Since having ME the Joey Tribbiani phrase “How you doing??” has taken on a whole different meaning. Before I always used to respond “I’m doing good thanks, how are you?” without even thinking about it. Now, I stop and ask myself, how much do they really want to know and how honestly do I really want to say.
For people I don’t know very well, I still tend to give the standard response but for people who I’m closer to, its a complicated ball game. It’s not because I’m embarrassed or ashamed of my ME because I’m really not. It’s more about the other person and how I’ll make them feel. Can you tell I’ve had my fingers burned?!
Taking my family out of the equation because let’s face it, they don’t have a choice but to be associated with me (I’ll just add in here, that they are a terrific support to me and I wouldn’t be doing as well as I am without them) I see that those around me can be set in to 3 groups – colleagues, lost friends and true friends.
I can honestly, hand on heart say, I work with some amazing people. Those who work in the same office as me as well as those I constantly interact with as part of my job have had to watch this bright, bubbly, enthusiastic person slowly deteriorate in front of their eyes. They’ve seen me having to take more and more time off, volunteer for less and less and generally not giggle as much as I used to. They saw the spark fade more than anyone else as I spend the majority of my time with my work buddies. But one thing they’ve never done is judge me for it. They’ve supported me. I have to say, and I know I’m extremely lucky in this, my boss has been incredible. Yeah, sure he can wind me up sometimes, but then I know I probably do the same to him and my team! But when it counts, he has made sure that my health has remained a priority. He makes sure that I don’t put too much pressure on myself and he’s doing his best not to add any. He’s been ok with my level of absence – it can’t be easy not knowing if I’ll be in one day to the next for him because I know it’s not for me. No matter though, he’s not judged or scolded me for it, instead he’s been gentle with me and even put up with my tears.
My boss isn’t the only one though who has been like this. I’ve worked with many of my colleagues for over 10 years now so we all know each other well. They know that I love it when they tease me. Just the other day, one of my colleagues commented that I must’ve had too many fruit pastilles as I seemed to have some energy! But I love they say things like that. They tell me I’m looking good whilst appreciating the fact that I’m not. They’re not afraid to ask me questions if I’m wearing supports on my wrists or if I’ve been off for a few days. Again, I like that. It shows me that they care. I know some of them have also been following my blog – so thank you to them. It genuinely means a lot.
Working with the people I do, makes the morning fight to get up, get in the car and drive to work worth it. They tell me that I make them smile and they love to hear my giggle in the office. But the truth is – they keep me going. They have been instrumental in helping to bring my spark back, which sadly can’t be said for everyone I’m “close” to.
I’ve always been proud of the fact that I’ve been able to maintain friendships over the years. As a kid we moved around a lot due to my Dad’s job (nope I’m not an army brat; I’m a Boots Baby!). I learned that I could keep friendships going no matter where I lived and no matter what. Well, that was until I got ME.
There are 2 friendships that I sadly feel like I’ve lost since becoming ill. Two people who I have known for around 20 years and have supported through thick and thin. I’ve made them laugh when they were down; picked them up when things hit the fan with their fiancés and talked through any issues they’ve been having with their work. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a one way street – they were there for me in the past if I had a wee moan or two.
Since I became ill, they’ve changed as I know I have. They became distant; almost as if they were too wrapped up in their own worlds to notice that my health was declining. One of them even said to me “You just disappeared of the face of the earth. You should’ve have said that you were ill”. I always thought friendships went two ways – apparently not everyone feels this way.
I’m now at a point where I feel I’m ok without these two people in my life. They’ve said things and acted in ways that have hurt me. They haven’t taken much interest in finding out more about ME and what I’m going through. To me that’s ok. It’s who they are now and how they see the world. I don’t give out my loyalty and support expecting it back so I don’t hold that against them. I just don’t have space in my life for forced friendships where we just skirt around the big issues in life. I barely have enough energy for those who do care – so I focus on them. I wish these two people all the best for the future and hope they are genuinely happy with life.
Around me now, I have some amazing, true friends who really are there for me and have taken time to find out more about my life now. They don’t pussy foot around me; they treat me as normal as they can and don’t seem to mind too much when I cancel plans. I always do my best to see these friends and join in even if its just for an hour or two.
A couple of these true friends have even asked me what more they can do to help and tell me they miss me being around as much as I used to. They do more for me than they realise. They include me and that is so important as it would be so easy for me to become isolated and head towards depression. But with them around this isn’t going to happen. They make me giggle; make me feel like I used to – the cheeky one in the group! We don’t dwell on my illness – they’ll do a quick “how you doing?” check and then we crack on with the fun whether that is at a dinner party with a group or one on one around their house with ice cream and chocolate desserts! They are even great at popping round to mine for a cuppa and cake even bringing their babies and exploding nappies!
I know I’m not the same person I was 3 years ago when I was fit and healthy. I know I’ve changed my outlook on life and how I approach situations. I know I’ve had to do this. In a way I’ve become a lot more grateful for the people in my life. My folks have been a great support; my true friends keep me going strong and my colleagues brighten my working day fight. I know that with people like this around me all is definitely not lost. They kind of hold a mirror up to me and show me that my ME really is just a part of me as my reflection is still the old Little Miss ME.