Another One Bites the Dust

Back in April, I wrote the article that follows. And, despite writing the article myself, it appears that I obviously haven’t been able to identify where I stood within the grief scale.

Guess what? I now know.

How did I reach this epiphany? Well, recently Mommy mentioned (as carefully as possible) that she felt like she was stepping on egg-shells whenever she was around me. Then tonight, a so-called friend and I were texting when he wrote:

Last two texts I’ve got from you have been sarcastic and unnecessary and you think that’s how “friends” talk to one another. You wanna know something about me, I don’t wanna talk to people who are like that.

I answered:

It started because you wouldn’t tell me why you were feeling sorry for yourself…but as I said I’m angry so you needn’t talk to me anymore.

So I sit here on a Friday night, surrounded by all my friends (that is: alone!), as another one bites the dust!

Living With the Loss of You

There are 5 stages that make up the framework that allows us to live with loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. They can also be applied our grief over the loss of our ‘old’ selves.

These tools are not stations on a train line. Not everyone goes through all of them or in a prescribed order. Have you been to any of these places? Stuck at one?

As you accept the reality of loss and start to ask yourself questions, you are unknowingly beginning the healing process. You are becoming stronger, and the denial is beginning to fade.

But as you proceed, all the feelings you were denying begin to surface…

People often think of the stages as lasting weeks or months. They forget that the stages are responses to feelings that can last for minutes or hours as we flip in and out of one and then another. We do not enter and leave each individual stage like getting on and off a train. We may feel one, then another and back again to the first one.

At times, people in grief will often report more stages. Just remember your grief is as unique as you are.

WHERE ARE YOU?

I have officially been sick for 9 months.

Recently, I have been thinking about the friends that I have lost over this short period of time (and in the scheme of things – especially my friendships – it is a short period of time). I have always held my friendships as almost sacred. A friend is some-one to share my innermost thoughts, secrets and demons. A friend is some-one to exchange a quick look over the  table and burst into laughter over an inside joke; or to sit in silence, knowing exactly what needs to be said or done – without doing or saying anything – and knowing everything will be ok.

I had a friend I never thought I would lose but I saw, over a social media site, that she had her hen’s night, and then wedding, without even telling me. I saw that other friends that I haven’t seen since becoming ill, had attended both occasions.  It made me sad. It made me lonely. It made me miss who I was. It made me mad. But mostly it made me want to scream. I am still here. I am still me under the pain. I am still here. BUT WHERE ARE YOU?

I sit here 9 months into a disability. I never thought it would be this long. I miss you. I miss me. I miss the person I used to be. Lately, as I slowly creep towards the light at the end of the tunnel, I am trying very hard to get her back out….because I know she is still here.

I have sacrificed a lot to this condition. My pain is invisible, not believed or understood. Those who surround me don’t necessarily see what going to a movie costs me. They don’t see me counting the minutes, waiting for it to stop. They don’t understand the deep sadness I experience because I can’t go to social events. They don’t comprehend the shame I feel for being weak, for being less. That I stopped reaching out, because I am afraid of getting my heart-broken again. Yet, underneath all of this….I am still the same person I was before the Pain. I am still valuable and vibrant. I am worthy of kindness. I am worthy of friendship.

I may not always be fun to be around and I may make you fearful. Please also understand that I don’t expect you to cater to or exclusively for me. I just want you to remember – I am still here. BUT WHERE ARE YOU?

I am not completely defined by pain. It is part of me; it may create an atmosphere that limits me and makes it more challenging than other friendships. But, all I want is a friend. Not a carer, a friend: someone to laugh with, share secrets, watch a movie, gossip and just be. It isn’t much to ask for.

I know your life is different. You have a job. You have children, a husband. You have parties to go to, people to dine with and people to talk to. You have a full and busy life.

I can’t go to restaurants, bars, clubs, museums or anywhere I would have to sit, stand or wait for any length of time. Although money is an issue, it is not the only one.  I don’t want pity. I don’t want to be ashamed. I don’t want to hold you back. I don’t want people to see me looking/feeling like this. At the same time, that doesn’t mean I want to be alone. I am still here. BUT WHERE ARE YOU?

I don’t really know what has happened. I am not sure where you have gone…but I do know…I am still here.

I guess I don’t understand what happened to me. The pain was and is sometimes consuming…..it eats into my body. My days have been filled with just existing, to get through it the best I can. This means I can’t do all the things that maybe you need me to do. Maybe, you just became bored with me…pain is boring. I can understand that.

After a while, I know I stopped trying. Selfish? Immature? Ridiculous? Maybe…..most probably. But I thought of you as my family. I have already lost a lot of me to this…my heart really couldn’t take anymore loss. So, I stopped trying…that would be my fault.

I also couldn’t understand why phone calls stopped being returned. Every invitation was avoided, cancelled or just not responded to at all. When did this happen? When was there no time for our friendship?

There are some friends you don’t think you’ll ever lose. Maybe you misplace them for a short while. Every relationship has dips and arcs. Some of the friends I have lost do not surprise me.  I just didn’t think I would lose you. It makes me sad. Because I am still here and I know you are still there, too.

I know my situation is long-term. I don’t know when or if it will end. I know that it is difficult to empathise with my situation. And, I‘m glad it is – I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. I know I cannot offer nights of shooters and dancing. Or dining and walking. Or shopping all day. But I can still talk…I am still here. BUT WHERE ARE YOU?

I want my life to be more than doctors’ appointments, medications, tests, physiotherapy, etc.

I am more than doctors’ appointments, medications, tests, physiotherapy, etc. I am still here. BUT WHERE ARE YOU?

Every once in a while, we all have to stand up and scream, shout or yell: I am still here! I know that we share the same loss of friendships. I have been blessed with so much in my life. I don’t feel sorry for myself. I just thought I knew the friends that I had surrounded myself with. I knew the ones that needed me and would never give me back anything of substance. I knew the ones that were toxic. I knew the ones who have been good to me.

When you lose a friend, the end of the friendship can feel as devastating as a bereavement. But it’s difficult to grieve, because your friend is not dead – just no longer your friend. So there’s no funeral rites to help you, and no condolences from other people. The foundations of your life have been shaken – but everybody expects you to go on as normal.

Losing a friend can cause deep grief. You may feel inexplicably weepy. Or angry. Or depressed. Because, you really have lost something important.

BUT I also want to mention that out of this condition, I have been given the gift of true meaningful friendship, too. I have found some very wonderful people, who treat me like me. I also have nurtured and developed old friendships, which have been so rewarding.

Ask for Support

Most days, I get a message or comment from some-one who is lacking support from their nearest and dearest. Sometimes, it’s because you hide your pain, or you haven’t asked for help. Sometimes it’s because they just don’t get it.

I made this video (with attached letter) because I am lucky enough to have a Mommy who loves me and tries to understand. (Sometimes I’m not so sure about the rest of the family.) But, because of this, these messages/comments upset me so much. Friends and family are supposed to be there for whenever you need them.

Friendship is for life. It involves an exercise of choice not compulsion. This is what makes it the purest of all relationships. However, you must choose your friends carefully. And cherish and nurture the friendship for a lifetime. It is not difficult to find friends. The tough part is to honor the friendship.

I’m hoping that presenting these people with this letter (or something similar) and the accompanying video might help.

Dear <insert name>,

As you know, I’ve been sick for a while now. You’ve seen me – you know what I go through; but somewhere along the way, we seem to have lost the compassion and empathy required to enrich our friendship and take it forward, through even the hardest times.

I am IN those hard times now, and I need your friendship and support.

I am including a link to a video (http://youtu.be/jNk-St6_bXg), which I would like you to watch. It won’t tell you about diagnoses, symptoms or treatments – instead, it tells you what I need from you, right now.

Please watch it and please try to understand.

With love,

ME