Maintaining friendships as a young adult is difficult due to time constraints imposed by the demands of young kids, a busy career, or care of aging parents. We’re all “guilty” of getting wrapped up in the daily activities of our lives. It’s not that we don’t want to spend time with our friends, it just happens that this “stage” of life is busy and so sometimes friendships unintentionally fall by the wayside. Add a chronic illness to the mix, and preserving bonds can seem next to impossible.
Following my idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) diagnosis, my doctor told me to consider my priorities carefully. I needed to think about where I expended my physical, mental, and emotional energies, as I couldn’t keep up my previous rigorous pace. Although I put time with friends on my list of priorities, my disease and other aspects of my life have prevented me from spending as much time with them as I’d like. Recently, I reflected on why that might be.
In previous columns, and on the Pulmonary Fibrosis News Forums, I’ve discussed the breaking, bonding, and forming of my social support network. I’ve also written about how some friends flee in the wake of a life-threatening diagnosis. Sadly, I believe friendships inevitably change after diagnosis.
I’ve written about friendships changing because of other people’s reactions to my disease, either initially or as it progresses. Recently, I reflected on my actions and wondered about the aspects of my life that make maintaining friendships difficult. Like many young adults, I am a new homeowner, have pets for which I care, and a demanding career. I try to adhere to a healthy lifestyle by getting sufficient sleep and exercise and eating well. When I factor in all of the additional requirements of a chronic illness, it feels like there are not enough hours in a day. So, naturally, keeping in touch with friends falls to the bottom of my priority list.
What factors make it hard to maintain friendships when you’re chronically ill? Following is my list of the things that I’ve realized affect my ability to see my friends:
- Fatigue: Living with a lung disease is exhausting in more ways than one. After working a full day, I am physically drained and need to let my mind and body rest. Hearing what is going on in my friends’ lives is important to me, and I want to be fully present when they share with me. However, in the evenings, I no longer have the mental stamina to be fully engaged in conversation, and I am too tired to share updates about my own life. So, instead, I try to set aside time on weekends to catch up with friends.
- Reluctance to share “bad news”: No one likes sharing bad news, and as a patient with IPF, I’ve had my fair share of it. Sometimes when I don’t have a positive update to share, I withhold information from friends. I might avoid seeing them because I don’t want to share the latest decline in a recent pulmonary function test or a recent infection due to being immunocompromised.
- Medical appointments: Chronic illness patients can be overwhelmed at managing a large number of medical appointments, and scheduling social visits with friends can present additional challenges. One reason I’ve not spent as much time with friends as I’d like to since my diagnosis is due to the demanding schedule of my medical appointments.
- Finances: While spending time with friends doesn’t have to cost money, it’s nice to catch up with a friend over dinner or a fun outing. Unfortunately, many people living with IPF can no longer work due to the progression of their disease. Lack of finances can inhibit social activities with friends as a consequence of being unable to work or due to the high cost of medications.
What factors make maintaining friendships difficult for you?
Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.