Empirical evidence dominate western cultures. It means that we don’t believe it to be real if we can’t see it, touch it, taste it, hear it or smell it. We have separated the mind from the body both medically and philosophically so distinctly that the concept of dealing with the intangible illnesses (either in a physical form of pain or emotional anguish) becomes a trouble instead of a compassion. When you are dealing with fibromyalgia, it is easy for you to get frustrated with the friends who are not capable of understanding the extent of your overwhelming pain and energy loss.
A distressing fear is there that you will say too much about your symptoms or pain that it will potentially push away colleagues or casual friends. It is also concerning that sometimes even your close friends get tired of hearing about symptoms and pain that you are having. It also happens that you would have to cancel all the plans for tomorrow that you have made when you felt great because you may not be able to get out of the bed in the morning and would have to cancel the plan with your friends again for like third time in a row.
So what do we need to do? Dr. Elena V. Gonzales, a clinical psychologist, in a candid piece published by National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association says, “We can allow chronic pain to teach us how to be a better friend or allow it to isolate and limit our friendship”. She also adds, “The experience of chronic pain teaches us lessons of the importance of understanding, caring and compassion in relationships. It is important to both be able to give and to receive these gifts of friendship.”
When your friends lack a clear understanding of fibromyalgia and feel annoyed by your chronic pain and fatigue, just keep in mind that our culture has taught them to be that way. Thus, an opportunity is there for you to show them compassion. Let’s face it. You control the only one thing in a relationship and that is yourself. You can’t just force the other person to understand or have compassion, but you can make yourself understand and can be responsible for yourself. There are many things that you are dealing with, so why heap on more responsibility for others?
Many of us have a friend who is living the life of a true extrovert, who is always traveling, planning parties and attending all the major social scenes. These kinds of friends may seem like a positive person and friendly, but they may also be the least likely to understand chronic pain and fatigue. Dr. Gonzales encourages those people who are having fibromyalgia and gradually educate friends who are unable to understand the limitations that are required due to fibromyalgia or even unable to participate in normal activities with friends and family. So, acting as a part of gradual instruction, you are also supposed to mention the way this chronic pain deprives you or your sense of well-being, thus taking an extensive emotional clang on you as well.
Up till now, you might be thinking why even bother with friends? Why even care? Because these friendships bring comfort and this comfort results in healing, and the people who need this healing are the ones who have this chronic pain. Dr. Gonzales has also added, “ Friends can’t take the pain away but they can hear you out and respond with validation and comfort for the losses you are experiencing.”
Let’s know one thing. Some friends are there with whom it is simply a burden or too much work to maintain a friendship. They are not accepting their responsibilities and continuously rely on you to make them happy and contented. Of course, this case also happens with most of the people whether they have fibromyalgia or not. So, you may have to let go of some of those fair-weather friends and that is completely fine. You have this right and you can do it without any guilt. Moreover, excluding those friends may help in getting you deep into your existing relationships as well as giving you time for your health.
The most important takeout here is that when it comes to relationships, you have to allow yourself to be responsible for you alone. Yes, that sounds mean as you think. This is really nor selfish to take care of yourself and allowing yourself guilt-free permissions to do such things, as all these things can help you in sustaining long-term friendships that are important to health. Just be a friend of yourselves and treat yourself the way you would treat your other friends. And that is how you endure friendships when this fibromyalgia gets in your way.
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