I got to thinking about friendships after listening to the talk. I think one of the best points made about being a friend to someone with chronic illness is that often people don't realize that the chronic-ness of the illness does not mean that it is going to remain the same. In fact, for many of us the process is degenerative. Because of this fact, many times we are left alone and forgotten. Both Jo and National Invisible Chronic Illness Week founder Lisa Copen, talked about how much it would mean for people who are our friends to check in on us regularly and be consistent in our lives and with their help to us.
All of that got me thinking about what kind of friend I am and what kind of friends I am looking for. For instance, it is easy when I am battling a flare to let things go, after all, I don't feel well right? And while I am not one to beat myself up, I also realize that to the best of my ability I need to remain aware of what is happening in my friends lives even when things aren't going so well in my own. The people I am closest to have always told me how much they appreciate the fact that despite my illness, I make time for them and their problems. I remember their birthdays, anniversaries and kid's birthdays. If they are going through a rough patch in their life, I try to send a card of support or encouragement, or even leave a voice or e-mail message just letting them know they are in my thoughts and prayers.
By being a good friend, I model the behavior I appreciate receiving myself and I get to show my love for the people I care about. I think it is easy to fall into the trap of feeling let off the hook for some of our friendship responsibilities because we have additional obstacles in our lives. My experience has shown me that is a dangerous attitude to take. You let your friends down, and ultimately you let yourself down. After all, don't we want to treat others as we wish to be treated?
What kinds of things do you do to be a good friend to others? What things do your friends do to help you that you especially appreciate? How has someone gone out of their way to help you? Have you had the opposite experience, such as the one I spoke of in my post on Friendship and Invisible Illness Week? Please let me know your experiences with being a friend, and with finding friends who are supportive and understanding for the long haul.