I had an email from a friend, who I haven’t seen in so many years I’ve lost count but we keep in touch online, and something he said got me thinking. He feels as though I’m quite closed off, I never give much away, I tend to avoid talking about myself and being honest regarding how things are. I hadn’t told him much about my health issues, just skirted along saying I’m not always too well; I told him I’d had surgeries but not what for or that I have a stoma; I told him that I blog, but never showed him the site.
When it comes to questions about what I’ve been up to, I often don’t have much to say. Unless I’ve actually done something novel, like with going to Spain, there’s very little of interest going on. It’s dealing with the ups and downs of chronic illness, it’s lots of emails and internet stuff and a bit of writing, it’s supermarket shopping and house cleaning, it’s taking my father to appointments then taking myself to twice as many, it’s all the boring stuff and sadly too much of it (apart from the appointments) mean very little in the grand scheme of things.
This was part of what I mentioned in a previous post, how I need to look at filling my life with more of the meaningful moments. Easier said than done, however, when you’re not well and stuck in a comfort zone that your body doesn’t even have the energy to leave. It’s possible, it’s just difficult and takes time.
Sometimes I rely on sarcasm and conversational fillers to distract from myself, though it’s not intentional. I haven’t intentionally tried to shut him out or make him feel the way he did. I have also perhaps misread some of his messages, or should I say the ‘tone’ of WhatsApps and emails, and felt as though he wasn’t too bothered about keeping in touch any more. Maybe that’s past experience coming into play, because I’ve lost almost everyone else who I had thought was a ‘friend’ when it turns out I was only ever useful when it suited them, when they need something, when it’s convenient. I wouldn’t want to share things with people like that, so I’m glad I didn’t.
But those people that you think may, possibly, genuinely care about you? Those are perhaps the people you need to give the benefit of the doubt. Those are the people you need to take a chance on. Let them in. Have an honest, open, frank conversation. You don’t have to give up every last inch of yourself, but lay your cards on the table (for lack of a better cliché). This can be about a friend, a lover or a family member, anyone that is close, but maybe not close enough because of keeping them just an arm’s length away from the important stuff.
If they return the honesty with their own, and they appreciate your openness by being equally open, then that’s a damn good start. Others may not fully understand or be able to empathise with what you’re going through, because often, especially with ‘invisible’ or chronic illness, and the likes of depression and anxiety, you can only really understand and fully ‘get it’ if you’ve experienced those things for yourself. But a willingness to try to understand more, to accept your situation and the impact that may have on them, is another good sign. What is even better, is all of the above plus that person also accepting you for you.
Closing yourself off, whether intentional or not, exacerbates the cycle of shrinking in towards yourself, of loneliness, of feeling isolated. I’m not for a second saying it’s easy to let others in, and it’s harder still I think (from my experience, at least) to reach out to new people that you don’t know for the first time. But perhaps it’s worth giving some thought. I acted on the message he sent me and sent a small novel his way – the most incredibly terrifying thing I’ve had to write and send – detailing various things about how I feel, what’s been going on, apologising for making him feel I’d been closed off towards him, that I have a stoma… It wasn’t easy in the slightest, but I felt better for it.
Are there people in your life that you are maybe not as close with now because you’ve been holding back, not being honest or open or trusting enough to give them a chance? If you were to look back on this in the future, perhaps when things are too late, would you regret not letting them in?
It may just be time to try. Give that person a chance. The worse that can happen is that they break that trust and let you down. Chalk it up to experience because those are the people you don’t want in your life anyway, and it’s good to know that now rather than later. On the other hand, letting someone in may just surprise you in the best of ways.