Brunch with a few Besties
Last weekend I had brunch with two of my best friends that have I’ve known for a long time, far longer than my diagnosis. In high school and since, they’ve always been understanding of my situation, however, I never really thought about how things looked from their perspective. Since we all live in Chicago now and have continued to spend time together since high school, I felt these were a few of the people who I could reflect with on how things have changed over the years and the influence Crohn’s has had on our friendship. They had some great questions for me, too.
I admittedly have not done the best job of describing to my friends and family what I was, and have been, going through since my diagnosis. So I wanted to know a few things:
Me: What do you wish you would’ve known when I was diagnosed?
K: I don’t think there is any one thing but I just wish I would’ve asked more questions so that I knew more about what you were dealing with. I mean, I knew about Crohn’s because you and my dad would talk about it, but I didn’t really get it the scope of it. Krysten’s dad is a doctor. I remember you wouldn’t eat lunch that often and would get annoyed because people would be commenting about that. Totally forgot about this, but yeah, that was really irritating.
B: Same, there isn’t anything in particular I can think of, but I also remember you and my mom talking about different medications you have both taken and the concerns you had, so I learned about it from those conversations too. Brittany’s mom also has autoimmune issues which share similar treatments with Crohn’s.
I promise I don’t talk to all my friends parents about Crohn’s, these two are just special!
Me: Do you have any advice for someone whose friend is diagnosed with Crohn’s or another invisible illness? (answers from both)
- To just try and be a friend, listen to what that person is going through, but also be transparent and ask specific questions. I have encountered this with other friends too going through separate issues, but just listen without trying too hard to relate. At the same time, if they aren’t ready to talk about it, don’t push too much.
- Admit when you don’t understand.
- There are also things you shouldn’t say, like I remember when people were really concerned about your weight. They would comment about how you looked great but when we would talk you would be like ‘I am actually really sick right now and feel like crap’, so just being mindful of that.
- Don’t downplay the fact that girls go to the bathroom. I don’t know why we treat females as if these things don’t happen, but it just sets us further back from having people understand Crohn’s.
- The biggest thing i’ve learned is that just about everyone is going through something, and to be concious of that .
Me: Do you feel like Crohn’s changed anything in our friendship?
K&B: No, but I know now to just take your word when you don’t feel well and wait for you to come to me instead of making you feel worse or we just chill instead. At times it hasn’t been an issue, like when you first moved to Chicago, you felt really good for a while. You didn’t have any issues for what, a year? Yep. So it isn’t always present in our lives, but when it is, we just adapt.
They asked me a few interesting questions that got me thinking, too.
Brittany: As friends, is there anything we could do or you want us to do differently now?
I have known these two for so long, so it is hard to think of something else they could be doing, but I really appreciated their understanding in the last few years especially, about my inability to always make it to an event. It already really sucks when I finally get to a point where I cannot physically move, so having people who now understand why, really helps. In years prior I didn’t do a great job explaining that because I was always overcompensating and probably wasn’t actually accepting it myself. Once I expressed this concern I had on missing out, my friends have been patient and accepting of the situation. I so look forward to another symptom free year.
Krysten: How do you think Crohn’s changed things for you in highschool / how you were treated? I know it was kind of rough towards the end …
There were a lot of laughs reminiscing about our high school experiences, but when we started talking about senior year again and how much shade teachers threw my way because I wasn’t on the all star attendance list, it brought up a lot of frustration for me.
The semester I was diagnosed, I was out of school a lot and subsequently received some pretty unfair treatment from school officials, teachers, and students. I was called out by teachers in class, one teacher would frequently comment about how I had missed yet another class and therefore it was my fault we couldn’t move on. In another class, I remember one girl saying it was unfair that I was never in class and wasn’t penalized for that in our upcoming project. Yeah, what a dream I am living on the floor of my bathroom or sitting for a 3 hour treatment at the doctor’s office while all my friends are having lunch together, you’re right.
I wish I was at home doing something cool and edgy, but realistically I was physically and mentally exhausted. I would try to act like my old self while at school, which was also exhausting. We got to a point when I had to have all my teachers sign a paper acknowledging what was going on and that I was receiving treatment or at appointments most days and if it wasn’t that, I couldn’t sit through an entire class. Then the tune changed.
I loved hearing my friend’s side of things and look forward to talking with them and other besties about it in the future, as I am sure all of my friends have a different take on these points in our lives. I encourage everyone who is going through diagnosis or navigating treatment to be open and honest with your friends… it will help your relationships grow and increase understanding on both sides.
Until our next discussion, thanks gals! You have been super patient with me and have stood by me when things have been less than optimal over the years, which I appreciate more than you know.