by Kim Quindlen
They’re going to depend on you a lot, even more so than they let on.
And it’s not that you have to do anything more than just be a normal friend. The reason they love you is exactly that: you make them feel normal. You bring a sense of routine into their life.
You’re consistent. You’re dependable. You’re something that they understand and you’re something that makes sense, and that’s something they can’t count on in their own body. Their body is a lottery – anything could happen at any moment, and they really have no way of predicting it.
So being around someone like you, someone who makes them feel safe and light and happy, is sometimes better than all the Remicade and Prednisone and Mercaptopurine and Humira in the world. (Although, these magical potions are definitely a plus.)
When you have a disease that, for the most part, is not life-threatening, you feel both incredibly blessed and incredibly lost in terms of what to do. For the most part, there is no short-term, all-consuming, stressful fight to survive, and for that, Crohn’s patients are incredibly grateful.
But the hard part is coming to terms with the fact that, for the rest of your life, you will be fighting through unpredictable periods of ups and downs. Flare ups. Never-ending medical trials, where you’re trying not to get your hopes up but you’re praying that – just maybe – this one will work, at least for now. You’ll try diets and supplements. You’ll have anxiety in all aspects of your life: work, social gatherings, airplanes, vacations, road trips.
Having Crohn’s as a lifelong companion is an unfortunate realization that every patient has to acknowledge. Because, at least for now, there is no cure. Crohn’s is just something that each patient is learning how to work into their life. Something that they’re doing their best to adapt to and to be proactive about, because the last thing they want to do is to spend their life in a vacuum of self-pity.
And that’s where you come in. You bring in a bright light, a feeling of normalcy, a much-needed sense of calmness when they’re on the verge of hyperventilating or having a meltdown or simply feeling like they’re not a match for their own frustration.
They love you for understanding, for being discreet when they need to leave a party or go home early from work or skip out on an event altogether. The fact that they don’t have to explain anything to you is a godsend, and they’ll appreciate it, and you, more than you’ll ever know.
Whether or not you realize it, you’re being one of the most incredible friends in the world, just by being there. Just by providing them with a sense of continuity and regularity. Just by making them laugh and reminding them that, although you’ll never be able to fully relate, you understand that they need you and you know how to remind them that they aren’t alone.
Your normalcy is a gift. Your loyalty is a gift. Your simple presence has the power to put them at ease. You’re a gem. And you’re very much appreciated for it.