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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?

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

Past, I've PMed you.

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 Wed 23-Apr-14 22:25:17

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

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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MomOfTwoGirls2 Wed 23-Apr-14 21:07:49

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.

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.

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'.

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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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.

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 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 ;)

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.

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!

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.

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

JustWonderingAbout Tue 22-Apr-14 20:40:48

It's not interrupting. It's identifying. Similar experiences in reevaluating relationships. Hurtful shifts in perception, letting go of things that meant so much to us but couldn't live up to expectations. I'm glad that you both (musical & tunnocks) have found each other to relate to, too. Whether it's relating through having the same illness personally or through a lov one having the same as someone else's, there's great comfort in that identification. It's a great help, IME.

AndHarry Tue 22-Apr-14 20:38:28

I've also been through a cancer diagnosis and didn't really want a whole lot of people fussing over me. I just wanted to be left alone with my family and a quick text or call from friends was perfect.

One thing I did notice is that different friends and acquaintances are good at different things. Some are good at general sociability, some at child-centred friendships, some at organising, some at crisis-management and some for the fun times. They're all my friends but just like you and I differed in our needs and expectations, they differ in their strengths and weaknesses and shine in different areas.

There are some people who are fair weather friends and couldn't actually care less about the other person. There are also some people who thrive on other people's misfortune, getting every juicy gory detail and the feeling of importance that 'being there' gives them. Both types are selfish and all about what they can get from the 'friendship'. But there are far more people who genuinely do care and want to help and just get it wrong or are so worried about getting it wrong that they end up doing nothing, and caring people who might fade into the day-to-day background but come into their own in a crisis.

I wouldn't be too harsh on your friends. The fair weathers and ghouls will be fairly easy to spot in the next few months and can be weeded out when you're feeling up to it.

The other thing is that such a distressing time can leave you feeling very depressed, especially post-surgery. I definitely suffered from depression at right around the time that everything was 'fixed' and I 'should' have been over the moon that I was going to be ok.

I hope your recovery progresses well and you're feeling much better soon.

motherofmonster Tue 22-Apr-14 20:37:11

i know you don't want to get into a argument with them but i must admit i would be tempted to say to the ones that now want to visit and have play dates "oh i'm ever do sorry but i don't have the time. I'm sure you understand as you seemed to not have had a spare moment over the past few months"

Musicaltheatremum Tue 22-Apr-14 20:34:10

tunnocks sorry to hear about your husband. Mine had a brain tumour too, it's a horrible illness.

Apologies to you OP for intruding on your thread with this.

Musicaltheatremum Tue 22-Apr-14 20:31:53

In a crisis you find your true friends. I had a good friend who I saw frequently and she was really helpful to me the weekend my husband was dying, going to pick up medication for me and took me to the registrars to register the death. I saw her a few times afterwards but she has rarely contacted me since. Last time I popped into her to say hello quickly she did not seem too happy (she always used to welcome me if I popped in and were talking only if I hadn't seen her for ages not every week) 2 year anniversary and my daughters 21st and she hasn't been near.

Take a deep breath OP. you have been to hell and back and you start to re evaluate things and people in your life after such traumas. so make time for proper friends and forget the other ones.

I am please you have done well and I hope you get the all clear after all this

JustWonderingAbout Tue 22-Apr-14 20:25:06

Thank you everyone. I was a bit worried about getting flamed for being so self-indulgent. I was rather wondering whether I'd be told not to assume my life took on such importance to the rest of the world - including those who know me well and/or those who I see and chat to every day. Clearly I don't. I'd like to think that I'd have contacted others out of concern and care if they'd suddenly been sucked from Life as We Know It into Scary Ville. But I do understand, if not appreciate, that many oriole will have presumed that I'd wanted space, privacy, etc. I'm wondering whether (I wonder a lot) I am unusual in respect of having been desperate for anyone who cared to knock, call or text to have eased my anxiety through 'handholding'. It was noticeably silent on all counts.
Anyway, thank you all who've responded fir not making me feel 'wrong' or self-indulgent to have been in need and to feel disappointed or angry about the many who have disappointed me.
Tunnock, sounds like you're in the thick of it now. I remember visits as you described. Passing their own time doing 'the right thing' while not realising that what I most needed was for them to ask how I was and share my anxiety instead of avoid it and pads the time. I needed so much not to be left alone in that terrifying place. But it's rare, IME, for others to either be able, experienced or insightful enough to be able to provide what was needed.
It was so lonely with those people. But I still appreciated them being there. My most wonderful contact was with my mum's friend. She calked. She'd had cancer. We chatted about things. We talked about how I was at my best and very worst moments - and his I wanted to hurl my pull boxes against the wall. I did so at one point.

One question: what do I do about old friends who have not yet bothered to visit but now want a family okay date now all is seemingly blowing over? And what about those who visited once in four months? It just doesn't feel enough. And those friends/ acquaintances who came to take me out (couldn't drive for months) and give me sanity.... Thank GD for them!

mercibucket Tue 22-Apr-14 20:03:46

i wouldnt over-think it if you can. there are all different responses to this kind of thing and most people are not actively unkind. some cant cope, some are a bit shallow, some just dont know what to say. equally, some people are v good in a crisis, but less so in the day to day friendship.
you know where you stand with them wrt physical illness so nothing to expect there in future, but i wouldnt write them off unless they were actively horrible - unless you really want to of course! you might prefer a smaller group of 'true' friends.

SpiderNugent Tue 22-Apr-14 19:55:44

my husband is my best friend, he is always there for me when times are really tough, he is the one person i can rely on

we dont need anyone else smile

MomOfTwoGirls2 Tue 22-Apr-14 19:50:33

On the Tamoxifen thread in general health, you find this is fairly common experience. Both having friends disappoint and of previous acquaintances (now firm friends) really stepping up and really helping out.

Don't take it personally, it seems to be human nature.

On school gate, just go, hold your head high. Let people come to you. Some won't know what to say and avoid you and others will be lovely and supportive. At least, that is my experience.

It is great that your health is improving. I also wish you continuing good health.

tunnocksteacake Tue 22-Apr-14 19:41:44

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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