Maintaining friendships are so essential for your health. A lack of close relationships could lead to social isolation and loneliness which is detrimental to your health and wellbeing, reducing your ability to maintain your physical and mental health even reducing your health service access. However, preserving your social life and friendships can be very difficult for those living with chronic illnesses.
Tips on friendship
Put energy into relationships that are worthy of your energy
We all have friends that are more like acquaintances. You hang out but never really get any closer, and it seems superficial. Sometimes it’s worth holding on to those relationships because they give you something else besides closeness, but other times it’s better not to invest any more time and energy into the relationship.
Form friendships that are online
While face to face social interactions are really rewarding, they are not always possible. Keep contact with friends by keeping up with texts and find new friends by joining in on conversations online on the socials or sign up for online peer group. But make sure these are good for your health. For example if posting etc is negative in a group and therefore not helping their state of mind/outlook, you need to disengage. Also misinformation can occur on these groups creating undue stress so be aware of this.
Find friendships that are understanding
Friends who have an understanding and are empathetic of your chronic illness are very important. These might be friends who also have chronic illnesses such as fellow spoonies
Tips on being a good friend and maintaining relationships
Keep in touch
It’s so important for friendship to keep in touch but sometimes it is difficult to reach out when you are exhausted from your condition. You may feel hurt that they haven’t reached out to you. But if they are important, try not to feel bitter, and you make the first move – it might be hard but it’s worth it.
Take an interest in your friend’s lives – even if it hurts
Chronic illness comes with a lot of FOMO. While friends are progressing with their life – getting married, having kids, buying houses – it can seem like chronic illness has put your life on hold. It is important to take an interest in their lives if you want to keep their friendship – it doesn’t negate the hurt you feel but you can have both happiness for them and sadness for the things you can’t do at the same time.
Find new way to have fun together
Within your own limitations try to find things that you and your friends can do together. Be creative – it might be something like hosting a movie night, starting a book club, or just having afternoon tea or a glass of wine together. Trying new things together will keep the friendship spark alive!
Adapted from The Health Sessions.
Tips on attending social events
Make sure it’s known that you are committed to attending, unless your chronic illness flares up. This makes it clear that you might bail if you need to, but you want to show up. Educating your friends on the spoony experience will make it easier to excuse yourself if you need to leave or can’t show up.
Know your limits
Say no to things you know you can’t do. It’s hard to say no, especially to things you could do before you were sick. But it is better for you and your mates if you don’t agree to things that are beyond your limits.
Rest while you are out
This might be a strange concept but resting in a bathroom stall or on a bench somewhere might be a strategy when things get to much. Pack things that you might need to enhance this resting experience, for example noise cancelling earphones or earplugs, or essential oils might help you to check out for 10min or so.
Be kind to your self
It may be easy to scold yourself into attending an event that you will wipe you out for days. But try your best to be kind to yourself, you deserve it and it’s not your fault that your chronic illness is limiting.