One of the things I never expected to lose whilst dealing with auto immune dis-ease was friends.
Not acquaintances or people I had known for a couple of years. But friendships I had developed since my “I’ll travel the world in 18 months and be back”…6 years later. People that I would call if I needed to vent, or needed to go out for a drink….my wing women.
To be clear, it’s not like they all stopped ringing because I was “sick.” In fact, it was quite the opposite. In the early days of diagnosis, the phone would continuously tweet and ring. There was no doubt, that for an emotionally constipated individual, I had clearly had some success maintaining interpersonal relationships.
But as the days become weeks, and weeks become months.
Interest wanes and life resumes for all, except the “sick”
The first 10 weeks of my diagnosis were hell and they were the weeks where I kept to myself the most. My then-partner (now husband) Lee, would answer the phone, respond to friends’ concerns and questions and speak to my mum, who needed an update every 3 hours.
I felt like I was imploding and I didn’t want anyone to see it or for anyone else to have to clean up the mess. It was my long held party trick – hold on and let it all go once no one can see you. I’m pretty sure it also contributed to the rusting of my trusty bucket, the vessel that keeps me together.
I then started to question myself, “Do they even want to hear from me?” “I’ve been a slack friend” or “I don’t want to talk about being sick.”
It’s the same awkward feeling you have when you’re in high school and you’ve started a chat with one of the cool kids, you feel like you’ve made a connection…but of course, no one has witnessed it, and now they’re with their harem of mates….you may as well forget it.
It’s human nature, the need to connect. Researchers at Harvard just released their findings from a 75-year longitudinal study on unearthing the secrets to a happy and purposeful life.
It appears that connection is crucial. George Vaillant, the Harvard psychiatrist who directed the study from 1972 to 2004 and wrote a book about it confirmed “the more areas in your life you can make connection, the better.”
The study followed 268 Harvard graduates from 1938-1940, ironically they were all male students. And I suspect in a post Depression era, guys weren’t so keen to chat about their feelings. But it appears the connection with other human beings is the strongest predictor of life satisfaction.
So yesterday I dropped an old friend a text, “Hey Stephen, hope you’re doing well. Has been a while but would be great to catch up when you’re next in town. Catch up soon.”
And today, the phone rang.