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.

Caz   

26 thoughts on “Shutting Others Out”

  1. So very true, a problem shared and all that. I for one think most people want honest friendships where you tell the truth about what’s going on, rather than all the superficial crap you get on facebook. As you say, if you find out you cant trust someone, do you really want them in your life anyway.

    1. Yes, honest friendships mean more than what we tend to have now with superficial conversations and social media. Thank you for stopping by and commenting Suzanne 🙂

  2. I could have written this because I do the same thing. I’ve always been a closed person, but chronic illness has made it worse as I’ve lost friendships.

  3. I agree that it can be difficult to open up to others when you are living with a chronic illness that is self-limiting, and you are not leading a ‘normal’ life. I’ve met people who end up being close, and whom are extremely supportive. At the same time, I’ve met individuals who really don’t want to know what is happening in my life, or are very uncomfortable with any details of my continuous health problems. It’s painful to be rejected for being ill, especially when that dictates so much of what you can, and cannot do. People who are young and healthy often don’t have a clue-understandably so. It was courageous of you to send that letter to your friend. I hope that he meets you with kindness and respect, and that your efforts deepen your relationship with him!

    1. There’s definitely a divide, with some being supportive and accepting, and others not wanting to know/not being interested in your life. It just frustrates me when it’s one sided, when you care about them, show concern, ask how things are, and always answer when they come to you because they want to talk, or vent, or celebrate something, or need something in some way, yet once you’re not convenient you’re too much effort to care about. I hope you stay close to those that are considerate and have meaningful, lasting friendships with them – thank you so much for sharing 🙂
      Caz x

  4. Totally agree with this, and have a post in the works for a similar topic too! Ironically it wasn’t me though, but a friend who was ill that was shutting me out. To share the good and bad, is what friendship is all about, isn’t it? 🙂

    1. What great timing! I’ll look forward to checking out your post soon. You’re right – sharing good and bad, being there for it all is what friendship should be about. Thanks Sheryl.x

    1. I think it has been. Time will tell… I’m sorry you’ve been through such experiences too, but I hope it’s made you stronger and more resilient as a result (got to find a silver lining somewhere!) Thanks Jackie! x

      1. Indeed, everyone of us has something “wrong” and there is strength in accepting this reality. I always used to try hiding my degenerating eyesight due to RP. These days, I’ve come to realize there will always be those who find a warped sense of self-worth in (my) disability. But mostly, people have good hearts! 🙂 💜 Jackie@KWH

  5. I can relate to the friendship thing I had been very close friends with someone for years, she was the one person besides my husband who knew me inside out, I too am not a sharer, I am on here but not in person 😉 I had been ill for months having various investigations, I lost 30lbs my friend and I spoke most days on the phone.

    She listened as I told her my fears then she would change the subject to her new boyfriend and what they were doing and where they were going. She came once to my house to take me out and although I could see by her face she was surprised by my weight loss she never said anything or even said I looked nice, I had made the effort with my hair and make up.

    She knew I was going for various scans but didn’t ring me to ask what was happening and it was then I knew she didn’t really care. I think invisible illness does not make for good company. After lots of soul searching when she eventually rang I told her that our friendship was over because I felt she didn’t care. She never tried to contact me again.

    It takes a very special friend to stick by your side when your suffering from an invisible illness.

    1. I’m really sorry you’ve experienced that too, that feeling of being let down because someone who was supposed to be a friend wasn’t too bothered and didn’t take an interested in how you were enough to ask, especially as she knew you were having scans etc. I think you did well telling her the friendship was over, because when it’s one sided it can be tiring and quite disheartening. You’re right, it takes someone special to stick around. Thank you so much for sharing this on here, I really appreciate it.x

  6. A friend of mine has cancer and is struggling. She closes the door on all of us (colleagues and friends). Says she doesn’t want us to see her like this. Having been ill myself for four years (mostly home bound), I get it, but I also know people and relationships are part of the healing process – quality of life. Selective sharing is the best approach. I have some people who are safe to share with, and some I’d rather not.
    It’s difficult when, as you say, we don’t have much going on in our lives, but I’ve found there is always value in being a listener. Thought provoking post.

    1. Whether to share is such a personal decision, and it’ll vary too with the situation, what’s being shared, who those people are you could tell, etc. Good point though about how others often feel they don’t want to be seen in a certain way, like when they’re ill, so they close themselves off, whereas others rely on their social circle, on having people close, to keep them going. I’m glad you found the post thought-provoking and I appreciate you stopping by to comment! 🙂
      Caz x

  7. Thank you for sharing!! I’ve always felt that disconnect, like letting my guard down was an impossibility. I’m still not very good at it, truthfully! I tend to over-emphasis an untruth, “I’m fine.” The pains not so bad,” or “no, I’m not tired.” I don’t think I’m even conscious of doing it, half the time.

  8. Thank you for sharing! I myself, have never been very good at letting people in. I find myself always living in the land of the untruths- “I’m fine.” “The pain isn’t so bad,” or my favorite, “I’m not even tired.” I don’t think I’m even aware I’m doing it, half the time.

  9. This sounds exactly like me, I’ve been let down too much in the past that I don’t want to share everything that’s going on in my life. With my current boyfriend it was really difficult to open up at the start of the relationship because I’m just not used to letting people in anymore.

  10. I’ve never really had an invisible illness. But I have been through some pretty traumatic stuff, and I certainly found out who my true friends were at one stage in my life. My ‘shutting out’ went so far, that I shut the curtains and unplugged the phone, shut my self away completely. Only to have a visit from the police to say 2 seperate people had called in to say they were worried about me (I was living away from home at the time). Yet others left my friendship group and never returned.

  11. Letting people “in” is scary and it took me a long time to let a few people into my world. I am very private and admit to struggling sometimes with opening up as it makes me vulnerable to heartbreak if the relationship then doesn’t work out. I totally get what you’re saying and also understand that only by opening up can we achieve a deeper level of connection with a friend, family member, or partner.

  12. I understand exactly where you are coming from here. I don’t share a lot of my illness struggles with others as I find that most people aren’t interested or feel the need to offer their opinion/’advice’ when it’s their support that I’d prefer. I stick to a few people who I know will always be there for me and have shown that they truly care. I think it’s self-preservation really. I hope your friend is now really supportive and steps up, just as you deserve. I’m always here if you want a chat too! xx

  13. I’ve let people in before and nearly always been hurt or let down. Most of the time I feel people don’t listen to me, they are either looking over my shoulder for someone ‘cooler’ to hang out with or are thinking about the next thing they want to say.

    Relationships seem to be superficial and quite frankly, pretty dull. The world of social media is even more frustrating in that sense and it is the side of blogging that I really don’t like.

    So, I guess I do feel quite isolated. I’ve tried to make friends at the school gate but as soon as i refuse to look after someone else’s kid for them they soon melt away … (I find looking after my own kids enough!)

    1. I’m so sorry you’ve had such negative experiences too in terms of feeling hurt or let down, and even know find that all too often people are interested when it suits them (like those parents at the school gate who think you may help look after their kids). I want to say something positive like ‘keep trying, there are good people out there’ and as much as I will still treat others the way I’d like to be treated, I think the reality is often that people can be self-involved and motivated by less compassionate things than genuine kindness, no strings attached, for another person. But there are people out there, so when you find friendships that are fair then hold onto them. And never forget that these experiences make you more resilient and independent (got to find a silver lining for us somewhere..!) 🙂
      Thanks so much for stopping by to share your comment.
      Caz xx

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