I’ve always been an optimistic person. I’ve been cheerful, energetic and usually up for anything.
But the fatigue, pain, muscle weakness and fine motor skill issues – not to mention the emotional toll – of dealing with autoimmune disease has left me a little lacking in the social calendar.
I’ve backed out of plans, turned down offers and not initiated social happenings because it’s hard. It takes a lot of energy to be social when you feel like this day in and day out. Think of it like when you have the flu or a sinus infection – you don’t really feel like hanging out with everyone or going out for a good time.
The problem is that you began to be isolated. When someone turns down offers, or backs out of plans because of fatigue, pain, or simply not having the energy to be “on” at the gathering or event, people tend to stop thinking to invite you. It’s normal…if you’re not around much they forget to think to include you in their future plans. I don’t blame anyone – and if someone was always turning down my offers I’d stop offering as well.
But I saw something on twitter that struck a chord with me today.
Our first instinct when someone we know or care about is struggling with illness or injury, tragic events, or simply overwhelmed with life happenings or changes is to say “Let me know if you need anything!” or “Let me know if you need time away!” or “Let me know when you feel up to doing something!”
They’re kind offers, and I have no doubt that they are offered sincerely. I’ve offered them up myself. The problem is that those of us with chronic issues have needs that go on for so long, and that involve so many areas of our lives, that we simply don’t know what to ask for help with. We don’t know where to begin. We don’t know how to pick which things are “help worthy” or others would be willing to do for us. The broad offers of help usually go without ever being “cashed in” by the person to whom they were offered.
Instead, here’s a way you can help someone struggling with chronic issues that may cause them to feel socially isolated. Keep asking. Keep inviting. No matter how many times they decline or back out. Those of us with chronic fatigue or chronic illness never know when we’ll have a “good day” (or several in a row!) or when one of the adventures will be within our “energy limit” or simply so enticing that we’ll sacrifice using up energy reserves (usually meaning other things in our life won’t get done).
Keep inviting the Eeyore’s in your life to participate in your adventures and shenanigans…and don’t expect them to pretend to feel good.