Creating New and Supportive Friendships
“When you tell your trouble to your neighbor you present him with a part of your heart. If he possesses a great soul, he thanks you; if he possesses a small one, he belittles you”– Kahlil Gibran
Do you often wonder if confiding your illness in others, will cause them to turn away from you? Are you afraid to give friends and family a piece of your soul? Do you think you will be judged as a chronic complainer? Do these things keep you from reaching out and creating love and laughter in your life?
Who do we want in our lives? What kinds of people do we want to be with now? How have we changed while dealing with illness? Do the old friends still respond in a caring way to us? Or are fair weather friends flying south for sunnier days?
Illness drops into our lives like a stranger with no place to stay. It takes over by depleting our energies that were used previously on other endeavors. And because it is a stranger, we may feel alone and alienated in surroundings that once were familiar to us. Life has thrown us a curve. We find we cannot do the same things we used to do to bring us comfort for fear that they will make us worse. And the same friends we used to laugh about things with, were only there for laughter and are gone through the rougher times. It may feel like no one wants to hear our troubles, our symptoms and our coping difficulties. When we speak to our friends about the difficult times we are facing, we feel as though our thoughts are landing on a deaf ear. Feeling alone in our illness, with no sounding boards we have no soft place to lie.
How many of you feel this way, now that you are coping with the stress of this major life change? Do you wish that there was someone who knew how you felt, and would give you a hug when you needed it? Or one who will simply listen and not come up with answers all the time? Someone who just by being there with you, you know they care?
Why Friends Change
One of the major frustrations with adversity and chronic illness is the fact that people are uncomfortable trying on your shoes. They don’t do that for a reason. They want to live the way they are living now. They don’t want to face the possibility of a future with an illness. They cannot deal with the fact that something like this might happen to them. And so, if we understand this, perhaps we can approach friendship a little differently. We gain inner strength, and add compassion for what they think and feel, and start from there, while creating deeper friendships and relationships.
Chronic illness is not only a time of change for you physically but a time of change for friendships. New friendships can begin from the same starting place as before by hiding our illness, or we can start from a newer, better place. Is your first reaction to this statement: Isn’t it hard enough to be sick? Why do I have to do all this work? What have I ever done to deserve this? But if you take action, you will find that you can create change in your life and in the way you perceive friendship. And life is made up of change for every person on this earth, every single day. Merely changing the starting place with your relationships is part of the new deeper change in you.
Approach new friendships as new trails through the woods. You know the basic direction you are going in, but you will find trees and weeds on your path that you may have to walk around or put aside. Once you create the path, you will have an easier route to get to where you are going. And you will have learned a great lesson along the way. You don’t always have to take the same old worn out paths to friendship. You can create new ones tailored for your own personal taste and needs. Friendships will become deeper and more treasured, because you have thought it through carefully giving each new person a piece of your heart.
The way you start is to “put it out there”. All you can ever do in your life is to be yourself. Remember, there are many sides to us, and there are sides we are quite proud of. Begin finding the stronger sides of ourselves, by doing the following:
- Start with honesty. Be who you are without pretenses.
- Show your strength. Let this stranger know that you are dealing with illness but you are a fighter that even with life’s many curves, it has made you stronger.
- Show the positive parts of your fight…and there are positive parts, if you take a few minutes to think about it.
- Look at who you have become in a new light. It is merely “flip side thinking” once again. There is a flip side to every negative thought we have. Use the flip side to help you function in a more positive way. Once you see your new qualities of honesty, your strength, your positive thoughts you will proud of how you are thinking and you will become a newer more compassionate side of yourself.
- Share your gifts by helping others. Shine this new light on the new people in your life with the energy you have. It doesn’t mean they wont be there for you through the harder times. You can begin a new friendship from a place of inner strength and self respect.
Starting friendship from strength helps you to keep your self esteem. It doesn’t mean you cannot share weaker times with this new person. You can. And perhaps now that they have seen your inner strength, they can best guide you towards a good solution that is based upon these strengths instead of weakness.
If we feel rejection from a new acquaintance after revealing ourselves honestly we can reassure them that we understand their initial reaction. Knowing you have been dealing with illness, they may personalize your experiences and fear the same event in their lives. Explaining to them that you understand what happened to you may create fear for them about their own vulnerabilities,as in truth, they walk down a different path. And they may not face illness as you have. New friends may need to know that we are there to help them through their hard times. Let them know you have much to give.
Some start socializing by support groups of others with their very same illness. This works well for the short term and may be a good place to start. Many of us do not go out into the work place every single day, and if we do, our lives consist of work and home. It is hard to find others who are not running here or there. But they are out there, I assure you. It just takes time to find them.
Old friendships are not to be abandoned. A little reconstruction might create a deeper, more meaningful friendship with an old friend that knew you before. Decide which old friends you would want to make an effort to keep in your life. And by using the above tools, come back to the friendship from a position of strength.
Yes, sadly there will be some cases where people will leave your life. Please remember this is not your fault and probably reflects back on the honesty of your friendship. There will be those who will become distant friends, who don’t want to make the effort. Those with surface friendships on their mind find deeper relationships are of no interest to them. No loss to you really if you are in a position of inner strength. Tell them you are sorry your illness takes you away from them. But take action by walking on down that new path with inner strength.
I often tell my husband that I wish to pave my path with flowers, and not with rocks. Begin now by paving your new path to friendship with flowers.
I assure you, even with chronic illness, better days and rare opportunities await you. Let us walk down this healing road together.
Always with peace and love,
(c) 2005 Frannie Rose