Friendships and chronic illness can be a tricky tightrope to walk for many patients. Family, and perhaps partners if you have one, are part of the emotional furniture if you will. They are the ones who are designed to stick around if times get tough, whether they like it or not. It’s an unwritten rule. A famirule. Some families don’t follow these apparent rules of course, and friends or less immediate family are left to plug any emotional holes. (Not a euphemism, unfortunately). Good friendships have been, and continue to be, a massively important part of my life. Before getting sick I didn’t realise quite how valuable good friends can be in the bleakest of times.
I properly fell in love with each of my friends when I met them, and for the majority of them that love has endured. Nothing sexual you understand, I do still prefer men’s bits for the record. Love; without all the nakedness. What I mean is that I view my friendships in the same way I view any other relationship. In my youth I was infatuated with all my friends in the same way I was over boys, I just didn’t want them to kiss me. My friends are all women I admire, I find completely hilarious, I care about deeply and who inspire me to be the very best version of myself.
My friends don’t ask anything of me but myself. They are the best support network I could ask for. When they can’t help me physically they just try to cheer me up, or most importantly, just listen. They never judge me when I feel down and never make me feel like a disappointment when I have to rearrange plans. It’s never been more important to me than now to ensure I always have these women in my life. Good friendships are harder to come by as you get older and I wouldn’t want my friends to walk out of my life any more than I’d wish my illness on them. When my friends are unwell or unhappy it feels almost unbearable. I hate seeing them in pain (physical or mental) and the helplessness of the situation can become intolerable. All a good friend can do is let the other half of said friendship know they are there for them.
Even if they can’t be there in person, just knowing a friendly voice is at the end of a phone can be a massive comfort. I remember many a night spent in hospital while I sobbed down the phone to friends for hours at a time. I didn’t make me feel physically better but it certainly helped make my shoulders a little lighter getting those horrible feelings off my chest. Don’t know if my wee pals enjoyed the massive phone bill and depressing sniffles quite as much, but they listened and that’s all that matters. Crohn’s is difficult and life-changing but don’t push anyone away in the process of getting to grips with it. Talk openly and honestly with the people you love, your friendships will thrive in the long run. If mine ever need watering I’ve cried enough rivers to keep them luscious for years to come.
Written by Kathleen Nicholls from Crohnological Order