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Coping with a close friend's illness

(17 Posts)
LucyMinter Mon 06-Jul-09 06:08:07

I don't want to be identified so have changed my name for this post. (sorry)

My best, but long distance friend is currently really ill. She's just found out and is understandably terribly upset, angry and finding it hard to cope. obviously I've been joining in with everyone else, trying to listen to her and help her feel less alone and so on, but it's taking its toll, somehow...I don't really have anyone I can talk to about it, and it's making me feel so miserable all the time, so drained - we usually talk every few weeks, and email maybe once a week, we both have kids and have known each other a long time.

This must sound incredibly selfish but I feel so low, and am taking it out on my children...I'm exhausted from thinking about it all and crying and also trying not to cry, as there's no time for it - the children are always here. I can't cope with anything, I'm wondering whether others have felt like this, whether it will pass, or just get worse and worse.

I'm sorry to post about something so sensitive, and hope not to offend anyone - just feel like I am falling apart at the seams, and it's not even about me sadsad

My poor friend must feel a million times worse. i don't want to lose her sad

LucyMinter Mon 06-Jul-09 06:09:38

I meant that is our usual level of contact - at the moment it's daily. Not that I mind - i desperately want to be here for her, but it hurts so much. What can i do.

HolyGuacamole Mon 06-Jul-09 07:00:28

Can relate to this, have a friend with MS. I don't think there is much you can do except for to be there to listen sad It's important for you to deal with your own feelings though. I know this might sound weird, but you don't want how you feel about it to rub off on your friend and make her feel worse. Plus you have to find some positives to actually make yourself feel better about it if that is at all possible.

Reading up on the illness and becoming better informed. I don't know what is wrong with your friend but sometimes knowing the medical facts and, treatments and possible ways forward can help you to deal with it better within yourself. Also, a lot of illnesses have official forums and advice websites that are designed for friends/relatives, might be worth looking into. You may also see websites or maybe a professional phoneline that she can call?

If your friend has recently found out about her illness, the chances are that her emotions are very high with shock and that with time, things might level off a bit to allow her to deal with it better?

It's not easy though and I sympathise totally. Also, don't feel selfish for having time out, you need it! You can't be a good support if you worry yourself ill. What about maybe organising a day out for you both (or even just you yourself), a nice massage or a walk in the park, a coffee, whatever it is you like doing for relaxation? Maybe being in a positive environment can go some way to making you feel better?

LucyMinter Mon 06-Jul-09 07:05:58

Thankyou. I am sorry to hear about your friend's MS sad that's horrid.

Mine has cancer. I have been reading and reading and know possibly far too much about it - the different treatments, outcomes, etc etc - it felt like a way of coping, but in the end it's making me feel worse I think.

I think it brings back the awful feelings from 12 years ago when another close friend died. It was my first proper experience of losing a friend and hurt like hell - and now this, at the same time of year, feels as though it has never gone away sad

I can't grieve for someone who is still alive. It's all wrong.

I've found a support forum and posted there, waiting for someone to reply - hopefully it's somewhere obscure enough that my friend won't go there too and see it.
thankyou for listening to me xx

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Mon 06-Jul-09 07:10:20

Is she really long distance? Another country or is she commutable to? If at all possible maybe you need to go and see her, hug her, and cry with her. Its not quite the same, but when my mum was terminally ill by bf came to se me as she struggled to say what she wanted to say to me on the phone, and for a short while, she just hugged me, cried with me and told me she loved me and said how shit it all was. It did the world of good not to have someone try to explain it away to me, help me understand, but actually be upset for and with me, and acknowledge how unfair it seemed, if that makes sense. I do not know if your friend would appreciate this as every one is different, and I do not know what her illness is, but I really think you could do with seeing her, if at all possible.

LucyMinter Mon 06-Jul-09 07:14:32

Thankyou Pavlov. Yes, it's reachable, would be a big day trip but well worth it - I haven't been to see her for years.

I've offered to go but waiting for the go ahead from my friend, she's still in shock, and I don't want to overwhelm her. I've been saying all those things, and in many ways we're accustomed to communicating by phone or email, but it isn't the same as being there with her. I wish I was nearer but I will go and visit asap.

Sorry about your mum xx

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Mon 06-Jul-09 07:15:08

x-posted. I am sorry to hear she has cancer. Cancer is a very frightening illness, and so much to read about. Make sure you only read the websites that are reputable, many only succeed in frightening you with facts that are not always accurate, and remember lots of sites talk about cancer in statistical terms which is not always helpful as it is impossible to equate odds etc with individual people, it varies so much in each case.

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Mon 06-Jul-09 07:18:20

She might not give you the go ahead, she might not think about what she needs in terms of support, she might not know herself. You might just have to go and not worry about whether it is right or not, or intruding. You are her friend, and you care very much about her, and if you need to see her, then chances are she needs to see you too.

LucyMinter Mon 06-Jul-09 07:19:06

Thankyou...yes, it is terrifying. I've read hundreds of articles, research papers, that kind of thing - as well as the fear mongering ones which I agree are rubbish.

There is a chance she will make it, of course there is, but my brain keeps trying to prepare me for the worst, and I can't really deal with it. I suppose when you have to deal with something like this your mind plays tricks, you can't really predict how you'll cope...you are right though, becuase some other people had certain outcomes it doesn't mean my friend's illness will take the same course.

Maybe that's the worst thing for her too - not knowing how to prepare when there are just no answers. It must be like a horrible nightmare. sad

LucyMinter Mon 06-Jul-09 07:21:28

Sorry Pavlov I cross posted with you again...she has said it would be good, but not yet - she said she'll let me know when she's ready for a visit. But if things kind of linger and it seems like I ought to just turn up, I will. She has a big family and circle of friends nearby so is not on her own. I'll give it a bit longer and see how it goes.

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Mon 06-Jul-09 07:30:09

You sound like a good friend to have lucy, I hope she responds well to treatment. And that you can go visit soon. x

HolyGuacamole Mon 06-Jul-09 07:31:14

Agree with pavlov. Sometimes Google is your best friend, other times it can be your worst enemy.

It seems like this has brought back a lot of feelings that you had in the past about your other friend. And that would be entirely natural for you to feel like that, you're only human.

There are many, many cancer survivors out there. I ran a race last week for cancer and you should have seen the sheer number of women who had signs on their back saying "I survived", was very humbling but the message was clear, that not everyone succumbs to it.

You sound like a great friend, you will get loads of support on here. I am sure that armed with a friend like you, your friend will have the very best chance of getting through this very tough time.

LucyMinter Mon 06-Jul-09 22:18:45

Thankyou for being so kind.

I'm really struggling today...couldn't eat earlier, then felt really faint when we went out to get supper, I realised I hadn't done any food shopping for several days and we had nothing to eat. I've had a bit to eat now and the kids are asleep. Just can't seem to go to bed. I want to but it's so quiet - everything seems very frightening and wrong, I'm afraid it might happen to me, as well, or to my dad who always gets burned in the sun, or just everyone I know.

I'll be Ok in a few weeks, days maybe - I hadn't anticipated how much it would get to me. Also haven't heard from friend today so am worried about her.

Sorry if this all sounds so petty and stupid. i hope it is just a temporary reaction to some shocking news and I'll be back to normal soon and able to actually help her, rather than sitting here shaken and being useless.
I'm hoping she doesn't call in the next day or so, as I don't know how to handle it. Is this that thing they talk about where friends disappear? NEVER did I think I would do that to her, or to anyone. Please let me get past this stage.

Maybe it't partly that I am used to being the miserable one - I've often been a bit depressed, and so on, while she's been out there having a great life, sociable and wonderful and happy. She's been the one staying cheerful and hearing her so angry,. so depressed, means the balance has totally altered.

How selfish is that? She's not allowed to be miserable, just because I need her to be happy? Jeez I need a tutorial in how to be an actual friend. I'm sorry to sound so pathetic. sad Very angry with myself.

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Tue 07-Jul-09 22:20:36

Lucy, you are a friend who has feelings. You have emotions and you are worried about a good friend who is not well. That is perfectly normal and you are allowed to be upset.

I think it is really important to not let your feelings get in the way of being there for your friend, but that does not mean you cannot have those feelings.

And not wanting your friend to call today so you can have some time to adjust to how this is affecting you, especially as you have had a loss of a friend in the past, thats ok. Just make sure it does not last more than a day or 2 without letting her know you are there, unless a few days is normal without contact.

Do you have anyone close to you that knows her as well who you can talk to about your fears, or even someone who does not know her. How about a dp? relative?

When my mum was diagnosed with illness, her network disappeared significantly. Funnily enough so did mine. When she died, I lost touch with a few friends, and many of those who were once close, are now much less close as I was isolated to an extent in my grief. Looking back I completely understand the avoidance of it all, not discussing, not calling me, giving me space, it was hard for them to know what to do, but despite knowing this now, for the last couple of years it damaged our relationships a little, and thats hard to re-do, even though it was not intentional. Those I am closest to now, are those who stuck by and braved it out, who would tell me they did not know what to say, but would sit with me anyway and have a cuppa. God knows how it must have felt for my mother. I think what I am saying is, even though it is hard, you need to make sure your friend has you there. Do not presume she has plenty of people and back off, she will need you in the coming months more than she will be able to express.

LucyMinter Wed 08-Jul-09 07:50:33

Oh Pavlov, thankyou for your lovely message - you have really helped me get my head around it.

it seems to be working out ok atm. I didn't hear from her for a day or two then she emailed again, and so I responded and I felt able to again, so perhaps we both needed a little pause.

I'm back on track now. The way we get on, there have always been silences for a while - sometimes for a few weeks, but I shan't let that happen now of course - I'm tired, yes, but the shock is startign to become an ongoing sadness and by nature is not so acute. i think I'm adjusting a bit.

I know I won't ever leave her side, figuratively, she understands that there's nothing I can say, and I'm not too afraid of saying the wrong thing because I'm sure I've been doing it for years and she still seems to like me smile so I'll carry on as before.

i'm grateful for the opportunity in fact, to actually be there for her now - she normally is so happy and outgoing, and now I feel somehow more useful to her. I love her so much and won't let her down.

I've spoken to dp who was great - just held me for ages, listened - he's really proved himself to me by doing that. So I've got back up.
Thankyou again for telling me your perspective and experience. I'd never forgive myself if I wasn't there for her, but apart from that I want to be, on a daily basis - I need to be close to her through this, for my sake as well.
Thankyou x

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Wed 08-Jul-09 09:43:57

That post made me tearful, a good friend is much needed in times like this, she is lucky to have you!

LucyMinter Wed 08-Jul-09 10:34:52

Other way round I think! smile

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