Friendship and Fibromyalgia

ftlfriendFriendship. As social beings, friendship is important to us. It’s the relationship you have with another person. It is likely that you have things in common with this person, or you have genuine affection for them. It is a thing that can bring joy and love, help you through things. Real friendship is such a beautiful thing. The picture above is a birthday present I received from my best friend. The third definition listed, probably won’t make much sense to people but it means so much to me. I guess it is a small insight into the relationship we have. It is all those small things, the memories made and that are treasured, that makes friendship so beautiful.

Friendship is important, it is such a valuable experience. However, if you have fibromyalgia it is so easy to lose friendships. Now don’t get me wrong I know sometimes friendships just fade naturally over time. Fibromyalgia tends to just speed up this process. Every time you get invited to something but you have to cancel, usually last minute, because your anxiety is so high that you can’t seem to get yourself over the threshold and out the house. Every single scenario running through your head of trouble looming, accidents happening, your outfit not being right, you’re too fat, the fear that people won’t like you, the fear that the place will be busy, having to talk to strangers. The list goes on and on. Having to cancel as your belly has just started doing flips and you know you are going to have to spend the night on the toilet instead. Having to cancel as you’re in so much pain that it feels like your limbs are being ripped off your body, it feels like a knife is stuck in your back or you legs have turned to lead and you can’t get one foot in front of another. Having to cancel as you are so exhausted that your eyes are stinging from being open. Or your head feels too heavy, your arms and legs are tingling. All of these ‘excuses’ can wedge itself between friends. Chronic pain can be so isolating, and sometimes sharing it with friends can be worse than keeping it to yourself. Fibromyalgia is difficult to understand, and with it being an invisible illness, you “don’t look sick” or you “look normal” and it is easy for a person to think you are “just putting it on/ faking it/ being dramatic” (really you can insert so many negative comments here, I have heard quite a few). It tends to be that when you cancel one outing, meet up, event then it is generally accepted. Having to cancel multiple times (which can happen) then the invites tend to stop coming, text messages/ emails/ phone calls decrease and the space and silence grows. It is so frustrating! I sometimes wish that my life could be recorded, that people could see the effort put into going out. That people can see how much I try to get out. How much I want to spend time with that/those people. How upset I am when I have to message or call to cancel. How disheartening it is that you cannot get out and do that thing that you wanted to do, and how debilitating symptoms can be. How can you explain that everyday life for me can feel like the flu – I am achy all over, I have no energy, I am so tired, my balance is all over the place. I don’t say this to people for them to feel sorry for me, I tell people in hope that they might understand. Sometimes people do try and understand, sometimes people just do not believe you.

I do not have very many friends, however those that I do have are golden. I am so blessed to say that I have important people in my life. I have those people who have a listening ear to hear my troubles, frustrations, hopes, fears, or thoughts (no matter how ridiculous some of them seem to be). They are there for me to vent at (and I rant alot) and sometimes they just listen, other times they offer advice depending on the situation. They offer a shoulder to cry on – both figuratively and often physically (again, this is something I tend to do a lot). They are there when I need a hug, when I am vulnerable, to celebrate and gentle hugs for bad pain days. They are there with words of encouragement and believe in you. In fact, I often call my best friend my personal cheerleader. She believes in me so much, and can pick me up when I’m down. She defends me (like by pushing drunk men who have fallen on me off of me at gigs, or telling random drunk men to get lost with a capital F and a capital O when they put their arms around me and sing in my face. When ex’s text the most horrible things and make you cry and she takes the phone off you and wipes away your tears and lets you enjoy the rest of your day instead of being bombarded with very negative messages), even if the person she is defending me against is myself (she says I am too hard on myself, she’s probably right). I am lucky that I have a friend who believes, and tells me that I deserve the world. I deserve good things and I deserve to be happy. I just hope that she knows that I hope and believe the same for her!

It is important to find people who support you and can understand you. They maybe do not completely “get it”, but they care and want to help. You want people that you don’t need to pretend to be “fine” with. When I went on holiday with my friend, she knew that I was going to find some parts challenging and be in pain. She also knew that I can be stubborn sometimes, and tend to try and keep going until I just can’t any longer. She asked me to let her know when I was in pain or anxious. She told me that if I tell her it means we can do something to try and help, such as go to a less busy part of the city, find a place to sit and rest, we can go find some painkillers. One of the days I forgot to bring painkillers with me in my bag and we had to go find a pharmacy which felt a bit like trying to work our way through a treasure hunt in places. She wanted me to enjoy my holiday too and not over exert myself to the point I stop enjoying myself or physically can’t do anything the rest of our time away. This is friendship! It meant so much to me that took so much time and consideration to make the holiday a great experience for both of us.

The people who you know you can share a rant, celebrate with, share some sort of ‘milestone’ or you can call or message at any time day or night are the people you want in your life. The people who will take the good and the bad together. The people who see you for who you are and not just your condition. In saying that, it means so much to me that I have the type of friends who say things like “I found this site and it said …. about fibromyalgia”, “I read that this might help, have you tried/ thought about it?” Although it saddens me that I have lost friends along the way, I am so glad that I have the friends that I have. If friendship and love was a currency, then I can honestly say I am very rich. I am so glad that I have people who are willing to try and feel through life with me.

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