As I've mentioned before, I live with a chronic illness called Fibromyalgia. It's not fun, and it limits me in a lot of ways. I've had a pretty terrible run health-wise throughout my teen years and into early adulthood - I missed a huge chunk of my senior years of high school because I almost always had some kind of virus or infection, I've had to leave uni twice now because of mental/physical health reasons, and late last year I had to tactically retreat from my job because my body was giving out from underneath me. I've never been the most social creature, but in recent months I've retreated even further into myself and away from contact with anyone outside of my house, and I thought that perhaps I would try to explain why.
Fibro is a fickle illness. Its main symptom is a varying degree of physical pain, as well as cognitive difficulties such as memory and concentration issues, and fatigue. Some days it will be mild and I'll be able to get up and go out and feel almost normal, with only a few twinges here and there. Other days it will be almost totally unbearable to even get out of bed. My joints will swell, my limbs will stiffen, my head will cloud and even my bed sheets will feel like needles being dragged across my skin. The light hurts my eyes and the noise of the street outside will sound deafening. While I don't have bad days as often as I did a couple of months ago, they are still frequent, and they are still debilitating. The good thing about social media is that I can choose to only share my good days, so I guess from an outsiders perspective things don't look that difficult, but I only share about 10% of what's really happening in my life.
Sometimes it's hard not to feel as if I've been left behind by life. While I watch everyone else graduate from university, move out of home, get married and start families (granted I'm still a baby myself so I'm way too young for those last two!), I'm still living with my parents and trying to work out how to set myself up for a life that will work around my illness. I used to dream of having children, but now the thought of running around after kids when just a trip to the shops knocks me around sends a shudder down my spine. Unfortunately, this also applies to being social. Holding a conversation can be difficult, because I'll lose my train of thought, or I won't be able to remember the words I want to say, or I'll have trouble following what someone is saying and I'll get distracted. I can't drink without having a hangover from hell that lasts for three days, and without a drink or two as a crutch I will often feel too anxious to venture out into the night with a big group of people. Hugs, as much as I love them, will often hurt me and there's nothing I hate more than wincing when I'm greeting someone I haven't seen in a long time because they don't know and I'm too embarrassed to say anything.
I guess what I'm asking for is patience and a little understanding. I want my friends to understand that I haven't forgotten them, and that it's not that I don't want to go out - it's that sometimes I can't. I promise that if I have to miss your birthday party or any other special event, I will make it up to you on another day in a quieter place. If we are out together, I'm probably going to have to sit down for ten minutes a lot sooner than you will, I'm just too embarrassed to say so and I push myself anyway and land myself in bed for the next week. I want you to know that even if we only see each other every couple of months, I still love you! I still want to see you and talk to you! We're still friends and I haven't run away to live in the jungle, I'm probably just having an off week or two. I promise that I'm still the same person that I've always been, I'm just a little slower and sometimes I come with a pink walking stick, but I'll still be around whenever you need me - even if it's through a screen.