By Tammie Allegro
Without hesitation, I can say that I have always been the life of the party. If there was something fun to do, I was the first one to sign up. If a group of friends was having a ladies night, I was always invited and, in most cases, would be the last to leave. I would always find myself surrounded by friends; at one time, I had close to 800 Facebook friends. I would always surpass my talk time and text allotment each month on my cell phone. I felt pretty popular. I would have confidently said my life was great.
A few years ago, I started feeling "off." I noticed I was always tired and not always feeling "social." I would find myself leaving events hours before they were over, and oftentimes, I would decline the invitation because I was so tired. When I did go out, it seemed I had lost my zeal. My fun personality was replaced by someone kind of negative because all I could think about was how terrible I was feeling. The pain had taken over my thoughts. I really just wanted to be home in my pajamas. Over time, my phone rang less and less. I had turned down so many invitations, people stopped asking.
I know my good friends noticed my absence. They would always text me and check on me and call when they could. Still, over the course of the past four years, I have faded away from popularity to near obscurity. Now it would be easy for me to blame my friends, but I have to take ownership for my part. I wasn't calling and checking on my friends like I used to. I wasn't stopping by with treats and letting them know I was thinking about them. I didn't have a name for what I was going through, so I didn't really have a place to put the blame. I just knew I was no longer the life of the party, and I missed the party.
This change in my life and this illness I am dealing with has taught me a lot about the important things in life. I have a husband who is my best friend. We love spending time together. My daughters are also my closest friends. They get me, and they understand that sometimes I just need to take a nap. However, everyone needs friends who aren't family. Even if you have one great friend, it can make a world of difference. I realized I had to change the way I viewed friendships; I no longer sought after quantity, I chose quality. Having just a few close friends who understand that if I text and just say, "Sorry, I can't make it today," they know I tried my best. The type of friends who you may not see all the time, but when you get together, no time has passed.
Another lesson I learned is that people who are healthy don't understand how lonely and tiresome it is to be sick all the time. They have compassion, but until you have been chronically ill, you really can't comprehend the challenges a patient faces. So I stopped trying to get them to understand. Instead, I spend my friendship time enjoying their company. I want to let go and laugh, and I know they do too. I am not in denial about my sick days; I am just choosing to spend time with friends focused on the friendship.
I may never be the life of the party again, and I am OK with that. I just want to be known as a good friend who loves the people in her life.