Howdy, hey! It's Maddie (pronounced: MAD-DAY, for the rhymes).
Growing up with chronic illness, you get used to feeling left out or lonely. I swear all the good and important drama on the playground always happened when I had pneumonia. The thing I remember most about being sick when I was little was the anxious-excitement I faced returning to school. Were my friends still going to be my friends or had they moved onto a new girl? Had people gossiped about me while I was gone? Was I going to miss recess to catch up with classwork? Did I have to leave class to go to the doctor or getting breathing treatments in the nurse's office?
Every kid grows up with a set of life circumstances that changes the way they think and feel. Divorce, a sick parent, job loss, are all challenges kids face in silent ways as they grow up. The general public accepts these circumstances as reasons for kids to act out and they are talked about. People know being raised by a single mom affects the way you behave as an adult whether it has a positive or negative impact. Why are childhood and adult chronic illness not talked about?
Well, here I am talking about it whether you are listening or not. Living with chronic disease is really f*cking lonely (I used * to keep the blog classy). I think most of the time you just get used to the anxiety, depression, and feelings of being left out. It's hard to focus on friendships when you are constantly stressed about symptoms, medications, lab results, and so many other factors. It is hard to allow your brain to give itself a vacation from it and dive into socialization. Plus, social anxiety is not the easiest to combat. The whole global pandemic is making the loneliness even worse.
Here is my FREE advice. Take it or Leave it.
START SMALL AND MAKE THE FIRST MOVE: If you haven't talked to anyone but your mom and dog in months try reaching out to your aunt, cousin, coworker, or friend and send them a funny gif. Ease your way into being a social butterfly.
YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE BEST FRIENDS WITH EVERYONE: I tend to get butt hurt easily and am a people pleaser. Invest in friendship that fills your bucket. My mom always says, "Know where to put people." Are they a lifelong friend? Are they someone you get along with and want to get dinner once in a while? Do they make you feel worse about yourself after hanging out? You are in charge and you get to decide who to invest time into.
FIND COMMON INTEREST: conversation is easier and less stressful when you have things in common. Friendships are a lot like dating.
FILL UP OTHER PEOPLE'S BUCKETS: I love Brene Brown's analogy of filling buckets. I think often we sit around waiting for other people to reach out, or get frustrated with feeling lonely. Acknowledge how you feel, take initiative and do something about it. You have to be a friend, to have a friend. Social Media has convinced us that we are always missing out on something. Don't be afraid to unplug and worry about you and none of the bullshit.
OWN YOUR NARRATIVE: The best advice I can give is to own what makes you insecure or discussing what is making me anxious. If health issues make socialization hard, talk about it. I have a fear of having cataplexy or falling asleep in front of people. My fear is real and happens a LOT. If I hang out with someone new I use the buddy system to make sure someone is there that knows how to handle the system or I simply make a joke and warn them that I may fall asleep because I am narcoleptic AF. Getting this out of the way is really helpful. If you find a friend that "gets it" and stands up for you, hold onto them tight.
BONUS: It's okay to be alone. Again, social media has convinced us that we need to be socializing and having fun 24/7. That's WHACK. Take time for yourself. Don't feel lonely because you want to simply spend a weekend catching up on sleep. Be comfortable in your own skin (even though it's sometimes really hard).