Friendships turned upside down...

(40 Posts)
JustWonderingAbout Tue 22-Apr-14 18:59:14

I've been really unwell recently. Not been at the school gate since January and have been in hospital for major surgery. It's been a very frightening time. Though I'm very fortunate (tumour appears to have been taken out in its own capsule-like enclosure, despite being cancerous and in my spinal canal and sacrum), I was literally scared for my life and there was a very real risk of my not being able to walk again / to be going through chemo and radiotherapy. I'm currently being monitored closely, 17 weeks post diagnosis, 11 weeks post op.

Many life-long friends have not yet visited me - and I've a mind to avoid them. I was absolutely terrified and would've so appreciated their caring visits or calls. Now it feels ... too late. Mums I'd spent the last year and a half charging to on drop offs and pick ups, and who I'd mentioned my diagnosis and forthcoming operation, didn't get in touch. No flowers from the class. Nothing.
Yet, thankfully, some acquaintances have surprised me by coming to the hospital, sitting with me through physio (I had to learn to walk again) and bringing food over for me. I was so moved by their kindness and by the realisation that some people I'd seen every week but not thought of as close friends did more for me than my closest friends.

I'm finding it hard to know how to respond to my 'close friends' now. The ones who called me en route to the shopping centre to 'see how I am' and apologise for not having popped over. They still haven't but, now that the panic is over, they're wanting to come over. I'm not feeling like I want them over but feel bad. However much I understand that some people find 'scary stuff' hard to deal with, I needed them and ... it wasn't that scary (for them).

School drop off tomorrow. I'm finally, sort of able to do the school drop off but am dreading it as I don't know how to be around people I'm used to being friendly with. It all feels sour to me. Very. I don't want to smile and fake it - but neither do I want to say anything. How would you play it?

Purplepoodle Tue 22-Apr-14 21:00:55

If you don't want to fake it or say anything I would get to the gates just before the bell or if your kids are old enough to leave drop them in the playground and make a sharp exit. Perhaps wear some head phones. If they stop you to chat,keep it minimal and make an excuse that you have to shoot off. If they want to come over, I would just say that your not up to it yet ect

iamsoannoyed Tue 22-Apr-14 21:05:13

Well, I'm slightly going to go against the grain here. I think it's a bit of a mix between YABU and YANBU.

I can understand why you feel let down by close friends- but I think you are being slightly hard on the mums who you know from school (unless they are actual friends who you see outside of school drop offs/pick ups and playdates).

I know some mums from DDs class well enough to have a chat, even go for a coffee or the occasional lunch with our DCs. I don't feel I know them well enough to start phoning them or visiting them in hospital if they became really unwell. I wouldn't want to impose myself if they had been very ill, as I don't know them well enough to know whether they'd appreciate my contacting them or would rather space and some peace. I wouldn't expect them to contact me if I was ill, and I don't think be disappointed they hadn't. I wouldn't expect class flowers or anything like that. I think to suggest these people have let you down is a little unreasonable. To be angry with them also unfair and a little pointless- they'll not really understand why you've stopped speaking to them.

Close friends are different though- they should be there for you during tough times. If they don't support and help you (without a good reason, such as their own serious illness/that of their child, spouse or parent or personal crisis), then it does throw a different light on your friendship and I can understand why you'd be upset with them.

That said, I do think you should bear in mind not everyone deals with serious illness well- I'm a Dr and I've seen all sorts of reactions (sometimes relates to previous experience of serious illness either directly or that of a close relative). These people may be keeping their distance as they know their own emotional baggage means they aren't able to help you, even if they might want to- they are, in a round about way, trying to help you by not making things worse (as they see it). It's a bit daft, but that happens all the time.

Other people will just have been a bit useless, either not knowing what to say (so handle it badly by saying nothing, leaving you feeling unsupported) and others will have been caught up in their own lives.

Only you know what their friendship means to you. To me, the relevant question is not at what level of help (or lack of) do you draw the line between "friend" and "ex-friend". That's a bit of an odd way to look at it. IMO. You need to decide if you want to salvage any of these friendships?

Ultimately, holding onto bitterness (however understandable) only really has a negative effect on you though- so I'd politely distance yourself from those who you don't feel you can salvage a friendship with and see what bridges can be built with those you'd like to remain friends with.

daisychain01 Tue 22-Apr-14 21:22:32

I'd politely distance yourself from those who you don't feel you can salvage a friendship with and see what bridges can be built with those you'd like to remain friends with

This is a wonderful bit of advice which I have taken on board myself now that I've read it.

Justwandering, I wish you well and lots of positive thoughts to you!

JustWonderingAbout Tue 22-Apr-14 21:35:47

Good advice, thank you. Obviously, I'd misread certain friendships and it's sad to revaluate them as they are vs as I'd imagined them to be. Oddly, two close friends are both GPs and have been the least kind emotionally. They've been very matter of fact about things - much like the relationship I have with my surgeons and oncologist. I'm sure that this is a result of years of having to deal with patients vs loved ones on this level, rather than the emotional. And I've not been terribly demanding emotionally.
Funny how what my DF once said now rings true: you'll never forget those who visored you in your time of need. Equally, it's hard to forget those who didn't.

JustWonderingAbout Tue 22-Apr-14 22:01:09

Thank you all for your very good wishes. I'm very, very fortunate to be doing as well as I am. I hope and pray that things will keep clear and become clearer in other ways ;)

Openupyoureyes Tue 22-Apr-14 23:15:38

I'm recovering from breast cancer and I have been shocked and amazed at the people who have taken time to call, visit, offer lifts to hospital to give DH a break, or to cook a meal and bring it round, and the ones who haven't even bothered to send a text or FB message.

It's not that I think I should be a priority for them, but when someone you've been close friends with for 20 years and always been there for her through her traumas, can't even bring herself to send a message to say "thinking of you", and someone you've known for a few months or so turns up with a bag of essential shopping, or a bunch of tulips, or a friend who comes round to hold your hand while you have your hair shaved off, then it is definitely time to re-evaluate those friendships.

I send you good wishes, love and light JustWondering

JustWonderingAbout Wed 23-Apr-14 14:24:15

OpenYourEyes, it's a real 'friend shuffler' of an experience, isn't it ;(
I'd never given friendships thought in terms of who was close and who was more of an acquaintance - but if clearly got it soooo badly wrong with so many and feeling quite alone now. I'm no longer interested in those 'close' friends who were nowhere to be seen when I was ... terrified. They knew both what was happening and how I felt. Can't be bothered. I'm focusing on the few who were. It's a difficult process. But I'm so lucky health-wise. I'm having to take stick that I'm just standing in the school line again!
I'm sorry you've been through such a terrible time of it and hope you're doing okay. Such a silly statement (okay!?!), but I'm sending you strength and wishes for only good results and health ahead.

Preciousbane Wed 23-Apr-14 16:02:23

Serious illness really sorts the wheat from the chaff when it comes to friends. I have been there and done that. The oddest was one of my oldest friends just didn't hack it as apparently I wasn't fun anymore.

very best wishes to you x

JustWonderingAbout Wed 23-Apr-14 17:48:15

Precious, I hope you're 'more fun' than you have been - and that you're enjoying life without her.
I had one friend I'd asked not to tell anyone about what was happening (I was very frightened). She did and when I asked her not to tell anyone else, sent me a text to say 'most people aren't interested in your life'.
Hmmm
Nice

jay55 Wed 23-Apr-14 18:10:46

Concentrate on the people you found to be better friends than you imagined. Let the others drift, no point spending any energy on them.

Well, now you have this information on who you can depend on in a crisis, and who is just fluff. There is room for fluff too, just don't invest anything much in them unless it suits your. I still plan to have fun with these people, i.e. meet up for coffee or fun events. So long it suits me, and only if they do the organising/inviting,etc.

Be thankful and loyal to those people who looked after you. Those are gems, and the ones to invest in for future friendships.

At least, that's what I'm planning to do.

Preciousbane Wed 23-Apr-14 22:01:10

It is frightening being ill, I do miss my old life, even the spreadsheets at work!

Onwards and upwards for us all.

JustWonderingAbout Wed 23-Apr-14 22:25:17

True words and good advice.
Powerful lessons these trials!
Onwards n upwards, Precious. Wishing you 100% well.

pastthemission Wed 23-Apr-14 23:52:00

(Namechanging for this as it's a topic close to my heart at the moment and I feel weird about it still.)

Thinking of you OP - and just posting to say that I have had the same experience - I wasn't gravely ill myself but my partner had a v aggressive and suddenly-diagnosed cancer, when I was 7 months pregnant and also suffering from severe AND. After a long period of gruelling inpatient chemo and time in ICU my partner is in remission (amazingly), and despite a traumatic birth as well and being thrown out by my landlord, I'm on antidepressants and slowly getting better from PND.

Honestly, when I think of what could have happened and how positive things are - tentatively - now, compared to then, I'm amazed. But the thing I find myself needing therapy for is how my friends and work colleagues (and family, to be honest) behaved. Some people texted orcalled and offered to do stuff and then just never did anything, nothing materialised (one person offered to bring some food for me the week of my partner's diagnosis when I'd hardly eaten all week, but then texted to say her mum was coming firvthe weekend so she couldn't bring anything after all.) Some just never got in touch at all, not even once - well, until now when they are keen to drop round, see the baby, go out for drinks etc. as if nothing has happened, though they know perfectly well.

Work colleagues who I thought were close friends just dropped me - I mean not even sending an email,
seeing pictures on Facebook of them all out at the pub where I'd normally be, but all invitations just stopped. And these were people who I'd supported through their own difficult times and bereavements. (It didn't help I suppose that I had to take sick leave from work for severe AND when I was 7m pregnant. But not a single person got in touch - not an email, nothing.) Friends who lived 5 mins away from the hospital never visited my partner or replied to texts, but now want to pop over for a nice evening without any mention of it all. People who worked 5 mins from my house didn't call or pop round, ask how I was, bring me any food after I'd been in the hospital all day and heavily pg - nothing. And I just feel so betrayed and upset, I can't think of hear people in the same way or to be honest get over how selfish and thoughtless they were. And I feel it's a judgment on me for having rubbish friends and colleagues, like I must not be worth anything or have invested myself in the wrong people. sad It's this that I find the worst thing to deal with, as now I have to see some of these people at work every day and not make them feel socially awkward with my own bitterness and upset, but I really feel dreadful in myself about it, and don't know what to do. I would like to say something to them, but can't; and neither can I just put it out of my mind and be all socially friendly as before. I truly think I won't ever be the same person I was beforehand sad

Anyway, I'm sorry to hijack your thread with no solutions but just my sympathies and similar experience! You have been through so much, OP, and those people will never understand how that kind of experience changes you. In some ways you have gained something valuable and hard- won, a kind of knowledge that others don't have. I don't know how to mend myself really but I try to be kind and meaningful where it matters, and to make my peace with my old life having suddenly dropped away, but it is hard. xxxx

JustWonderingAbout Thu 24-Apr-14 22:50:45

Past, I've PMed you.
Xxx

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