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Losing Friends Because of Chronic Illness: Sadly Not Uncommon

It Was Too Hard to See Me Like That!?!

The last time I can remember a friend walking out of my life because of chronic illness was after I spent many months in the hospital during college. This friend wasn’t just any friend; she was a close friend who was part of my core group of friends at school.

We used to spend almost every evening together with the rest of our friends in one of our dorm rooms. Memories of hanging out with those friends are my favorite memories of my time at the University. I was extremely sick during the last year I was at school and because of that our time together dwindled as I became more and more ill and isolated from the world. Once I had gone into the hospital and spent 6 months there I barely saw any of my friends. A few visited a couple times, most didn’t visit at all, and by the end of it I felt like I didn’t have anyone left. 

A couple years later my friend reached out to me because it had been bothering her that we drifted apart. She told me about how sorry she 

felt but that it was just too hard for her to see me as sick as I was. I finally had an answer to why she only visited me once while I was in the hospital. After that one visit she didn’t want to come back because it was too hard on her. Too difficult…

for HER?!

Oh, I am so sorry. I’m sorry that MY time in the hospital and MY chronic illness was so difficult for YOU. 

It hurt my feelings knowing that my friend abandoned our friendship when I was at my lowest and needed the support of my loved ones. It did not come as a surprise though; I have often lost friendships because of my health. Sometimes it’s intentional, like with this friend who decided to distance herself because it was too hard to see me as sick as I was. Most of the time it isn’t intentional; usually there is a drifting apart as my friends lives move forward in my absence. 

Laying down in my friends dorm room in pain with 2 friends sitting nearby

Time Moves Forward for Them; It Stops for You

have accidents quite often that I tried to conceal but the kids at school knew and they teased me viciously for it. When I got to middle school I used to get accused of faking sick so I wouldn’t have to hang out with people or go places when I was actually really sick and afraid to leave home. 

It can be difficult to find friends who will stand by your side when you get sick. Quite often this happens when you start having to miss out on activities, school, or work where you used to see your friends. Their lives go on without you there and your life feels frozen in time.

There are people who will walk away because you often have to cancel plans. There are people who won’t believe you when you say

 After that hospitalization nothing in my life was the same. My close group of friends stopped calling and visiting and they were no longer my friends. They continued on in school without me and their lives moved forward while I was at home picking up the pieces of mine.

I have lost friends at various stages of my life because of my chronic illnesses. When I was in grade school I used to

you don’t feel well and they will never try to understand what you’re going through. There will be those who say they care but can’t find the time to call or visit when you are in the hospital.  

I’m not going to lie and say that everything happens for a reason or some other BS like that because losing friends sucks. Even if they don’t mean it or no one is at fault; it just sucks.  

Fantastic but Few: Discovering Your Inner Circle

How to handle losing friends when you have a chronic illness? It isn’t easy. It takes time and experience and truth be told it’ll never not suck, but it can get easier. Having a chronic illness has shown me who my real friends are, as cliche as that sounds. When I think back on the friendships I’ve lost I would not want any of those people to be a part of my life now. If they can walk out on me when I need people the most then I don’t want them as friends.

I find it so beneficial to get rid of the people in my life who bring me down or do not treat me the way I want to be treated. I find it equally beneficial to spend plenty of time with people who make me feel good about myself. This is very important when you have

With a group of girls at our work holiday party standing in front of the bar.

a chronic illness like Inflammatory Bowel Disease. You need friends in your real life to support you. Friends who don’t have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis but support you all the way. 

I know I can be sick around my friends and they won’t judge me. They will just tease me because I am wearing my pajamas at their house and haven’t washed my hair in days. They show up unannounced to check in on me and don’t judge me for having dishes in my sink and a messy home. I can be “ugly” around them and still feel beautiful. 

There have definitely been stages in my life where I felt like I didn’t have a single friend in the world. I never thought things would get better but they did. There will be bad friends but there will also be 

friends who read up on your disease and ask you questions and try to understand. They know when you don’t feel well even when you don’t say so.

My friends are amazing and I met them during a point in my life where major change had occurred. My life was going through transition as I lost those friends that I had in college and was still not in a condition where I could go back yet. I was still recovering from my surgeries but wanted to get back out into the world so I looked for a part time job on Craigslist because I knew I couldn’t go back to doing what I had been right away. I got hired at a hair salon and the rest is history!

My friends are the people with me when I am hospitalized. They don’t look away when I’m talking to them with an NG tube sucking blood and goo out of my body. They have seen me at my worst. They make fun of me and my disease but in the most joking silly way to make me feel better. My friends mean the world to me; they are true friends.

Friendships are so important. Spending time with others helps give me a feeling of normalcy in my life. 


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