Today’s post is a wonderful Guest Post (and must-read!) by Health Activist Julia Olenik blogger at the awesome blog Reasonably Well. In her guest post she shares her experience with that third relationship conflict mentioned in our theme: your condition vs. your family (and friends). Julia offers real, honest advice and I know you’re going to enjoy reading this as much as I did. –Amanda
February, Family, and Friends
The month of February brings with it several interesting events; one being Groundhog day, when it’s so gratifying to anticipate the end of winter. Another is Super Bowl Sunday and the best excuse ever to gather in large boisterous crowds in front of huge televisions while consuming large quantities of really-bad-for-you snacks.
But my favorite day by far in February is Valentine’s Day. Why? Well, gifts of chocolate in heart shaped boxes from a wonderful hubby for many years are very, very good things. But aside from chowing down on a serious amount of high quality candy, Valentine’s day also is a great time to for me to take time to appreciate not only my marriage, but all the relationships with others around me.
When I think about my relationships, mostly I think about how fortunate I am to have these special folks around me, especially since autoimmune disease entered my life. My ties with my family and friends were certainly tested during the early days of my diagnosis. I am incredibly thankful that these vital bonds survived, and eventually flourished. But it wasn’t an easy process.
Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome, and my life changed in ways that I would never have imagined. I wish that I could say that I accepted these changes with grace, but I didn’t. No, I became crabby and very self-centered. Not that I didn’t deserve to be a bit cranky: Sjogren’s brought with it bone-crunching fatigue, joint pain, the classic dry eyes and dry mouth. It also took away my job and several of my hobbies.
I was not a happy camper.
As I struggled to adjust to the enormous changes that my body was making, I became aware that my social circle was changing, too. Several friends that I had considered close began to just……fade away. My family and closest friends often looked at me with puzzlement and concern. They didn’t know what to make of me, and I didn’t know what to make of me, either. It was a difficult time, and I knew that if my ties with my loved ones were to survive, I needed to look to the wisdom and experiences of others who had successfully made this journey before me.
I found a helpful perspective from another woman dealing with chronic illness in the book A Delicate Balance: Living Successfully With Chronic Illness, (Perseus Publishing, 2000, pg. 191) In it, author Susan Milstrey Wells dove headlong into these same issues. She discussed the many ways that chronic illness may impact all of our relationships – those as a spouse, a child, a sibling, a parent, a co-worker, and as a friend. She summed up her experiences by saying: