Friendships are complicated; no matter one’s economic background, social status, or degree of healthiness. I’m developing a different perspective on friendships as I’m learning to live life with CVID. I’ve had to shy away from most social gatherings. My church attendance has gone from practically never missing a Sunday, to virtually not attending. For the time being I’ve had to withdraw from my leadership role and attendance in Community Bible Study. All things I dearly loved and all sacrificed in an effort to avoid contracting common ordinary viruses. Gone are the days of simply picking up my phone to call or text a friend extending an invite to lunch. Before the invitation can be offered fully, I must drill them about their health. Are they well, has sickness recently invaded their home, or have they recently been with someone who is sick; which might have placed them at risk of contracting a virus? Do they feel in tip-top shape or slightly out of sorts. Feeling out of sorts could indicate their bodies defending a potential viral attack? How would you like to be my friend? No one likes the 3rd degree; even when it’s for a good reason.
I think one of the hardest things about friendships is when they drift away. There’s no rift, no angst over a disagreement; they simply slow and ultimately cease. You’re left wondering why. Most often it’s simply life changed and took you in different directions. Yet, it leaves a hole in one’s heart. If it happens often enough, sometimes, you begin to ask the question, “What’s wrong with me?”
I wrote in a previous blog that friendships change with the seasons of life. They change too with life-altering-events such as a long-term diagnosis (Cancer, PID, CVID, an Autoimmune Disorder, Alzheimer’s to name a few). An accident which leaves one paralyzed, blind or physically handicapped changes one’s life forever. The death of a child, a spouse or a loved one leaves a life-long void. When your child is diagnosed with Autism or Down’s syndrome, or when a spouse/beloved partner is diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease or Muscular Dystrophy, life changed quicker than you could say, “Jack Robin”. At a time when friendships should grow stronger many don’t survive. Friendships aren’t the only relationships to change; family relationships change too.
The bottom line friendships and familial relationships take time, commitment and intentionality.
In recent months I’ve read comments from many who have lost friendships since receiving their diagnosis of CVID or PID. They feel alone and misunderstood; often hopeless. The one’s who deal the best are those who have a strong support system of family and friends. I don’t know the solution or the answers to keeping friendships through trying long-term situations. Like some of those with whom I’ve had brief contact, I too have had friendships fade and drift away.
What I am learning:
- It’s important to avoid becoming self–focused. Not easy when everything in your life revolves around your disease or situation.
- Remember friendships, like life, are continually evolving and changing. Lack of energy often makes it challenging for us to reach out to family and friends. When our energy stores are higher, it’s important we show how much we treasure those friendships by reaching out.
- Don’t let lack of energy become an excuse…. a way of escaping from the world. It’s important, at least for me, to always try to push through the energy barrier. Some days we’ll be successful and other days we simply cannot push through. Those are the days for resting and restoring our energy without guilt.
Number one tip – “Don’t assume”.
- Don’t assume others know what you need; share with them your needs.
- Don’t assume you’re not worthy of someone investing in you when friendships wane.
- Don’t assume while adjusting to a rare or debilitating diagnosis your life will always look like it does today. Research is being done every day. And who knows, tomorrow may be the day a treatment or cure is discovered.
- Don’t assume you are alone. You are not alone. Reach out to family, friends or a counselor and share with them you feel alone. If no one else cares to listen to your situation… I would be happy to listen.
And finally don’t focus on the friendships you’ve lost. Every human being desires relationships and has the need to be wanted. As a result it’s easy to concentrate on the friendships which are changing or are no longer. Fix your heart on the friendships which encourage and are flourishing. Nurture those friendships to the best of your ability. Take delight in those friendships for they are treasures of joy.
“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” Proverbs 12:25