Monday, September 15, 2008

Being A Friend

Last night I had the pleasure of listening to the talk given by Jo Franz during National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week.  Jo's talk was entitled "How To Help Those Who Help Us".  Jo Franz has had Ms since 1977, so she knows of what she speaks.  She has a wonderful website JoFranz which is worth taking a look at.  She has also written a book, "Soar Unafraid:  Learning To Trust No Matter What", which I am looking forward to reading after hearing her speak.

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.

Be kind!

4 comments:

Jo Franz said...

You've written a great post, Maureen, and you are so right! It is too easy for those of us with chronic illnesses to forget our friends who mean so much when things aren't going so well. Thanks for writing the truth!

Connie said...

I've been so blessed with friends that are understanding. The ones that don't "get it" I am now able to understand and am more patient with. That's now though! It took me a long time to get to this point and it's been through prayer and the help of counseling.

My favorite things that friends do for me is not ask if I need anything when I'm really sick, they do it. They bring food or take my dd for the day. They also let me complain when I need to get it off my chest and they listen. They understand if I have to call off a lunch date at the last minute because I'm sick. They love me as I am.

Jeanne said...

Maureen,

Great post! It's easy to fall into fixating on our own illnesses/severe pain at times and it's important for us to remember that our friends need more from US than to constantly be our "listening ear".

One-sided relationships aren't healthy and it's important for patients to remember to not fall into the "complaining" mode too much! Crying on a friend's shoulder is OK but if it's done to excess, it can drive friends away.

Having many friends I've met through my support group is great because we can take turns... I can be the support person one day and my friend can take that role the next day... It helps that we both automatically "get it too!! :)

Jeanne

Dottie said...

I agree that good friends do ask what they can do and that we need to let them know we need their help when we do. However a really good friend walks in and just does when they see the need.Had this happen to me years ago after a surgery which kept me off my feet and still having a household to run. A good friend walked in and took my ironing(back in the days when we ironed), some hangers and came back two days later with everything done.She repeated this until I was up and about again.