Friends, Family & Illness

The canceled plans, dirty kitchens and general grumpiness that go along with having headaches, whether episodic or chronic, puts strain on even the best of relationships. With all my experience, you’d think I’d have some suggestions for dealing with this, but my brilliant strategy is to feel guilty. Not too productive, I know.

The new blog How to Cope With Pain highlights “family issues” once a week. Last week’s post answered questions that family members might have, like “Is the pain real?” Here’s part of her response:

“Faking pain, on purpose, to get out of something or to get a reward is known as malingering. While it does occur, it’s rare. Most patients feel very guilty about not being able to do the things they used to do, whether working at a job or taking care of their family around the house. Very few patients with pain make more money out of work than working.”

On her blog, migraineur Nicole offers tips for friends of chronics, including: “[P]lease do not decide for us what we can and cannot do. If you are having a party, let us know. Let us decide if we can or can’t make it to the party, movie, or what have you.”

This anonymous letter to people without chronic pain begins with, “These are the things that I would like you to understand about me before you judge me.” It goes on to explain what many chronics wish their loved ones understood.

If your friends are wondering what they can do, direct them to 50 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend. Many ideas focus on encouraging the sick person talk about things that most people don’t want to hear about, like the massive changes that illness has brought to their lives. [via ChronicBabe]

What I fight with the most is being honest. It’s much easier to say that everything is OK than to admit that it’s not. When I do have the courage to tell people how I really feel, I worry that I complain too much.

I’ve finally accepted that my friends and family understand the best that they can. I’ve lost a lot of friends along the way. Although hard at the time, I’m better off for it. I don’t have the energy to convince other people that I feel terrible or deal with their insecurities when I cancel or don’t call them.

Because of my illness, my faults are in plain view. It’s simply too hard to hide that I’m selfish with my time, can be terribly insecure about the most bizarre things, and have great intentions with little follow-through. My friends and family accept me for what I can give now — which may be different than I gave three years ago or will give two months from now.

That’s the beauty of love.