People React to the Reality You Present
There are few things as complicated and challenging as interpersonal relationships. The older I get, the more difficult it is to stay in touch with those I once considered to be friends. Supporting someone with a chronic illness will never be an easy task, just as living with one is not.
After falling ill, I soon realized that losing some friends along the way would be inevitable, yet there were still a few who stuck around. A couple of friends accepted the challenge of having a partially disabled friend and seemed to even excel at it. They seemed to accept the new sick version of me, but not without some hiccups along the way, of course. There were more than a few awkward situations my health elicited, but the difference between the friends who stayed and the ones who faded away was that we approached these situations together as a team. They offered to help and (this part is important) I accepted their offer. Friendships are a two-way deal: You have to give a little to take a little.
Maintaining friendships with those around you while constantly feeling like a stranger in your own body can be quite daunting. The thought process that has vastly helped me is reminding myself that people around me can only respond to the reality I present them with. Most myasthenia gravis patients have probably been told, “You don’t look sick.” That statement is important to remember, as infuriating as you may find it. We hardly ever look as bad as we feel. I’ve often thought on bad days that it is impossible for my looks to accurately represent how horrible I truly feel.
If you saw a fruit that looked ripe, you would realize within the first bite that it was not. This does not change the fact that the fruit appeared to be ripe, but we first need evidence to the contrary to change our minds. So, I have learned to respond to the infamous line, “You don’t look sick,” with, “I feel really tired today, but I am glad I have you fooled!” As Katharine Hepburn said, “If you want to change attitudes, start with a change in behavior.” I may not be able to control the behavior of those around me, but I can control how I behave and respond.
I have lost more than a handful of people I once considered friends when my health started fading away. However, I can honestly say that the lasting friendships are the ones that have sometimes brought me to tears in awe of their abundance of selflessness and love. You are worthy of love, especially the platonic kind. Never stop fighting; life is beautiful.
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