What would happen if you disappeared?
I don’t mean what friend would be interviewed by the local paper if you were kidnapped; I’m talking about ~unforeseen circumstances~ preventing you from attending school/college/other education/work/social events…
What would happen if after all these years of having you around suddenly… You’re never there. My ‘unforeseen circumstance’ -if I can really call it that- is ME. (If you haven’t read anything of mine before and don’t know anything about me you might think I mean ‘me’; I don’t.) My chronic illness hit me at the age of five and has rarely left me alone since. I’m used to not socialising all that much but my health goes up and down so I have been able to make friends at some points. Back to my original question: what do you think would happen?
Honestly, I used to be stuck in bed, at home in my room with as little light as possible when everyone else my age- it seemed to me -was out; having fun, learning things, looking forward to the weekend when they would doubtless have a thousand and one social engagements, and I would imagine my closest friend coming to visit me. I knew what chair they would sit on, whether or not they would bring a card or gift, how long they would stay… No one ever turned up. Would you? As I got older I told myself I was being selfish. I had time to think of them, no clubs or homework to distract me. To them I was one of many. How could I expect them to devote all their time to worrying about me?
Slowly my opinions changed. I wasn’t asking for the world. A message a week between say ten people is not wanting others to obsess over me. You can probably remember a time in your life where you’ve been stuck at home with a sickness of some kind and maybe you are now recalling messages from friends and family hoping you ‘get well soon!’ and thinking well they thought of me then… Sorry to tell you but that’s totally different. Empathy: they know what your going through and can understand your feelings as their own because they’ve been through the same thing. Or will at least have some knowledge about what you have temporarily wrong with you. A long term illness is different because I mean come on! I don’t even understand the way ME works myself so how can I expect you to? How can I explain without you thinking it’s just laziness? People don’t know how to act around disabilities- especially if ‘you don’t look sick’ -the same can be said for mental health. Are you scared of saying the wrong thing? Do you not want to ask to meet up in case you have to face me in a wheelchair? Or have you just moved on with your life?
If someone you used to know is now rarely present in your world maybe you could argue that it’s their job to contact you. But think of it like this for a moment: if they haven’t got in touch maybe it’s because they are scared of all of the above situations. Maybe they want you to think of them as they were before rather than as ‘the girl in the wheelchair’ or ‘the one who went a bit nutty‘. Don’t be afraid to talk to them. Find an excuse if you must. Send a picture of something they gave you that you still use or something to do with memories you’ve shared like a photograph. Show them an article you’ve read about their illness. There are any number of things you can do to let them know that you remember they exist and to start a conversation. Most importantly; don’t judge them. You don’t have to understand, just believe what they are going through is real.
Think about how you would feel if you were stuck at home with no one your own age. Imagine what a difference just one or two people could make. I know a couple of very special people now who I can talk to. Who don’t make me feel like I need to ‘put a brave face’ on everything. If reading this has made you think of someone you know but you’d forgotten them for so long you’re sure they would hate you by now, don’t wait any longer. Apologise if you have to, ask how they are and be prepared to listen, not just to the standard ‘fine thanks, you?’ but to the truth.
Don’t ignore the friends who go silent; they’re often the ones who need you the most.