The Impact of Myasthenia Gravis on Friendships
Before I was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis (MG), I was very social. I loved community gatherings and hosted people over at our home almost every week. There was nothing like being with loved ones, enjoying delicious food and great conversations.
When the symptoms of MG started taking over my life, I was no longer able to keep up with my community. I dropped out of weekly small groups at my church, quit my creative side business, and started saying no to get-togethers with friends.
Having a chronic illness can significantly affect friendships. Before my diagnosis, I took pride in being a helper - someone people could count on. I would drop anything for a friend in need.
The first year I was diagnosed with MG, I was mostly bedridden, battling weakness, fatigue, and double vision. I could barely take care of myself, let alone my family.
I stumbled through setting new expectations and redefining roles. A lot of my friendships fell apart as I disappeared from social circles and social media. However, the friendships that remained became stronger than ever before.
The people who stayed with me saw me at my weakest. They drove me to doctor appointments. They took care of my kids - even knowing their bathtime and bedtime routines. This close circle of friends walked me through the hardest season of my life.
Though I experienced the closeness of those friendships during the difficult first 2 years, people got busy as life went on. The COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult for us to see one another. As I started getting better, I started becoming more independent again.
I feel like I am now rediscovering friendships. I have the energy to meet with friends every week but need to stay aware of my limits. I want to enjoy being with my community again, but I am afraid that social gatherings mean a higher risk of exposure to Covid-19.
Though I am vaccinated, I am immunocompromised. There is still so much unknown about this constantly changing virus. I also have 2 young children who cannot be vaccinated yet. There are so many factors that now hinder my ability to develop close friendships.
Building connections in creative ways
I often feel dissatisfaction and yearning for deeper friendships. When I scroll through social media, it's easy to compare the full lives of others to my simple life at home. I long to go out with friends or have meaningful conversations over coffee but am often too tired from taking care of my children.
There are a few things that have helped me feel connected to others while still putting my health first. When I was early in my diagnosis and could barely get out of bed, one thing that gave me a sense of community was listening to podcasts that interested me.
Listening to these voices helped me feel connected to someone - even though they couldn't engage with me. Just hearing their thoughts and stories, especially those with chronic illnesses, helped me feel seen and understood.
Learning to live my life
I restarted my creative community, bringing 4 young women together to create content and plan events. This has forced me to engage more with my team and online with like-minded people. Pursuing this project alongside other women has given me purpose and new excitement that I haven't felt in the last few years.
Friendship now looks very different with MG. I am aware of and honor what my body needs. I don't drop everything for someone else at the sacrifice of my wellbeing. I'm learning that my health needs to come first in order to take care of my loved ones well.
I know that my friendships may never look the same - but I am learning to be content with doing my best, trusting that the right friends will stick around.
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