.
It gets very frustrating, but I just try to focus on my awesome husband and 2 boys who love me no matter what! Maybe one day I will have someone that I can call when I have great news or someone to share and hang out with. But for now…
Even worse than myself, is my 18 yo son that has Ehlers-Danlos, Fibro, and CRPS. Lifelong friends abandoned him when he became ill 3 years ago. What was really bad was when parents refused to let him be invited to their kids parties and all the other kids in the youth group were invited. Sometimes as a parent, I just want to say something to them, but he always said no. Now he is at college, 1000 miles away, and doing great, interning at an awesome job , traveling, making TONS of friends and having a BLAST!!! Guess what??? Now all his friends back home are jealous and mad because he didn’t go to the college that is close to home and my son said he could honestly care less because he is so happy at college. The kids here at home are the ones who lost out when they could have an awesome friend!
I find, for me, I try to talk about anything other than my illness, but that is all others seem to be able to focus on when talking to me. When they ask me how I am feeling, I tell them I am ok (hey! I am out of the house, so that is good.). Then some started to be able to tell when I was really just putting a smile on my face, but feeling awful. They told me that I was lying to them and I needed to be honest. So, I started being honest…now they won’t speak to me because I started saying things like “well today is tough, or I’m not feeling great today.” I never went into detail too much because I didn’t want to overwhelm them, but I would be honest and they got upset about that. I just can’t win. So, now I am back to I am “okay” all the time. *sigh* Sometimes I would really like to move and get a fresh start where no one knows me.
It is just so hard because it seems like I am only allotted a tablespoon of compassion in this life and I have used that up already so I am just out of luck. It is also hard, because as soon as something goes wrong in their life, I am the first one they email to complain to and ask to pray for them, so it is really hard to not hold a grudge when I very well could.
Dear Angela, I’m sorry to hear about a lot of the ignorance and insensitivity you face. I am happy, however, to hear about all your son has accomplished despite illness. In fact, I’ve been looking to learn a lot more about Ehlers-Danlos. On Fashionably ill’s Facebook page, I had a poll asking readers if they would like me to interview them (print interviews) and we would post their stories on this blog. The overwhelming thing I keep hearing from people with a wide variety of illnesses is that they wish their family and friends and society knew what it felt like. If you’re interested in sharing your story with me (we can change your name if you’d like), just let me know-either here or on Facebook. I think you bring up some great points that could help a lot of people–sometimes you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t where honesty is concerned. And the aspect of parents passing down fear and perpetuating discrimination through their behavior is something people need to know about. Thanks for sharing your insights!
I have a pluthera of illnesses;
Dystonia, a movement disorder. Degenerative Disk Disease depression, spinal stenosis, etc.
Everything hearts everyday! I want to run away, I have 1 friend and a husband who is a blessing. I feel like a burdain to all. I feel like a failure to my son who is 8.5yrs old and has 4 distinked disabilities and I rarely can keep up with or help him. This just causes more depression. Help
I know how the loss of a friendship (for any reason) can hurt or be confusing but I am curious…couldn’t you forgive if you weren’t ‘christian’? What if you were jewish or islamic. How about just forgiving because you are a loving human being.
I understand what you’re saying. Some of my best friends are Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Agnostic, and Atheist. I wasn’t saying that only Christians forgive. I provided that detail about myself because in the previous sentence, I said forgiveness is a choice and either choice is understandable. I try to avoid writing things like “you should forgive” in my blog because I haven’t walked in every reader’s shoes. I gave my reasons for forgiveness—one of which includes my faith. Indeed, there are powerful examples of people without faith or different belief systems who have exercised forgiveness. But people are born with different temperaments—I’m thinking of the “nature versus nurture” dilemma. With four illnesses the biggest motivator for me to forgive is following Christ’s example—in my case, nurture (faith) overpowers my nature.
This is something I have wanted to write about for a long time, but have never been able to find the words, and now I know why…you said it PERFECTLY! Thank you so much for sharing this. I first saw it on a Myositis group page, and I have since shared it on two different caregiving sites. Thank you so so much!!!! You have helped a lot of people today <3
Wow! Was really tired today. Your feedback really helps me keep moving forward. I would love to learn more about Myositis. Thank you so much for sharing with others. Bless your heart.
I like the way you write and I’ll be following. Hang on in there!
Thanks for the encouragement. Glad to have you with me on this journey.
I understand this completely… After being diagnosed over the course of my life with PTSD, Acute Intermittent Porphyria, RA, and Henoch-Schonlein Purpura (this last wasn’t discovered until the symptoms flared thanks to a bout of Legionnaire’s, just this past year), I learned quickly who my real friends were, and how many people only hung around because I’ve always been the kind of person to bend over backwards to help and give to (time, money, energy) others. Now that I no longer have the strength or energy to expend taking care of them (I need what I have just to make it through each day), I get to see how many people no longer have time for me. But, on the up side, it gives me an even deeper appreciation for those who HAVE stuck by me, and who stepped up to offer me support during the lowest point, last summer, when the Legionnaire’s was in full swing and the HSP was eating away (literally) at my feet and legs. And it’s all made me twice as careful about who I let into my life (which has always been difficult for me, anyway).
Esther, I’m so glad this article struck a chord with you. Sounds like you’ve overcome so much. I also find that what I lose makes me more thankful for what I have. I’m starting to do interviews next month with warriors fighting a wide variety of illnesses. Some of my readers are excited to share their stories on this blog. I think we could learn a lot from yours. Are you interested? For more details, see this: https://jessicagimeno.com/?p=1842
Great article! I have Polymyositis, a rare muscle disease, and have had this same experience. I love how you so not to force it and to let it grow organically. I have recently reconnected with one of those friends I had thought were gone for good. I am so glad I was able to forgive and now she is a huge part of my life again.
Dear Jerry, I’d like to learn more about Polymyositis. Thank you for sharing part of your story. It’s always great to find a profound connection with an old friend. I saw you have a blog. Would you like me to put in my “Blogs I Read” tab? https://jessicagimeno.com/?page_id=997
That was beautifully written and very insightful. I wrote a similar article a couple months back, but it was as in depth as yours. It’s very eye-opening to have a misunderstood or feared illness. People do not behave the way you think they might. It’s good that we have God to rely on at times like that.
I have been guilty of being the one to stop with contact for a period of time. I’ve never stopped to think why I did, whether it was because it was during a very difficult time for me and my family as my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer around the same time, or whether it was just fear of the unknown. I may never know.
I have recently got back in touch with this person, and wondered to myself why it took me so long to do it. Mum has been gone 10 yrs now.
Sometimes when we make the mistake of not maintaining contact, it becomes hard to be the one to initiate the contact again, but it is so worth it.
Even if we get it wrong, we still can do something about it and turn it around to make it right. Don’t let fear, embarrassment or anything else stand in the way of putting yourself out there. It just might make a huge difference to someone else who is struggling.
Well I going on 2 years being a paraplegic . U know I’m glad for the internet so I can find these thing that I thought they would talk to me about before I left rehab. I was not the best of husband but after 15 years and being paralyzed lost my best friend and lots of friend cause of it. But have gained many new ones and reunited with old friends I’m just glad my family was and has always been there for me feels good not to feel alone another day . I am very thankful for these arcticals
Hi and thanks for a really interesting article, I have been lucky so far on that non of my friends has walked away from me, I have Fibromyalgia and have had it now for about 12ish years, I am aware however that I do moderate my self when talking about it because I am worried people will get fed up of me going on about it all the time and I also have days when I tell people I am fine when I am not, but being able to offload online really helps me get things of my chest so I tend to do that instead
Thank you for this blog! My friend who also deal with chronic illness emailed it to me.
I suffer greatly with what was diagnosed at fibromyalgia, my OBGYN found endometriosis in 2005 and the list of issues is a mile long. My rheum even tested for behcet’s. Every test comes back normal so, more and more, I get treated like I’m making it up or it’s all in my head. Yet, the pain, fatigue, muscle spasms, and weakness are so bad that I’ve been put down hard by a cold and totally non-functional since last week Monday.
This blog post hit the nail on the head for me. I was usually the initiator and now that I’m so tired and my insomnia constantly screws up my sleep habits, people are dropping like flies out of my life. Some of them ask my husband about me every time they talk but they never call, text, email or IM me! It really hurts. Oh, and the depression. That hangs things up on my end too. Sigh.
This gave me a little boost. A little hope. My mother insists that god can heal and I don’t doubt that but she is constantly chiding me for talking about how I feel as though I’m, “drawing it to me,” or some how impeding god from fixing it by not stuffing everything down inside myself and pretending to be ok.
In short. Thank you. I needed this blog today. And all the comments. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in this. Finding positivity around chronic illness blogs/forums is so rare!
And please excuse the jumbled thoughts. Another part of what I deal with is major cognitive….bleh. I read slower, thoughts are scrambled up, I forget things 5 seconds after I think them if I don’t get them out rightnow! And I’m too exhausted to spend an hour editing this for cohesiveness and clarity.
Rambling. Thanks again!
I have depression and some other issues and I recently wanted to make friends with a yoga teacher who is psycologist by education. But even she (strange ignorance) would tell me: do not be depressed, as if it depends on my decision and will. Or something like: do not persuade yourself (of all negative things)…. and I feel that she is unwilling to communicate, just gives me one-word answers online and never asks about me…. irony is that she is the first person I dared to start communicating with after a long period of absolute loneliness after betrayal of so-called friends who just started lying to me or ignoring me because of me feeling crazy bad etc…… so I have no friends left… I am trying to communicate on Facebook and I found a couple of people to talk to, but they live abroad, so I have no one to share time with in my real life except my parents…..
thanks for this meaningful article…
now i understand why they what so called friend, left me when i told them doctor says i have herpes :-s and have to do some other medical check up include hepatitis and HIV test! It was a week ago and I got my check there is no serious death illness i guess since my test said I dont have HIV….
they only text me : OMG and they left. up until today they are disappear..
I’m a christian too, but its hard for me to forgive them since this is my bad and hard time but they just dont care about me.. but anyway. this article somehow encourage me to be more positive:)
God Bless You
Hello Leiya, I’m relieved to hear that you do not have HIV. That must have been a terrifying time–waiting for the results. I’m sad to hear about your herpes. And I’m sorry your friend left. But I’m glad that my article gave you some comfort. I hope you’ll join us on Fashionably ill’s Facebook page–you may find even greater comfort there by meeting me and other people who are in similar positions. I was thinking of you and this verse came to mind–Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.” By the way, I did this talk for WEGO Health about discussing taboo subjects–we had someone from the STD Project speak as well; you may find it informative; link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?utm_content=5197545&utm_medium=social&v=e2ae7AZn9gY&utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=G%2B%20Roundtable
God bless you too, Jessica
After I first got diagnosed, my fiance broke things off. He point blank told me he couldn’t handle the “chronic” part of it. That it would never ever end. I still go back and forth between finding him a d-bag and being thankful he was wise enough to understand his own shortcomings and not drag me along until we were married and then want to leave. I have had friends who knew me only when I have had fibromyalgia and DDD but after four years just stopped being able to deal with it. I have had increasingly more flare-ups every year, but it still hurt to know she was ok with it one minute, and not the next. As if it is not already hard on us not being able to do everything we want to do, then people make us feel guilty about it, too. I know there are some who just are not able to deal with it and that this is their OWN shortcoming, but nothing is quite as isolating as a chronic illness.
Thank you for sharing with us it must have been so hard to push the post button. You around a brave woman and a positive example for me.
I have been in both sides. I also have to admit , I’m not always good kind or thankful to those who stay with me. Its so scary for all , and its terrifying for me as well.
On the days that I feel stronger , I realize I change. It must be so hard being around me when you are trying to live busily.
What a wonderful idea one of your readers had to make a small informative brochure of how to be a supportive friend. I think I would also need one on how to be an understanding patient and what little thingdls I can do for others still -even if its just letting them know its possible to cope. I’ve discovered why they call us “patients”.
Thank you and God bless
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I am apparently not alone in this dilemma of having friends become absent when they learn you are ill. I admit though, it is quite painful and difficult for me to fully understand, given I am the one who is always there for others (especially in their time of need). Yet those very friends who were so grateful for my prayers, words of encouragement, support, generosity, and love have suddenly become strangers.
I recently contracted a very serious (potentially life-threatening) health condition in conjunction with a reaction to an antibiotic. When I first learned of the diagnosis, I admit, I was scared…it doesn’t help when your colleagues (I work in the medical field) put you into an isolation room, wear protective gear, and tell you one in ten die from what you have now contracted and your prognosis is uncertain.
I unfortunately learned of the diagnosis before I was actually admitted to the hospital and the doctors had a chance to discuss it with me. Still, it gave me a bit of time to prepare. Though I am rather private, in this instance I felt I had better reach out to a few of my closest friends and briefly explain what was going on. Also, ask if they would please include me in their prayers for healing (they are all Christian like myself).
To my surprise, all but one of my friends (of decades) just backed off and have virtually disappeared. I did get a couple of initial emails (no calls) with one friend saying, “email me and let me know how you are doing.” And another friend didn’t even respond until my husband briefly emailed her again about the severity of my condition. Her reply was, “ I have a cold and been too busy to get back with you guys.”
Are you kidding? Is it just me? I am very sick and you want me to contact you? I have been hospitalized and taking one day at a time, and this is the level of compassion and consideration I receive in return?
I don’t mean to sound bitter; I am simply very hurt and disappointed. And frankly, surprised. Regardless, I am focusing on my recovery at the moment and putting my hurt feelings aside as best I can. But I admit, I am beside myself in regards as to how to proceed forward with these individuals. Part of me wants to be forgiving; the other part says, “Time to re-evaluate who your real friends are…you just received a very telling and valuable lesson here. Life is too short to be around unkind people are those who are not as invested in you as you are in them.” Yes, I will uphold these people in my prayers. But at the same time, I do feel it is wise to move forward and make some new friends. Best wishes to all of you who have written. God Bless.
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I first got sick with with MS when I was 29. I’m now 46. Not only did friends pull away but my family. It seemed almost as if they were close to me, they thought they could get ‘stuck’ taking care of me. I was at a local store once paying for an item and after handing over the paper money, I managed to drop the change all over. I apologized and absentmindedly explained I have MS and drop EVERYTHING trying to joke because the cashier seemed perturbed. So this guy starts screaming get f** out of my store! I hate people with MS etc. People on line looked down and away. I was in tears but insisted on returning my just purchased items first. I was not going to reward this behavior with an over $100 sale and my dignity. So what’s the answer for that type of hatred from a stranger?
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I discovered I had brain cancer just over a year ago. some months later my partner of 13 years left me stating I had changed and also she had been unhappy and bored for some time. I knew she was before I became ill but chose to ignore it as she had 2 boys who I felt needed me and also I loved her very much and cherished my family. Most of my family who I was close to have no contact with me now along with friends we met together although they are all still friends with my x. Its been the hardest thing I have ever experienced but have learnt about why this has happened and indeed many cannot handle the illness and short life span predicted along with all the symptoms that have changed and affected everything although I still believe I am a good person and my personality was not changed to a degree which pushed people away. In a way although sad in some respect I do feel glad in some ways that I was isolated to such an extent that I had time to process and forgive the people I felt abandoned me and look at life as something not to waste as I was going to die anyway but having a limited time has made me change what I will do now and perhaps selfish and perhaps something we should al do which is to live with and do things that make you happy and nothing else if you are able.
All my friends and family abandoned me when I got ptsd and fibromyalgia. They get it rated if I ask them to come to me so I go to them. If I have to push dinner and hour later for medical reasons they yell at me. But I’m at peace with it I also live in LA were people are individually mindset and care about money and themselves unfortunately with rare exceptions.
I’ve been on both sides of this issue. I used to work in crisis intervention and was a natural caregiver. Then I got sick myself and could no longer work. Quite a few people disappeared from my life then, and my family members distanced themselves. But as I got sicker, I began to do the same thing. I distanced myself from longtime friends who were newly diagnosed with one disease or another, or bereaved, or otherwise in crisis. I couldn’t handle hospitals or funerals, either. Now that I am somewhat recovered, I provide limited support to people where I can. The result of this experience is that I’ve learned not to take people who “disappear” too much to heart.
Normally, when ill people feel they’ve been abandoned, they imagine that the abandoners were perfectly healthy and capable of caring for them: they just refused to do so. My experience showed me that people often disappear because they are sick or overwhelmed or troubled in some way. Realizing this has made it much easier for me to forgive. It’s also made it easier for me to reconnect with “lost” connections, with no lingering hard feelings. I’m just grateful that we can start over.
so true! wonderful insights, Charlotte – thank you for sharing. Often, people have trials that for a variety of reasons they cannot share with us. Peace to you
Have you looked into metaphysical reasons for illness x? Not saying you haven’t, and am sure you’ve prayed plenty, but wondering if various forms of eastern medicine may help more than taking meds, or at least be a good supplement to your current western medical regimen. Good luck with your life path and thank you for sharing your experience. Happy winter solstice and godspeed!
Hello, as a retired nurse, most of my friends when I had to deal with a uterine sarcoma of 2 1/2 lbs (careless GP when I originally went to the office with concerns, he discarded any thought of other than, “Here are some birth control pills, that will fix you.” They didn’t and made the tumour grow more quickly till I went back after 3 months as he’d suggested) and the subsequent 3 surgeries. If I think back to the friends I had then, they nearly all disappeared as I wasn’t able to be sociable recovering from the operations. Then in my 40’s developed endometriosis and had another 3 major abdominal operations and 2 laparoscopies over 7 1/2 years. During those years also had episodes of hemorrhages with severe pain – difficult to socialize again and most of my friends again slid away. Again, I worked through all those years as needed to support myself being single. My parents lived 400 km away during both those times in my life and were working too, so were not nearby. As am someone who came from England with my folks at age 6, all my other family were in the UK. I just learned to cope and had a great psychologist who was ‘there’ for me whenever I was ill. That made all the difference as I did learn great coping skills. I have realized over the years that as you said, it’s not always obvious why people are friendly and often it is more about what they want, not often what they can give. I know I’m a very giving person and even when going through my 7 years post cancer when it was expected it would metastasize, don’t recall anyone ever even asking me how I was coping or dealing with the annual check ups which terrified me each year along with the chest x-ray. I don’t often think of myself as really a strong person, but just writing all this out makes me realize I was then and am now. I do feel blessed to have survived both these times in my life and now whatever happens, it is not as serious as the cancer and the endometriosis, which the latter after my last surgery was finally finished affecting me. One thing which is true of many folks I know is that they have friends from high school years or from their 20’s to today. With illnesses affecting friendships, it means those ties of longevity are cut and the decades are fragmented with different groups of friends. Also, chronic illnesses and having cancer at such a young age which meant I had to have a hysterectomy, thus no chance of having children, mostly ended any dating relationships when I would explain the fact any chance of children would have to be adoption. In my 20’s there was no freezing eggs or IVF of donor eggs or surrogacy. So, sadly I remained single to this day. So, Jessica, I want to say, I hope you are finding this blog very healing for you and also that you find support with replies to you. It’s astonishing what people deal with and as you mentioned, most of it can be hidden and equates with not receiving much compassion. Same for me with my surgeries as the scars don’t show. Even when I was immediately post op trying to cope in public but barely able to walk, I found others not very patient with me as I ‘looked’ okay. Guess maybe there need to be a brand of t-shirts with the statements on the front AND back like: Very fragile, post operative, feeling weak due to surgery, etc. Sometimes even something like: WW III may elicit at least some questions. I once had surgery on a hand with a resulting cast and made a sling with cat paw marks and the words, “Sore Paw.” I got more empathy from even strangers with that than ever with my abdominal surgeries. My thing has always been to have some goals ahead in life – no matter what they are and then make your days as good as you can to meet that goal. My little bit of wisdom for you. May you continue to go forward with the love of God and your faith. It’s been a part of my days also. x
Excellent blog post. I absolutely appreciate this site. Keep it up!
You’re welcome, Winnie!
I have a terminal illness, well actually 4 lung diseases, three of which are progressive and terminal. Diagnosed last year, nobody acted any differently because other than my increasingly laboured breathing nothing was apparent, this year hospitalized and came out on oxygen, well now there was something people could see and ones I thought were good friends slowly kept more and more distance, their excuse they didn’t want to tire me? am I just supposed to sit at home and let this horrible thing just take over, not my style. Was very hurt today, I usually dog sit for a couple that I thought were my friends, we both rescue dogs, I was even at their house last night finalising the care of their sick dog as they had to be away the whole day, I couldn’t stay at their house all the time as I had two other appointments but said I would be there to let the two dogs out 2 hours after they had left, got there as promised only to find that they had made arrangement with some one else to stay there all day, arrangements were made apparently days ago with her, why did they not tell me, could understand they felt the sick dog needed some one there all day (even if the sitter was a cat person and I am an ex veterinary nurse) all they had to do was say. Am now waiting to see what the excuse was for not telling me, we live in the same tiny hamlet !!! Used to go to another friends house for supper or she would come to mine, all stopped, excuse doesn’t want to tire me, I surely know what I can and can’t do, don’t need some one deciding for me. I know I haven’t got long but every one seems to want me in a coffin before I am ready to go, really does make me feel unwanted, a burden and ready to give up..
Slowly by surely friends, love ones and girlfriend left me until there was none. I was left alone to deal with my illness. Like others there just wasn’t enough outside symptoms to label me “sick” in their minds. Where was bed ridden, a cane, throwing up? I was slowly dying of cirrhosis and I hadn’t drank for 30 years. I was convinced a zipped up body bag was my only prove they would understand. There were times I was so angry with God I’d shake my fist and say what’s the hold up just take me. I’d think maybe I was over blowing my woes and they were right until my foot was swollen and my nose and mouth were bleeding. Eventually I had to come to peace knowing it wasn’t me most people just don’t want to be bothered till the wake. You find it’s you and your God I had to resolve my relationship with the almighty
I have chronically I’ll, special need twins. One child diagnosed with MDS two years ago. Went through chemo and a bone marrow transplant. My husband and I were on our own with that. Now second twin has been diagnosed with MDS too and is going in for chemo and a bone marrow transplant. No one calls to check in. I’m talking family and friends! No one calls to see if they can do anything. No one calls to see how our child is or how we are. Being my second go round with all this I believe people are just selfish. I have plenty going on in my world and am able to touch base with people to see how they are and if they need anything. I know others may be worse off but most of them aren’t. The ones we know, Family buying shore houses. Traveling. Friends of the kids can’t be bothered to check in on them. A teacher of theirs. I may be thinking negative but I have been living it. All I know is the good Lord made me more conscious of people and of their issues and if there was a hurting family out there I would be in touch and in touch with them often. I would do what I can for them. It truly breaks my heart.
I am so sorry that people have not been there for you and your family. You deserve better. It is hard not to lose faith in humanity when those we love abandon us when we need them most. I admire how you have used your experience to be more compassionate! You don’t know how many people you are touching but you are. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. God bless you. Regards, Jessica
I am sorry to hear about your illness and about the friends who disappeared — fear of illness is real . Everything you say here makes sense, but I have one other suggested reason for you, specifically on why your church friends may not transition — it may be the way this culture does friendships. I have lived in this country since I was 16, and I have noticed that most friendships here are situational — eg., if you are single, you have single friends; if you have children, you have other friends with children; work friends … etc. Most friendships don’t survive transition to new situations. I don’t know that it’s because the people being shallow. I just think that it’s how people may navigate an enormous society where people are always on the move. I treasure the friends who survive transitions, but I find that they are few. But it doesn’t mean the others weren’t real, it just means that your situations are no longer the same.
Thank you for posting this.. I started experiencing the symptoms of my autoimmune conditions at 22 & it’s taken 3 years of gaslighting/trying to find a doctor that took me seriously to get help. I’ve gone from being an overly active, independent, social butterfly who is too busy juggling work, coursework, volunteering, and friends to be bored to a depressed, overly anxious, lonely person who can barely take care of themselves from all the pain/collection of symptoms. I knew I’d lose some friends, but I was never prepared for how few of my close people stuck around. I’m really lucky my best friend from daycare can check in on me over text, but her mom has a neurodegenerative disease so she can’t really be there for me. I don’t have a good family background so I don’t have any support from either of my parents, even in the sense of a shoulder to cry on over the phone. This has been the most isolating experience of my life. I feel like I not only lost all the work I put into my education and a huge chunk of my 20s in addition to being retraumatized, but I’ve lost the support system I took so long to build up. I’m just alone most days crying through the pain: it feels maddening. I feel less alone knowing I’m not the only one experiencing social loss because of their illness. It feels like everything’s been lost, for me.