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Friend running to help a fallen RA patient

True Friends

In my new world of rheumatoid arthritis, my symptoms weren’t the only things to become invisible. My “friends” did, as well.

The ending of many friendships

There were the people who viewed me as some outsider or second class citizen because I had a chronic illness and disability. Those people were not really my friends and they disappeared first.

There were the ones I never discussed my condition with but thought I was a burden anyways. They vanished on their own.

There were the many who used my RA as an excuse to stop inviting me out. “Well, you always say no!” they said, talking about the one other time I had excused myself. I didn’t want to be associated with them and they faded away very quickly.

When I told one of my friends from high school, I was surprised by his reaction. He made a fair amount of comments about me being lazy, unmotivated, and dumb. It was hurtful and upsetting because up until this point, I thought he was my best friend; obviously not. He made a beeline for the rest of the crowd. And, he was a runner so he caught up with them fast.

Friends who stuck by my side

But, then, through the collective dust left by the stampeding people, a few beautiful people remained.

My oldest, closest friends both looked at me, not fully understanding what I said, but asked if I was okay. Nobody had ever asked me that.

These amazing friends never asked questions, they just did. I had trouble stepping up on to the curb. They saw me wince and immediately, put their arm around me so I could step up. I struggled to cut my food at a restaurant and they reached out and did it.

They knew when something was not right. They knew I wouldn’t ask for help. They didn’t ask questions. They just did.

And then, there were the ones who texted me just to make sure I didn’t accidentally fall into a ditch and couldn’t get out. This was not totally out the realm of possibility, as they knew I was a terrible klutz.

Maintaining quality friendships with RA

In another article, I wrote that my chronic illness helped me flush out my true friends and I stand by that.

Before, I was social and had many acquaintances. Now, I am way more introverted and have a handful of very close friends. I could probably only count them on one hand.

And, that’s okay.

I’d rather have one good friend who doesn’t judge me, checks on me occasionally and knows me so well they can anticipate when I need help.

Do you have any close friends like that? Let me know in the comments!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Sunbound1
    2 weeks ago

    I have struggled with chronic pain my entire life from legge perthes as a child in wheelchair and leg braces. Could not walk until 12 yrs old, having already developed juvenile osteoarthritis which continues as well as tge addition of RA and Fibromyalgia and inflammatory polyarthritis. I have lived a lifetime of being overlooked, left out, ignored and judged and it is a real and disgusting view of the reality of the depravity of the human condition…sheer selfishness and survival of the fittest mentality if most people. Every person or so called friend will tell me what I need to do to overcome my conditions and leave me feeling, i guess, that they did their part to associate with me. I learned in grade school when the kids would make dun of me or call me a faker or kick my crutches out from under me, that I had no real friends. My “best” friend told me to remember, when we started school , that we were only best friends at home, but that at school we would pretend we didnt know one another. Because I was crippled I was also stupid I guess, too.
    As I got older I learned very quickly that most people dont really care about anyone but themselves. Most of my friends then and still today were elderly folks whom I could help out even from a wheelchair. I knew their struggle from a young age and always tried to help them and still do. My best friends in life keep dying as they are much older than me, but I still try to help them in their time if need whe I get energy to do so. I have learned to trust God, not people and just hope one day someone might be willing to help me in my time of need. It is a very sad world we live in.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    2 weeks ago

    Hey @sunbound1! Thank you so, so much for sharing your story on my article.

    I am so sorry you were treated that way. It’s horrible how people treat others when they percieve difference. It just shows that those children are not learning any empathy and probably won’t have it when they grow up. (For me, I get a slight satisfaction knowing that their behavior will probably come back to haunt them in some form).

    Like you, many of my friends are older than me (except for my two besties). People with more life experience are just more empathetic and loving. I’m actually working on an article on how age potentially changes perception and understand.

    Please know you can always come here if you want to talk or vent. We will always listen.

    And, thank you again for commenting! I love hearing everyone’s stories.

    All the best and gentle hugs, Monica

  • TLTrujillo
    3 weeks ago

    I’ve always had the odd personality of being very outgoing and social but letting very few truly close. Trusting few. With that being said, I didn’t really have friends to loose when I was diagnosed. My mother, who lived with me at the time, berated me for being lazy and just wanting attention (I worked 40 + hrs a week and had responsibilities within my congregation). It quickly became a competition, on my mother’s part, as to who was in the worse pain or was sicker, so I learned to not discuss my pain and suffer in silence.

    I have always been open about my RD with people I meet, but tend to discuss it in a very clinical, matter of fact manner rather than how I feel physically or emotionally. Nobody wants to hear me complain right?!

    I did reconnect with my sister and became close to a couple of women in my congregation.

    I met and married my 1st husband who was very empathetic and tended to spoil me. He was good at seeing the signs that I was struggling and was there to help! Sadly, he had demons of his own and died of alcohol poisoning 4yrs into our marriage. I realized after, that as sweet and caring as he was, his demons stressed me and triggered my disease.
    After being in a prolonged flare since before my husband’s death, I now only have one friend from the congregation. My sister and the others deserted me, even betrayed confidences. I’m unsure if it was because I was so unwell or because I was grieving, or both.

    I have since remarried. My new husband is empathetic but I know he doesn’t fully understand. He is as healthy as a horse! But he tries and is learning the signs of me feeling less well than usual.

    I am grateful for the few who have stuck by me, and for having 2 husbands in my life who have worked around my limitations. Many people can be uncaring and selfish, but there are still those out there who are true blue. While I guard myself and don’t trust everyone enough to get close, I’ve come to realize the support of a few wonderful people can make a world of difference.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    2 weeks ago

    Hey @tltrujillo! Thanks for sharing on my article!!

    I am so sorry you had to deal with people like that but I am so happy you found two loving husbands.

    It’s hard finding people who understand and stick close by. I have had people tell me they didn’t want to be friends with me because “there was always something wrong with me”…Well, yes, isn’t the definition of ‘chronic’? Some just can’t handle it.

    You mentioned the competition with your mother and I immediately thought of one of the first articles I wrote for this site. It’s about my hypochondriac friend. I am a bit harsh in this article but it pretty sums up how I feel about the constant pressure she put on me about pain, etc. https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/friends/

    I hope you like it.

    Also, please know you can always come here if you need to talk or vent. We will always listen!!

    All the best, Monica

  • TLTrujillo
    2 weeks ago

    Thank you Monica, for responding. I read the article you linked and it nailed it. My Mom finally settled down, probably because she couldn’t compete with the visual evidence of my RD early on. I do believe, however, you were writing about my sister in law! Lol!

    FYI: when I was first diagnosed I questioned if I was a hypochondriac. Both my primary Doctor and therapist (mental health) said “no way!” My therapist said hypochondriacs never question if they are. Hope that makes you feel better!

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    3 weeks ago

    I think it is best to count our blessings no matter where they come from. In my experience we seldom get to pick our best friends. Instead they sort of pick us. Like all things we are blessed by that which is often out of our control.

    rick – moderator and
    philosopher apprentice.

  • tckrd
    3 weeks ago

    I have one true friend that is my wife. Who sometimes understands and sometimes does not and I am fine with that. Friends outside of family none. I am 58 I hope maybe someday to have some true friends outside of family.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    2 weeks ago

    Hey @tckrd!! Thanks for commenting on my article! You know how much I appreciate it 🙂

    I love your sentiment. As much as we wish everyone understood what we are going through, the truth is they just can’t unless they themselves deal with a chronic illness. I know that I just love that my friends are empathetic, trusting and loyal.

    You’ve always got friends here (especially me!!). ~Monica

  • Mombarajas
    3 weeks ago

    Your story really hit close to home. My closest friend (BFF) of over 30 years has ghosted me. I saw the signs for the last couple years. Her and I and our husbands were pretty much inseparable for many years. But the phone calls went from several a day to a couple a week. No more dinners out. No more weekends together at the lake. No more trips together. No asking how I was doing. Only berating on the things I should and shouldn’t be doing. Found out last November they went on a cruise with some of our other friends without telling us. I was also forced to retire January of 2018 which has also limited my interaction with people. My husband is my rock. My son, parents and brother are always checking on me. But my daughter is in denial and says I just need to smoke pot to make it better. I feel like I’m becoming more and more of a recluse. And on top of the RA need a knee replacement. A day to day battle anymore.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    3 weeks ago

    Hey @mombarajas!

    Thank you for sharing on my article!!

    I am so sorry you went through that. I went through something similar where my school best friend said some really hurtful, nasty things to me. Learned he wasn’t a “best” friend, let alone a “friend”.

    Your husband sounds amazing. I thought you might appreciate this article from Mariah about her supportive spouse: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/supportive-partner/

    All the best, Monica

  • Mary Sophia Hawks moderator
    3 weeks ago

    Mombarajas,
    I am so sorry for the loss of your friends. It is incredibly hurtful when you are excluded. As Monica alluded to, we end up with friends/family who are true. Missing the social outings is particularly hard when you have a long history of friendship, or are an extrovert like I am. Please stay in touch with us here at Rheumatoidarthritis.net. We truly “get it.”
    A side note, I have survived 2 knee replacements with RA. Once you get to the other side, you will be grateful.
    Mary Sophia
    Rheumatoidarthritis.net moderator/author

  • jonnyohio
    3 weeks ago

    Wow, I can relate to this entire post. I have also got the “You always say no!”.

    I also have gotten, “Well, all you do is work and you don’t want to do anything else.”…because they don’t understand how much energy it takes to keep working and there’s nothing left in me at the end of the day.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    3 weeks ago

    Hey @jonnyohio!! Thanks for commenting on my article. I am so glad you liked it!

    The work comment always gets to me. ‘You don’t realize how much energy it takes and pain it causes.’ But, work is one of those things I have to do. So sorry, would you like me to quit my job so I can hang out with you? Great, okay.

    Yikes, apparently, it affects me more than I thought! Lol.

    Thanks again for sharing! ~Monica

  • Mary Sophia Hawks moderator
    3 weeks ago

    Jonnyohio,
    I certainly understand the after work slump. There is nothing left at the end of the day. I find that planning my activities for lunch time, or early on the weekends works for me. After work is just a NO. Glad you are reaching out.
    Mary Sophia
    Rheumatoidarthritis.net moderator/author

  • Cynthia Ventura moderator
    3 weeks ago

    My dear friend Monica @mysengupta what a beautiful, bittersweet post. I too have experienced everything you have described. I was once a very social person with numerous friends or so I thought. But as soon as word got out that I had RA and was disabled it was like POOF!! all these supposed friends disappeared.

    I’ve had friends that I’ve known for many years call me lazy, a drug addict and crazy. It hurt. I’ve even had close family members accuse me of faking my illness for attention. That really hurt. So I totally understand the pain you and so many others have experienced in addition to our new painful, isolating reality. But a few true friends have remained like cream rising to the top. Those who are there for me no matter what. Like you I am so blessed by them.

    This may sound insane but I actually thank God for this burden. Crazy, right? But RA has not only exposed the false friends I believed loved me but didn’t but RA has helped make me a better person; more empathetic, more patient with myself and others, a kinder and gentler me has risen from the ashes. My relationship with my best friend, my husband has grown closer and sweeter. And in my private times RA has given me the time to strengthen my faith and grow closer to my Savior.

    RA forced me to slow down and yes, smell the flowers. Now everyone and everything in my life is so much dearer to me. In some ways it’s been almost like attending my own funeral. The old Cynthia is gone, a new Cynthia is born. And I get to see who still stands beside me.

    Now I warmly embrace my true blue and new friends like yourself whom I have met in this forum. I’m thankful for every kind person, every moment. I no longer ask God, “Why me?” If not me perhaps someone else unable to withstand this disease would be afflicted and destroyed. RA has made me stronger, emotionally, spiritually and psychologically.

    Gentle hugs Monica my friend. Much peace to you.

  • jdaph
    3 weeks ago

    I totally understand about friends being very absent and cold and uncaring,, only its my family that is that way,, husband in particular,, very cold , unfeeling, no compassion, empathy, so I just quit talking about how much pain Im in . My church family is the total opposite, they support me, care about me, comfort me, pray for me. So I am grateful for them.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    3 weeks ago

    Hey @jdaph! Thank you for sharing on my article!

    I wanted to echo Kelly and say I am so happy you have that support system at church. Good support makes a huge difference in disease management, doesn’t it?

    Please know you can always come here, as well, if you need to talk or vent!

    ~Monica

  • Kelly Dabel moderator
    3 weeks ago

    So glad to hear you have a support system at church who brings you comfort and support jdaph. Thank you for commenting and sharing. Wishing you the best, Kelly, Rheumatoidarthritis.net Team Member

  • betharooski
    3 weeks ago

    Hi! I attribute some of their crass behavior on youth and having had no life experiences from hardships. A true friend accepts the person- not their body or situations, and an empathetic friend often has had their own battles and is able to understand. In this way two survivors bring support to each other. I’m sorry you endured such inexcusable behavior. I’m am nearing retirement age. I have had adult friends stop asking me out to lunch if I had to turn them down twice. One party could say…Ask me again sometime! The other party should do exactly that because asking implies inclusion at times. Ugh! Human beings can be dumb as rocks sometimes. Bless you and others on this path.

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    3 weeks ago

    Hey @betharooski! I love it when you comment on my articles!! I hope you know how much I appreciate it.

    You bring up a good point. I don’t remember now which post I wrote this in but I think I mentioned that 20 somethings don’t want to deal with this extra “baggage”. We are just too young and like things easy, uncomplicated, packaged in a nice gift box with an easy to remove bow. By definition, most of my younger friends just don’t want to understand.

    You’re right, I think it comes down to we just don’t know better! The sad truth.

    Though, as you alluded to, people can just be horrible and not want to deal.

    I’m sorry you had to go through this, too!

    All the best, Monica

  • LibbyRa
    3 weeks ago

    I used to be fun….is what I tell people today! We moved to our community 10 yrs ago and I was experiencing symptoms…got my diagnosis 8 yrs ago. My stamina is such I don’t plan anything for evenings. I never entertain anymore. Some of that is due to my RD and some of it is due to the fact I don’t enjoy cooking anymore. I’m unpredictable (day to day) on how I’ll feel so it’s harder to make plans, even for day-time. I do get out for coffee or lunch with a handful of people. I could let it discourage me but it wouldn’t be beneficial, over-all. It is what it is.

  • Kelly Dabel moderator
    3 weeks ago

    Thanks for sharing LibbyRa. Glad you’ve found some ways to maintain those in-person relationships! Love your positive attitude to choose not to fret or be overly discouraged. You are not alone here. Best, Kelly, Rheumatoidarthritis.net Team Member

  • Diann400
    3 weeks ago

    So sorry your so called friend abandoned you but so happy you had few real friend s who stepped up and continued to care and love you as their friend. I have a lot of friends and handful of the best friends ever we all give support whenever needed at any time of day or night. Stick with those who have stuck with you I know I will

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    3 weeks ago

    You are so right, @diann400! The friends who will be there through thick and thin will always be supportive. I may not have a lot of them but they are larger prescences than just numbers.

    I am glad you also have great friends! Best, Monica

  • Kelly Dabel moderator
    3 weeks ago

    Thanks for commenting and sharing Diann400. Hope this was helpful to you. We appreciate you being here! Best, Kelly, Rheumatoidarthritis.net Team Member

  • mbd208
    3 weeks ago

    I no longer have any close friends or family even. They dont understand, yet dont bother to try to understand. I’m still looking for a or some friends……we will see

    Mary Beth

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator author
    3 weeks ago

    hey Mary Beth and Angie @mbd208 and @recovery101!!

    Thank you so much for commenting on my article!

    Please know you can always come here if you want to talk or vent. We are here for you and will listen!

    Best, Monica

  • Recovery101
    3 weeks ago

    Hi Mary Beth… that is (or has) already been happening to me too- it is sad and awful! I do have a husband (but, not the same as a woman friend) and I am down to only 1 friend that I actually do things with- UGH! So, I can relate! It is hard to keep friendships and/or the effort needed to make and maintain them… just letting you know that I share the same boat as you do! Angie B.

  • starscream
    3 weeks ago

    I am so sorry for people that lost friends from RA. I can honestly say that none of my friends have abandoned me. But I did not have many friends before. I’ve always been a geek and so I had already missed out on the shallow kinds of friends who would be embarrassed by me.

    I do worry that I put a strain on my friends especially when it comes to eating at their homes since I am on a strict no nightshades diet. I try to ask them just to serve nuts and cheese on the side which I am happy to bring myself and contribute to the party. I understand if someone might choose not to invite me to a sit down dinner they were planning to cook with some special mean I wouldn’t be able to eat. Or if they wanted to go to a restaurant where the menu has no options for me I also understand that I might not be invited. I don’t have to be invited to everything. In fact with RA I find it easier just to hang out with a smaller group, so I’ll see everyone at other times.

    My husband has ensured that we keep inviting friends over for meals that he cooks. Sometimes I’ve been too exhausted to hardly help. But generally I settle myself on the couch downstairs if it is a bad day. To be honest when the RA is bad I live downstairs anyway. We do end up inviting people over more often than we are invited in part because that is easier for me: the food is safe and I don’t need to deal with walkups to friends apartments if they don’t have an elevator or trying to take a subway. So in the end perhaps its my husband that saved our social life. And to think how often I’m grumpy with him for inviting people over! I should be thankful.

  • Kelly Dabel moderator
    3 weeks ago

    Thanks for sharing starscream. We appreciate hearing your story. Glad you have found ways to maintain the social life you want and enjoy your husbands cooking! Best, Kelly, Rheumatoidarthritis.net Team member

  • kat-elton
    3 weeks ago

    Monica, I can really relate to this one. I once had a friend who was going to move into my house and become my roommate. A few months before she was set to move in I went into a really bad flareup. Instead of calling me she just ghosted me, leaving me high and dry. About a year after that I randomly saw her out in public. Her face fell and she went up to me and said I’m so sorry I just couldn’t handle how badly you were doing. This experience really taught me that there are definitely people out there who want nothing to do with this. I did appreciate her being completely honest with me when we finally saw each other. You are completely right, one or a few really good friends is a huge gift and if you have that, you have the world!

  • Richard Faust moderator
    4 weeks ago

    Hi Monica. Medical issues definitely have a way of revealing a lot about people. I many ways, Kelly did not have your experience because of how young she was diagnosed, but medical emergencies, extended recoveries, and such have much the same effect. I know there are people in Kelly’s life who will always have a special place with me for how they respond to in those moments. Best, Richard (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    4 weeks ago

    I have four best friends since I was diagnosed with RA. Sheryl is my best friend form before. All five are my bedrock. The one thing I know is that without these five buddies I would be miserable.

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