“Everyone sees who I appear to be, but only a few know the real me. You can only see what I choose to show. There is so much behind this smile, you don’t even know.”
So many of you are struggling with the loss of friendships due to your invisible illness. Many of my readers are in their teens or young twenties so for all of you struggling in your younger years: listen up! I have a little secret: many of you have tons of friends and have a huge group at school, in your neighborhood, or just people you see on a daily basis that you pray they do not leave you or judge you because you are not the same person as you were pre-chronic pain. The secret is, and this applies to everyone (chronic pain or not) by the time you are in your late twenties or for me young thirties: you will be friends with about one or two of the people you are focusing on. Do not get discouraged by what your friends/peers think because as you all grow and move on only a select few will remain in your life. I have had the same friend in the above picture since I was twelve years of age (no, not Evie the dog.) I met Lindsay before my bike accident in an acting class and we just hit it off. We were very alike and outgoing and just became close friends fast. I learned that she lived about five blocks from where I lived and our friendship developed quickly and soon I was part of her family and she was a part of mine. This was over twenty years ago. I fell off of my bike about two minutes from Lindsay’s home and tried to walk there with the broken bones and head injury but changed my route because I just wanted my dad. I had no idea my brain was bleeding, I just knew I had broken several bones on my right side. Yes, I walked home. No, I do not recommend this. Upon arriving home, my dad and I went to the emergency room where they checked out my broken collar bone, gave me a sling, and bandages and said I was free to go. Halfway out the door, I began vomiting (which is the first sign of a head injury.) The nurse on staff told my dad they were going to give me a cat-scan just in case but she felt confident I was okay. Ten minutes later I was on a stretcher being put into an ambulance to go to the closest trauma center for immediate brain surgery as my brain was bleeding and had been for many hours by this point. If you have read my blog you know this whole story so I will not go into major detail. Obviously, my dad was scared but he did not show it to me just as I did not show my fear to my daughter Christmas Eve when I had to take her to the ER for a virus and fluids, little easier to deal with as a parent than brain surgery. The doctors took me into surgery right away and the last thing I remember is my clothes being cut off and my dad’s face as he waved. My dad called multiple people once I was in surgery, the second being Lindsay and her brother Scott who were/are siblings to me. Lindsay was there for me during my long stay in the ICU, hospital, and later couch bound. She was the sister I had always wanted and never had.
Fast forward a couple years and here we are in Middle School and High School together. She was a grade below me but that made zero difference in our sisterhood. She saw me change as chronic pain got worse and I was no longer the active, funny, outgoing Jessica she had met in that acting class . She could not possibly understand chronic pain as I did not even understand what was happening. I thought I was better. The doctors got the blood out, staples removed, hair was growing back, and all visible scars gone. Brain surgery was the easy part, chronic pain is when I fell apart. During the early years of my journey with chronic pain, I was a total mess but two friends never left my side, one being Lindsay. She saw me at my worst and never judged me. She was fighting her own battles and we always knew we had one another. I still wanted to fit in and felt abandoned by many friends despite the fact that I had two amazing friends. Now, looking back I wish I had never stressed over anyone else. With age comes wisdom, however take a little advice from me and try hard not to worry or dwell on what anyone says or how friends react towards your invisible illness. Five, ten years down the road they will live many miles away and if you care to see them you can check them out on Facebook.
Lindsay and I are both thirty three now and nothing has changed in our friendship except with each year we just get closer. She now resides in California so I only get to see her when she comes home to visit. At the age of thirty three, I feel blessed to just have a few true friends instead of a of friends that would drop me in a second. Quality is so much more important than quantity. Lindsay has stood by me through the good, bad and ugly phases on my journey with chronic pain and has not once judged me for any actions and has been my biggest supporter once I decided to manage pain naturally. In fact, she believes in me so much that it was her idea to begin this blog.