I vividly remember the day in 2003, shortly after my son was diagnosed with Fragile X Syndrome that I lost a close friend. I lost her because she chose to walk out of my life. Intentionally…because my son’s diagnosis was too much for her to handle.
Up until that moment, I didn’t realize this was truly a thing. That someone would sit you down and tell you that while they love and care for you, they simply could no longer be a part of your life because they could not cope with something you had no choice but to live with. It still boggles my mind, honestly.
She felt guilty that her son could do things my son could not (both were under 5 at the time) and she just couldn’t bear to watch my son grow up unable to do the same things. It just wasn’t fair. In hindsight, I think she means it wasn’t fair to her – not that it wasn’t fair to my son to get this diagnosis. Whatever it was, I moved on.
I’ve always made friends cautiously. I know that life happens, and people grow apart. There have been many times in my life that I was quickly reminded who my true friends were; the fragile x diagnosis, my divorce, my job, my weight, dating, politics… the list could just keep going on and on. Each time, some people left my life and others came into it.
I felt, though, as if I had reached a point of really having a grasp on who was in my life – and why – and who was truly a friend and who was just there wearing the nametag. I honestly thought I knew.
Then my daughter was diagnosed with a rare, life-threatening auto-immune disorder. I knew that new people would come into my life. They have and they are amazing – I am so thankful for them. I knew there would be some friends that from no matter the distance, I would be able to feel the warmth of their hand holding mine with each doctor's visit, even though they aren't physically there with me. A couple who would offer to drop everything to be by our side. They are my everything.
But I never expected that people who I thought were true friends would disappear. Yet, they have; some without saying a word and some while telling me this was just too much for them. Yes, for them.
I guess this is what I need help wrapping my head around.
When my children were diagnosed (both times for my daughter), this wasn’t optional. My children didn’t get to say “You know what, I don’t want this. I’m going to pass.” I mean, I wish they could have… that would have been awesome but apparently, it wasn’t an option for them. It wasn’t an option for me either. I suppose technically I could have removed them from my life but that’s not how I mom. It isn’t how anyone that I know moms (or dads) either.
We take what life throws at us head-on and we make the best of it. How is it when life throws something at a “friend” you can walk away because it is too much for you? You, who simply need to be there from the outside – to dry the tears, to learn more, to offer a shoulder. How is that too much for you?
I know we all get busy, I’m very guilty of that myself. I tend to think at 2 am, “I should text so and so to see how they are holding up.” knowing that at 2 am I should not be texting anyone, I tell myself I will in the morning and then 2 weeks have passed and I am awake at 2 am feeling terrible for never sending the text to ask and schedule one, apologizing and asking for the next day. I understand that some friends are more hidden, their lives filled with their own challenges or anxiety - I know you are there, I still see you. Disappearing altogether because it is more convenient for your life to go on without this additional “stress” or “burden” is completely different.
I’m a pretty open book. While there is a lot about this newest diagnosis I have not shared, the basics are out there, and I’ve been open on how well I’m handling it. And in my openness, I’ve been reminded of who is truly there and who is just wearing the friend nametag and who has disappeared. It has shocked me.
I’m not going to apologize for this new chapter in our lives being “too much” for you to deal with. You aren’t living with it. My daughter is. And, she is facing it head-on - the good, the bad, the really scary - all of it. She lives with that every day. Thankfully, her friends are there, tighter than ever, by her side.
You are missing out by choosing not to be.
I’m going to take a page from your playbooks now. I’m no longer going to keep reaching out, I’m not going to keep trying. If 3 months into this, you’ve disappeared from our lives, then you are where you need to be.
I’m not bitter, or sad, or even angry. I’ve worked through the hurt and being let down. I’m at peace with this. I only wish you the very best. I’ll still be there, as I always have been, cheering you on. When life throws you a curveball – because, believe me, that is what life likes to do best, I’ll be there if you need me. I simply won’t keep reaching out, attempting to engage you to be a part of ours.
Our lives will go on, beautifully, even with the challenges thrown at us. We’ve got this and believe me, we know who has our backs.