I actually wrote this blog post about a year ago, but I wasn’t comfortable with posting it once it was written. It’s not that it’s deep emotional stuff, but it’s a little embarrassing. I realize that it’s strange that I get so excited about getting out of the house, and I realize that it’s even stranger that I get so nervous about it. The truth is, a year has passed, and I haven’t taken many more social risks. I’m okay with that. I’m still hoping there will be a day when I snap out of it and become unapologetically me- capable of being bold and brave entirely on my own. But I also realize that I’m a work in progress, and it probably won’t happen overnight. For now, I have plenty of people to keep me adequately socialized from home or via phone/ Internet. I also have my new Facebook support group friends, and I am completely blown away by the love and acceptance they show. So . . . you know, it’s all good.
A side effect of being a ‘professional sick person’ is that you don’t necessarily see a lot of people. Seriously, several days (and I really mean several) go by, and I don’t speak to anyone but Joe, my mom, and Zoey (the dog). This is partially my fault (because I really hate talking on the phone- why can’t people just text?), but I really believe that my social skills have suffered. Those of you in a committed relationship know that there are conversations that you have with your significant other that just are not acceptable among the general public. I mean, Joe handles my late night, incoherent ramblings (so does my mom via telephone), and no one else in this world should have to put up with that.
But today, I had lunch with a new friend. I woke up (technically, Joe and Zoey woke me up); I got ready, and I drove to a restaurant near my house. Simple, right? Not so much. See, in my two years of being too sick to work, I’ve not exactly been a social butterfly. As a matter of fact, I realized this was the first time since I got sick that I went to lunch with a peer without Joe there to keep the conversation moving. I was super stressed. I mean, what if I was at lunch and got sick? Normally Joe is with me, and I can just say, “Let’s get out of here before something dramatic/traumatic happens.” But, with someone new, can I do that? I mean, what if she thinks I’m crazy? Oh no, what if I am crazy?
Can you tell by now that I was totally working myself up over nothing? Somewhere in the two years that I’ve been staying at home I’m pretty sure I developed social anxiety. Now, it’s only fair that I say at this point, that my new friend is totally cool. (I should have asked her if it was okay if I blogged about her, so I could say her name. However, it’s sort of fun that I can’t say her name . . ., because you’re totally assuming I had lunch with a major celebrity today, right?) I could have fainted, taken meds, possibly scratched my face with my feet, and I think she would have been fine with it, amused, but fine.
The reason I shared this with you (other than to brag about the fact that I made a friend!) is to point out that relationships when you have a chronic illness are different. I rely on my husband for a lot of stuff. I rely on him to give me all the time in the world to get ready. I rely on him to accommodate for how I feel. I even rely on him (occasionally) to help me remember whether I’ve taken medicine that day. Because of my reliance on Joe, I have made it difficult on myself to venture out. I’ve isolated myself from a lot of my friends from my former life (ie. healthier days), because their normalcy was more than I could handle. In a sense, I disabled myself a little. Chronically ill friends, please try to maintain relationships outside your marriage. Spouses, partners, caretakers of the chronically ill, encourage ‘your sick person’ to venture outside of their comfort zone. Being sick is a lot to handle for both people in a relationship. You will need support. And not only support, you are going to need fully functioning social skills at some point, too.
Oh no, I just had a thought. Do you think my new friend will still want to be my new friend when she realizes I made a whole blog post about going to lunch? Just when I thought my social skills were recovering . . .
Peace, love, and health, friends.