Sunday, October 31, 2010

Unchartered Territory

You're never too old to feel left out apparently- it's not just for awkward middle school moments! As a rule I don't usually feel like an outsider when amongst my friends, but lately I'm more aware of the rift. I'm not one to bring up medical issues unless asked, assuming that unless there is some invitation to share that people would rather not hear about it. That is just my style and I'm not about to change things at this stage in the game. Anyone who knows me well understands this, I figure.

I truly understand that it isn't always about me. Just because I have serious medical issues that nearly always trump whatever others have going on, doesn't mean that my problems are worse, per se. I'm empathetic (I hope!) and try never to say "oh yeah, you think that's bad? listen to this!" In all honesty, I'd much rather listen to friends' problems which I consider much more interesting my own. That being said, I am somewhat sensitive to the fact that there is frequently no inquiry into my health, what is going on for me even a "how are you feeling today?"

I've reached a point in my life where I'm not able to easily participate in many of the activities that others in my social circle find fun. It's more difficult to get around with the O2. I can't be as active and my energy is lower. I need to avoid smoke. I'm ready to go to sleep when, by most people's standards, the evening is just getting interesting.

So what's the answer? I don't want friends to have to alter plans in order to include me. Why should their social lives and fun be penalized because I can't keep up? So do I politely smile and say "no thanks" when invited, or would I rather that they didn't mention activities I can't be involved in at all? Not sure. It's easy for me to see that isolation and pulling away is the path of least resistance, being around others who can understand first hand what this feels like is much easier and more comfortable. I know many people who wrestle with this issue and have yet to come across a good answer to the question.

As with most things, a work in progress. Here ends my mental dump and sort.


CL said...

True friends realize your limitations and can make exceptions for you when you are included. When they ask you, they should know no smoking is automatic. Which is more important your health or someone who wants to party at the local bar?

environmental fiend said...

Ok, I have a few things to say here. First of all, I think you are wrong in assuming that your friends don't want to hear about your latest medical drama. Sounds like you are caught in a circle of having not brought it up for so long that they figure you don't want to talk about that you DO want to talk about it (at least sometimes), they might not feel comfortable asking.

We all know the question "how are you doing?" can be answered 100 ways by a chronically ill patient. I have people at work ask me all the time, and depending on the person I will give more or less information. But if they ask, and I think they are genuine, I put it out there, whatever it is. Then if they seem uncomfortable I gloss over it. But no need to gloss over everything before you've even given them a chance!

Another thing that I do is when people ask how I am feeling (definitely a reference to my health), I will often thank them for asking at some point in the conversation. This lets them know that I DO want them to ask, and I don't mind telling them; it is nice to feel the care of others even though at the end of the day it is just you and your lousy disease.

As for missing out on social activities - yeah, that sucks. I have had to waive Todd out of the house on many occasions because I don't want him missing out on life just because I have to when I'm sick. (Of course, he also will stay home with me just because or if I ask him.) My thought was that you could invite people over to your house, or be the one to initiate get-togethers at places outside of the house where you feel comfortable. That way you are in control of the situation and the time. You can plan it at a time you don't have treatments, you can stay low key (no oxygen) if you want, or saddle up if you feel more ambitious that day.

I guess I feel like 1) you might not be giving your friends enough credit - they probably (in fact, I'm almost positive) care deeply about what you are going through, and want to know so that they can be supportive; and 2) you should get more creative about socializing instead of just brushing it off. I know how creative you can be! But I think we need that human interaction outside of our family and spouse - it's part of what keeps life interesting.


Shannon said...

Catching up on blog reading here and this post spoke to me. For me it's such a catch 22 - I don't really want to talk about my health most of the time, but at the same time, I want people to be aware of my needs and limitations. Yet I don't speak up about them either as I hate to be the "party pooper." It feels sort of no win. But I agree with Laura on this one - I truly do believe our closest friends will do all they can to accomodate us and truly care to now about how we are doing. I think illness really does weed out the people we want to have in our lives by how the react (or don't) to our changing needs. Anyway,I hope things improve for you here - I was curiosuas I read this - I assume most of your friends don't read yout blog? I thought none of mine read mine and then learned that a few actually did! Maybe if you did allow them ot read it it might help get them on board with what is going on? I was a little upset when I learned a friend of mine had been reading my blog, but now I am kind of glad because I can go ahead and let things go unsaid as I know she is reading and keeping up with me that way. Love to you!