Wednesday, 22 April 2009

With a bit of help from my friends

Relationships of any sort can be difficult at the best of times, but factor in lupus and you open up a minefield.

Our research and my own personal experience illustrates that with an illness that is as misunderstood and unpredictable as lupus, combined with the fact it is often invisible, other people find it difficult to understand. And, as a chronic disease that is around to some extent on an ongoing basis, it is unsurprising (although unfair) that sympathy runs low at times. This is not helped by the fact that unless we are practically on ‘death’s door’ many loopies are not always entirely honest about how we are feeling as we don’t wish to come over as permanent whingers – after all, who likes a misery guts?

The subject of how to manage well in this department is vast and daunting to approach, which is why I have thus far avoided tackling it. However, it’s something I’ve talked to others about a lot and have been observing closely in my own life. The good news is relationships of any kind can work if due effort and thought is put into them and they are underpinned by good communication, as well as a generous measure of ‘give and take’.

Take this weekend gone by as a good example of how understanding friends make a loopy's life far better lived. Some of our closest friends are getting married at the end of May and this was the weekend of their respective ‘stag’ and ‘hen’ celebrations. I certainly didn’t want to miss out especially as the boys were on a four-day bender in Spain, but knew the planned level of partying was intense even for the entirely fit and healthy, let alone for someone treading the lupus tightrope like me! However, Rachel (the bride-to-be) made it possible for me to go along and thoroughly enjoy the whole weekend. For example, she made it clear that I was welcome to come to as much or little of the weekend's festivities as I felt up to and that she wasn't going to turn into 'bride-ziila' (!) if I couldn't be there, so I felt under no pressure. As I was feeling ok, I rested up and decided I was most definitely up for it. Due to the fact there were so many of us staying in Rachel's flat for the weekend, we made a ‘hen’s dormitory’ in the living room. However, Rachel made sure I had a room of my own to retreat to for peace and quiet and extra rest at anytime – a real privilege as space was limited. This was an ideal gesture that was made subtly without fuss so I didn't feel like too much of an oddity and lengthy explanations to other hens that I didn't know previously weren't necessary. Just by knowing I had somewhere to retreat to if I needed was a great relief. In the event, I partyed well and so far haven't had to pay too high a price. Thanks Rach!

In a way when it comes to the people around us, lupus can help us sort the ‘wheat from the chaff’. There is no such thing as ‘fair weather’ friends when you have lupus. Importantly, it is the strong bonds that I have with my hubby, family, friends, colleagues and even my doctors these days (!); the very relationships that have survived the ‘lupus test’ that help me get by. The picture above, taken at Rachel’s hen illustrates this perfectly.