June 8th is National Best Friends Day
Team member Sarah has written a short blog exploring the importance and sometimes the cost of friendships while dealing with a chronic illness like Long Covid.
Some say that you really find out who your friends are when you become chronically ill. It’s true to some extent but friendship is still a two-way process meaning you both must stay invested for the friendship to work and be what you both want and need.
In this short blog, we look at some of the challenges that people living with Long Covid and their friends must deal with for their friendships to be meaningful and nurturing.
Living with Long Covid brings about numerous challenges, and one area where its impact is often felt deeply is in friendships. Maintaining friendships can be incredibly difficult for people living with a chronic illness, as the illness is often characterised by unpredictable symptoms, frequent medical appointments, and limitations on physical and emotional energy, which can strain even the most resilient of friendships.
The unpredictability of Long Covid can make it challenging to commit to planning. It is often social plans that are changed before work plans, simply because of the need to work for purpose and money. Fluctuating symptoms and sudden health setbacks can force people living with chronic illness to cancel or rearrange gatherings repeatedly or at very short notice, leading to frustration and disappointment among friends. This constant uncertainty can strain friendships, making it hard for others to understand the realities of living with an illness for years, and possibly more years to come.
Living with chronic illness can result in reduced availability for socialising due to limited energy, increased fatigue, and post-exertional malaise (PEM). This can make it difficult to maintain the same level of connection and involvement in friendships, potentially causing feelings of isolation and detachment for the person living with chronic illness and abandonment in their friends.
Despite these difficulties, maintaining friendships with people who have Long Covid is not impossible and can still bring huge waves of joy. Meeting people online or just sending a quick email or message to someone can have a huge impact. Connecting through a charity like Long Covid SOS can bring support in terms of new information about your condition, collaboration with new networks and opportunities to become involved in research.
Open communication, understanding, and empathy on both sides are key. Friends who take the time to educate themselves about your illness, offer flexibility in plans and activities, and are willing to listen and support can make a huge difference. Good friendships can help people sleep better and even heal faster. Additionally, friends can help a person with a chronic illness shape how they view their condition and how they can change their lives to manage it, and anyone who has a friend who does that is worth their weight in gold!