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Friendship and Illness

While I have lost a lot over the course of my concussion recovery — money, time with my kids, memories, a feeling of safety, 15 pounds — one of the things I mourn the most is friendship.

When you are ill with a chronic issue (and in my case that would be chronic, daily vestibular migraines) people start falling away. They don’t understand what you’re going through. It’s annoying. It’s not appealing. It’s frustrating to deal with. Pile on top of that depression and anxiety and it basically becomes a recipe for loss. People you once looked forward to seeing are no longer in your life. Especially if you made them mad early on in your recovery. That’s what happened to me.

For me, I think my lack of filter was the biggest problem. I remember clearly losing it on a few friends when they were questioning my decision to keep my kids off a water slide. I was at the beginning of this journey back then. I could barely stand up. I shouldn’t have been out of the house at all. And yet I went to a block party. When my friends started ribbing me and saying things that made me feel bad about my decision to keep the kids out of the water, I yelled at them. I don’t even remember what I said. So much of those first six months is lost to me. But I do know the outcome: They were highly offended and angry. Those two friendships never really recovered, especially when I added in the fact that they were tangentially connected to my personal problem. Sort of.

Another instance — right around the same time — happened at my beach club. It was at a members-only camp out. I noticed that there were non-members there. Instead of ignoring it I got upset. I have no idea why. I mentioned it to the president. He went and told the non-members they were not supposed to be there. No filter. I had no filter and no common sense as many people with a concussion, which is a traumatic brain injury after all. Lots of behavior issues, actually.

There’s a great article here that explains how and why this occurs. From the article, a list of the behavioral problems that can happen: verbal outbursts, physical outbursts, poor judgment and disinhibition, impulsive behavior, negativity, intolerance, apathy, egocentricity, rigidity and inflexibility, risky behavior, lack of empathy, lack of motivation or initiative, depression or anxiety.

People were really mad about the beach club thing. Really mad. And soon after there was another problem — a botched text chain where I basically told everyone on the text they should just take me out and flog me. LOL and OMG. Impulsive behavior and poor judgement. If I was able to hang out with those people and let them see my true self once I was feeling better I probably could have repaired those friendships, but I never truly got past the headaches and vestibular migraine. I became a shut-in. I spent most of my time in bed. I cried a lot. I was so angry at life for throwing all this crap at me. I had days where I asked God why. I had days where I thanked God I had children because if I didn’t I am not sure I would have had the strength to go on. I was lonely and yearned for my old life back. It never came back. Not completely.

Looking back, I can’t believe any of this happened. I never knew how far-reaching a concussion could be. I never realized that it means more than just being dizzy and getting daily headaches. It can strip away your personality, your judgement and your self. It robs you of friendship. It obliterates your self-confidence and hope. It makes you question everything. And when you look normal on the outside? People are not willing to forgive and forget so easily. It’s not like a broken leg or stitches. You look normal so your behavior is judged as a normal person’s judgement would be.

My therapist tells me that people who don’t understand or who can’t forgive were never really my friends to begin with. I don’t know, because they felt like friends to me.

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