Dealing with chronic illness has shown me a lot over the last year or so. While in between working, the various doctors’ appointments and hospital visits, I have had a lot of time to reflect on my current health situation, my life experiences, the things I wish I could do and still hope to do, my goals and the people who are currently in my life and those who have left throughout the years. Chronic illness has a way of changing you, whether for the better or for the worse – or maybe you’re still somewhere in between and that’s okay. I know I am. There are days when I am hopeful that things will get easier and then there are days that seem so dark, I shut out any of the positives that try to breakthrough. I am working on this. But, one of the main positives is that I woke up this morning. I am on this side of the ground and I am writing this post. Though gratitude is hard to feel when you’re experiencing some of the worst moments of your life, gratitude is what keeps us going. I wanted to write this post as part of my own personal reflections since becoming chronically ill as a way for me to process and express some of the things that have come up for me over the last year. Writing it down and letting go is therapeutic for me and maybe you’ll be able to relate in some way as well, so here it goes.
When sh*t hits in the fan in life, you hope you’re fortunate enough to have supportive people to fall back on. You know, the kind of people who are cheering you on at your highs and who are holding you tight at your lows. Not many of us have those people – sometimes not even our families embody those types of people. No matter what you’re going through, having the level of support you need makes the battle just a tad bit easier. I believe all sorts of experiences happen and various people come into our lives for specific reasons. The same goes for us to them. Some are meant to stay for the long haul, and some are only here for a season.
I have had many friendships throughout my life. My first real friendship – you know, the kind where you can’t wait to see the person again after five minutes of being apart, the one you go on all your adventures with and you tell all your secrets to; began when I was in second grade. I remember it like it was yesterday, because she was new to town and we were assigned seats next to each other. She seemed nervous, as it was her first day of school in America and I was shy since I didn’t really have many friends being that I had only moved to town about 10 months prior. Next thing you know, we started talking – I have no idea what about, but I guess the typical stuff seven-year-olds back in the late 90’s would talk about. It’s like we just clicked. We quickly became very close friends; our families became friends and we spent almost every waking moment together. She soon became part of my family and I became a part of hers. We were two peas in a pod, sisters from another father and mother. She was the first true friendship I ever had and to this day, I remain so grateful someone like her came into my life at the very early age of seven, because she taught me the true meaning of friendship. But, as I am sure you’re guessing, this friendship isn’t what it used to be. Not because we had some crazy falling out or a terrible argument, but because we ended up having to maintain a long-distance friendship after her family moved out of the country when we were 11. I felt devastated the day she left. I was so scared I would never see her again. Summer was coming to an end and it was right before the start of middle school. I no longer had my best friend by my side to sit with me at lunch, meet up in between classes, and help navigate the hallways of my new school. I missed her so much. We spoke when we could. The time difference was tough to work with. We did our best though, but like with everything else, life got in the way and we began leading two separate lives that no longer incorporated each other. Again, at the fault of no one – it just happened. Then Facebook was created, and I found my childhood friend and we reconnected. It was much easier to communicate than trying to call collect out of the country once a month. That was going well for a bit, but then communication slowed down again, eventually stopping. Well, after 13 years of not seeing her, I found out she was visiting the states a few years ago and I decided that this was my chance to see her again. I wasn’t sure if it we could make it work, but I knew if I didn’t reach out, I would have regretted it. So I asked her if we could meet up and it was one of the best days of my life. It’s like no time had passed. We picked up right where we had left off at 11 years old, even though we were both in our mid-twenties at that point. That is one of the last few times we’ve spoken, with some social media interactions in between. I am not sure when we will catch up again, but I am happy we were given the chance to. I am not even sure this person knows how much of an impact she had on my life or if I had the same on hers. But if she happens to be reading this right now, I want her to know I am still so grateful for her and blessed that she came into my life when she did. Even if we never get a real chance to speak again, she will still always be my best friend at heart, and I want to thank her for being that person to show me what a true friendship is meant to be.
My next significant friendship came to be during my freshman year of high school. I had gotten injured in gym class (because I am a klutz) and this girl who I had only known as someone in my gym class, walked me down to the nurse’s office and sat with me to make sure I was okay. After that, we began to hang out and soon became super close. Again, it was that kind of friendship where we could see each other everyday and not get sick of spending time together. We would go on walks around our neighborhood, download music, grab Rita’s on summer nights, go sledding during winter snow storms; but most of all, we had each other’s backs through some of the hardest times that high school threw at us. We had sleepovers almost every week and once we got our licenses, we spent most of our time going on random drives blasting 2000’s music. We talked about everything and anything. But, as the theme of this post goes, eventually things grew stale. Things changed. The details of it all don’t matter anymore. We haven’t spoken in almost five years and occasionally I reminisce about our nine-year friendship. When I think back now, I often smile, and I miss those times. I stopped wondering where things went wrong a long time ago and moved on from being bitter about it. At the end of the day, none of that even matters at this point. I hope wherever she is, she is doing well and wish her all the best. She, too, had a very profound impact on me and I am grateful to have had someone like her by my side throughout some of the most crucial years of my life.
My next best friendship recently came to an end. We were close for about five years, though we knew each other for a lot longer than that. Our friendship formed over shared experiences and we became extremely close quickly. We had a lot of laughs, a lot of fun adventures and cool experiences together. We survived a long-distance friendship when I moved to California, which surprisingly made us even closer. My early to mid-twenties are full of memories with her, and when I think back about the times we shared, I feel a sense of gratitude yet again to have spent many happy moments with her. No one anticipates losing friendships, especially to curve balls that life tends to throw at us. I realized after becoming ill that I was no longer the kind of friend she needed or wanted, and things shifted. At the time of our decline, I recall being so upset and hurt. She felt one way and I felt another. I felt misunderstood and alone and you can ultimately argue that I was vulnerable and emotional due to my life being turned upside down by a set of symptoms no one could explain. Though it’s easy to place blame on the other person in the heat of the moment, I don’t blame her. Honestly, I don’t think my illness is what ended us. I think we were heading down that road for a while, but neither of us wanted to call it what it was, and we were both taking turns driving the car. My illness sure didn’t help…but unfortunately, like many things in life, it’s one of those things beyond my control. If this ever somehow reaches her, I want her to know that I don’t hate her, though she may feel differently about me – and that’s okay. I also want her to know that I don’t blame her, though at the time I did. As I said initially when things came crumbling down, I am sorry if I caused her any pain or frustration at any point throughout our friendship, as it truly wasn’t intentional. I also forgive her for any pain she may not have known that she caused to me. I hope that in the last several months her life has been full of happiness, lots of love and good people. I hope the very same for her future.
We all have our flaws and we all have things we can work on in life. That’s not to say you must remain friends with people even after the fire has burnt out and it has become merely just embers. Sometimes, we just stop feeding each other’s flames. Things don’t work the way they used to. People change. Situations happen. We are human.
I know I have made mistakes in my life, as I am far from perfect. The way I spend my time now is focusing on my body and my health so I can become a better version of myself. Without this chronic illness, I don’t think I would carry the level of gratitude I do, especially for the life experiences that have been hard, upsetting, and overall gut-wrenching. It also makes me appreciate the people who remain by my side that much more. I have some of the most supportive and loving people in my life and I don’t know what I would do without them. I am incredibly blessed to have every single one of them.
Life has an interesting, sometimes unapologetic way of getting us to wake up and open our eyes. Chronic illness has flipped my life upside down, but I almost see clearer from this side. Though many things are still so uncertain, and I have no idea what tomorrow will bring or the day after, I am doing my best to live in the present – something I have struggled to do my whole life. I now know what it is like to go to sleep at night fearing I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. So now when I open my eyes, I appreciate the day ahead, even if I don’t feel well. I try my best to remain optimistic, though some days are tougher than others. We all don’t have to be positive 100% of the time. We can have bad days, but we just can’t let the bad days unpack their things and set up camp for too long. It’s way easier said than done – I know, but we must at least try, right? Afterall, we don’t know how long we have in this lifetime, so we might as well be grateful for what we do have right now – the experiences, the people – even all the painful moments that come in between.