First I want to say this isn’t one of those “I became chronically ill and everyone left me bitter posts”, it’s actually about the role I played in it.
Sure, as I healed from CPTSD and was dealing with multiple chronic illnesses at the same time, people ghosted me big time. Yes it hurt, and I still don’t believe I deserve all of that, BUT…
I have come to realize over the course of my life, I have given to the detriment of myself. I taught people and myself that I was only like able or lovable for what I could do for others. It didn’t make sense that people would like me for me if I didn’t even like me.
When I left Texas in the beginning on 2018, my psychologist wrote me a beautiful letter of goodbye and the most striking part said something like this, “I hope someday you will understand that people will love you for you, not what you can do for them”. Reading her letter was what made me realize I was a chronic giver. The prospect of people actually wanting to know me was in fathomable.
One of the best things in getting chronically ill is that I could no longer give to the detriment of myself. I couldn’t give at all for awhile as I was merely trying to survive and get my basics done. As I became more incapacitated and asked for help, people disappeared and got the typical “I’m busy, but I think about you” line. I understand busy, but I also understand I would go a couple days without water as I couldn’t move.
It’s partly my fault. I didn’t let people know how bad off I was. When I stopped eating a couple weeks ago as my symptoms of gastroparesis were so painful I stayed curled in a ball for days, I couldn’t let anyone know. I give to others, not the other way around!
Luckily, I ended up being in so much pain, I became delirious and didn’t realize the conversations I was having. I told a friend who lives halfway across the country I was stopping eating as it was too painful, she called the paramedics as she knew my immune compromised system wasn’t going to make it much longer. Anyway, I got to the hospital, got diagnosed, and am temporarily on a medication to help that.
Nonetheless, the point is people started to leave me, because I couldn’t give. The first time I realized I didn’t have to give back to receive was when a friend helped me out with getting an Uber to the hospital when I was admitted back in March. I had 78 cents in my bank account, and she knew I needed to go. I asked what I could do for her. She said it’s not “quid pro quo”, and she was right. I don’t have to give exactly back to the person who’s giving to me. I’ve been giving my whole life, personally and professionally. I’m starting to feel better, but I deserve love and kindness just because.
So yes, people dropped out of my life, and I subsequently chose to drop people as well. I wasn’t the friend I used to be. I’m not interested in one sided friendships anymore. I want reciprocation, perhaps not equally as I give more in some friendships and others will give more to me.
I refuse to feel guilty for receiving help without giving it. I’m ok to know just because I exist.
I have also begun to find real community. Im finding people who will genuinely help me more than anyone I’ve ever met. My community is growing and I’m currently feeling surrounded by a lot of love (even if I am still managing the basics alone)!
So I’m grateful for chronic illness. It has taught me what it is to be a friend. It has taught me that it’s ok to accept help, but most of all, it has taught me that I’m ok to know even when I have nothing to give.