“Hey, how are you?”
My automatic response is, “I’m ok.”
But I’m not okay and I haven’t been been for some time.
I’ve developed an irrational fear 😳 of engaging with others.
I’m not a qualified mental health therapist (yet) and the things I discuss in my blogs are my own thoughts on what I am experiencing, my thought processes and observations on who I am and the person I’m aiming to be.
Over the last 6 years, I’ve received therapy from psychologists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists and medical professionals who have all offered different approaches on how I should be managing my mental and physical health conditions and I’m still trying to adapt to the changes I am having to make to live a relatively ‘normal’ life.
Living with chronic muscle pain, skin and temperature sensitivity, bilateral sciatica and lower back pain that makes standing and walking around unpleasant (that’s an understatement) has had an impact on how I go about doing some routine activities and it has changed the way I relate to others. I’ve become a bit of a recluse and I am keenly aware of how much I’ve distanced myself from friends and family.
I’ve become weary of constantly having to explain what fibromyalgia is and what it feels like. I’ve grown tired of cancelling plans and receiving looks of disappointment when I say I need to stay in because I am in so much pain and I’m exhausted most days due to chronic insomnia.
I’ve been feeling hurt 😔, frustrated and misunderstood so I decided to write this letter to the people in my life…
To my loved ones…
Please forgive me for constantly turning down your invitations to go out and I’m sorry I don’t invite you over anymore. I miss being spontaneous and available to you like I used to be. I am still that friend you can turn to when you need someone to talk to but I’m no longer the friend you can go out and have fun times with, my body won’t allow it.
Please understand that I will often go silent and disappear for a while because I cannot cope with the feelings of anxiety, being in the presence of others brings.
Please understand that nothing (other than spiders and big dogs) scares me more than sharing my thoughts and feelings with you because they are often dark and confusing, they tend to frighten me. If I withdraw from you it is because I need to get to a place where I feel safe and emotionally stable, to reach out.
Please understand that feeling needed will occasionally cause me to have intense feelings of anxiety which will sometimes bring about tears of frustration and helplessness which may not make any sense to you. I need for you to know that if I could be there for you when you need me to be, I would and I am doing my best as it is.
If I am not calling or messaging you every other day, it is because I no longer believe I am capable of being part of any type of dialogue that exceeds past the basics of a holding an engaging conversation with someone. My conversational abilities have been reduced to greetings and asking you how you are which may be all you require of me but I feel like I’ve let you down by not being able to hold a decent conversation beyond that. You can however, be sure that I will be talkative on those days where I get reprieve from the constant pain and fatigue, these however are not very frequent.
There may be times when I will reach out to you to talk about my struggles with my pain, anxiety and low mood and you might view it as a cry for help or something you need to fix, however this is not the case. I just need someone to listen to me and I’m truly grateful when you do.
Please don’t offer me ‘unsolicited’ advice on how to cope with my pain and my other health issues as you can be sure that there is always someone, somewhere, telling me what I need to do to get better. Please respect these boundaries.
Please know that I am so hard on myself for being a ‘crappy’ friend and you treating me as such, is very hurtful.
No one is harder on me than I am about my failings as a friend. With every relationship that breaks down, I spend days chastising myself on how I’ve messed up because I feel I have let you down.
And finally please understand that I will experience some feelings of resentment as a result of the lifestyle changes I’ve had to make since I got ill.
Oh the horror 😱…
Yes I said it, I will experience feelings of resentment towards you or life in general because you will be doing things that I once was able to do with you and on my own. My life has changed so much and if I distance myself from you it is because you shouldn’t have to be the recipient of my resentment.
I would like to end this letter by telling you how thankful and blessed I feel to have many of you who do understand and have come to these conclusions on your own. I am grateful to those of you who have done your own research on my conditions and who continue to try get a better understanding of what I’m experiencing and I want you to know that I love and appreciate you.