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Thread: do friendships suffer because of chronic pain?

  1. #1

    do friendships suffer because of chronic pain?

    It feels like my friendship is suffering.

    Here's the situation: we've been best friends/friends for about six years and while the first couple years, we were basically inseparable , we never hang out anymore. She suffers from chronic neck pain which my understanding is it has gotten worse over the years.

    However, anytime I ask if she must wants to stop by or if I can stop over and catch up, the answer is always no. Her excuse is that her husband works nights and her kids have sports but that was always the case.

    I'm wondering if its really the pain and she's maybe depressed. Everyday it feels like my best friend is slipping away and it saddens me. I'd like to get people's opinions who suffer from chronic pain. Do you still make time for your friends? Do you always tell them no to hanging out? I'd just like to get a better understanding to it all.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    That is a good question. I think it not only affects friendships but it adversely affects marital situations. I might tell her exactly what you said in this post and see what she has to say.

  3. #3
    Senior Member ~Lin's Avatar
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    It definitely affects friendships, and even more so when people don't try to understand. I've lost friends as a result, as well as distance increased into long term friendships where the individual couldn't understand that I'm not the same as I was 14 years ago when we first met.

    I have to turn down a lot of things due to pain and fatigue, or being sick, and many people give up on trying. I've also had difficulty trying to make friendships with people due to not being able to hang out on a regular basis. I think the fact that you care, are trying to understand, and don't want to lose contact means a LOT and agree that you should try saying just that to your friend. Its possible she's using other excuses to not get together because she doesn't want to say she's in too much pain or doesn't feel well. Other people may have made rude comments to her about never improving/always being that way, or maybe she's just too proud to admit it in the first place. I know I let my pride get in the way an awful lot.
    Board Member of Assistance Dog Advocacy Project working in Education. Feel free to ask me any service dog questions!

    I am not paralyzed. I have a genetic connective tissue disorder with neuro complications and a movement disorder.

  4. #4
    friends have always let me down... family too lol yes no one can understand chronic pain... maybe ask if you can help or maybe you can go visit her so she doesnt have to do much.

  5. #5
    Senior Member ~Lin's Avatar
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    She also may be embarrassed about any trouble keeping up with cleaning. I know my friends will always say "I don't care about that" to me and I usually reply "I know you don't, but I DO" but I think it does help them saying it lol. I know I don't like anyone over if the place isn't up to my standards. I currently live with some hoarders though... drives me crazy but beggars can't be choosers and I can't afford to move yet.
    Board Member of Assistance Dog Advocacy Project working in Education. Feel free to ask me any service dog questions!

    I am not paralyzed. I have a genetic connective tissue disorder with neuro complications and a movement disorder.

  6. #6
    Moderator jody's Avatar
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    yes, if the person not in pain get's bored accommodating, or looking at the person with chronic pain, things go sideways, and friends become a thing in that other life you once had.

    If you can't keep up, you get left behind.

    pain and pain meds can cause friendship problems too. Iv broken off friendships with people I suspect stole from me, and people who ask more than few times if I have some pain medicine I can give them for their back bad back.

    pain and pain meds can also change the person who is in chronic pain into someone else.

    MY friends disappeared because I could no longer do the things we used to do as friends. ether because of less money, or I was physically unable. some stayed around, but got tired of how slow I am. they would be kind about it, but not invite me next time.
    I felt self conscious about how people had to wait for me if we walked anywhere, and no one I knew would deal with a wheelchair unless they were also in need of one.

    I sure didn't turn down any invitations from my friends If I could help it at all. .........except for one thing. when I had a few years with horrible bowel and bladder problems, after my accident, It made going out pretty difficult.
    Last edited by jody; 05-27-2013 at 12:04 AM.

  7. #7
    Senior Member flying's Avatar
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    I second the pain meds maybe messing with your friends way of thinking and energy and life. So she sounds very busy with kids and all, and with less energy and pain any extra stuff can just be to much. Sometimes I just want to just curl up in a ball and push everything else away. Try to have a lot of patience with her, and don't give up trying connect with your old friend.
    T12L1 Incomplete Still here This is the place to be 58 years old

  8. #8
    I appreciate all the replies! I know she's in a lot of pain (chronic neck pain which then leads to loss of sleep) and for someone, like myself, who is healthy as a horse, it's hard to understand sometimes. I don't want to push her away, as she is my best friend and would do anything for her or her family but its just hard to understand why someone no longer wants to hang out anymore.

    I've asked her what's going on and her excuses range from, "wait til you have kids, you'll understand-- life is just busy" (which was the case when we hung out all the time before) to "my pain has gotten worse over the years" so I'm sure part of it is the pain, but if it really is that life is busy...well I have friends with kids and I see them more than I see her anymore (which is sad b/c she literally lives two miles from me)

    Parts of me don't even want to ask her over or to just meet up for a walk because all I hear is "no, no, no"

    Well thanks again for the replies! It does help me to understand a little more.

  9. #9
    Senior Member ~Lin's Avatar
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    Keep asking, there are friends I wish wouldn't have given up on me. Is there somewhere super near her house that you guys could go to? In case she doesn't want you over to her place but isn't able to come to yours. Maybe offer to pick her up and go somewhere closeby, or pick her up to bring her to your place if that makes things easier.

    Its also difficult to know how much to share when you're in chronic pain. Since most people can't understand they get tired of hearing about it and so most of us don't talk about it at all outside of others with chronic pain. So, ask questions to open up communication so you can understand better. Its much easier for me to answer questions (and I'm very open to answering nearly any question) but I won't go out of my way to share the details of my illnesses or pain.

    Do you know if she's seeing a pain management specialist for her pain? If she isn't, maybe you can recommend it. There are many treatments for pain in addition to pain meds and its important with chronic pain to see a Dr who is familiar with pain and the various treatments. Many so called pain drs or pain clinics only offer a couple treatments, which limits the relief the patient can experience. And then some Drs are better than others. For example I had asked previous pain clinics about various types of injections for pain relief and was told I wasn't a candidate. So I stopped asking, and then my current pain Dr actually brought them up asking if I'd tried. When I explained what I'd been told before she disagreed. We've already tried steroid injections into my SI joint (didn't help), and recently nerve blocks in my neck which has helped.
    Board Member of Assistance Dog Advocacy Project working in Education. Feel free to ask me any service dog questions!

    I am not paralyzed. I have a genetic connective tissue disorder with neuro complications and a movement disorder.

  10. #10
    Senior Member NikkiMaya's Avatar
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    It sounds like you have tried to broach this subject before and she has shut you down with excuses about kids etc. If you want to try again, you could let your friend know that you are bummed out that you haven't been able to get together for a while, that you really value your friendship, and that you hope things might pick back up. You could also mention that you understand that people need space at times for whatever reason, so you know that she might need some time right now, but you will still be around when she is ready to hang out. You could also add that you will wait for her to be in touch with you. That puts the ball in her court, but then she might finally be aware of the silence creeping in when you are no longer calling to see if she wants to do something. Maybe try that, and if she doesn't respond for six months, check back in or take it as a sign that things are really over.

    I have severe chronic pain and I know how tough this situation can be. I have a large circle of close friends that I met mostly through college and study abroad. They are scattered across the country and globe, with only two in my local area. They have all known me as a person living with pain, but my condition has gotten a lot worse over the years, so more concessions have had to be made. One way that I have maintained these relationships is by being very up front and honest with my friends about how I live my life, and about how they can best support me. In return, I try to reciprocate.

    I know that my friendships would be different if I didn't have chronic pain. I believe I would have more friends, and I would be able to be a lot more involved with my friends, but given my situation, I think I have done incredibly well.

    The past few years have been especially tough, and there have been a few times when I have had to tell my friends that I am taking a brief hiatus from answering emails or phone calls. I let people know in advance so they won't think I am ignoring them. They also know that my sleep is very erratic and that things are difficult day to day, so that they understand if I take a few days to get back to them. They understand that it is hard for me to schedule get togethers and that I might have to cancel at the last minute. I have had friends visit me at my house, and often we can't go out to a restaurant or movie because I am not well enough. They have been more than happy to visit and order in some take out instead. If we go out they understand that the venue needs to be accessible, that they need to break down my chair, find parking, and factor in other issues. I have been amazed at how my friends have stepped up.

    At the same time, I have reciprocated by helping my friends through their own difficulties. I have been there when they were breaking up with life partners, failing classes, having existential meltdowns, worrying about debt and dealing with longterm unemployment... I have made up the guest bed when they needed to get away for a weekend. It goes both ways.

    However, there have been a few bumps in the road. Twice in college I lost friends over situations that had nothing to do with chronic pain, just incompatible relationship dynamics. Since then I have given two other friends a cooling off period when they were driving me crazy.

    I really hope things work out for you.
    In our world constituted of differences of all kinds, it is not the disabled, but society at large that needs special education...to become a genuine society for all. -Frederic Major, Former UNESCO Director General

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