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When I Fail At Keeping In Touch

When I Fail At Keeping In Touch

Recently, I had someone message me to ask about their friend, who, like me, suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. This person was pretty distraught that their friend really wasn’t getting back to them as quickly as she’d like. Her concern was that perhaps she had done something wrong, done something to upset her friend with MS. She figured that must be the reason that her friend wasn’t so quick with getting back to her. I explained that it likely isn’t that at all, but rather, that living with MS can make it difficult to get back to people in a timely manner.

I’m guilty of this behavior, too

After talking with her, I realized I’m pretty guilty of this behavior, too. In fact, I’m pretty sure that getting back to people and keeping lines of communication open and frequent is just one of many reasons that MS can turns friends into strangers. With all of the ways we can communicate these days, you would think that this wouldn’t be an issue. Even though I pretty much rule out ever talking on the phone, there are still many ways to keep in touch. Texting, instant messaging, email, and various social media outlets are just some alternatives. With all of these options, it would seem like I have no excuse, right?

Fatigue, cognitive issues, and memory difficulties

Despite so many avenues of communication, I’m still terrible at regularly communicating. One reason is most certainly fatigue. While it will seem like a terrible excuse to some, if you’ve ever experienced MS-related fatigue, you know it’s extremely valid. I can feel so heavy and so fatigued that even reaching for my phone can seem like a daunting task. Which means that I’ll put it off when I think about it. Putting something like that off then becomes a slippery slope because of cognitive issues. If I don’t do something as soon as I think about it, my memory difficulties will usually ensure that I’ll completely forget it. It’s not that I forget because I don’t care, that’s something I wish people could understand. I care very much, however, my brain simply doesn’t work the way it should.

I psych myself out

So it’s not always one issue that makes me bad at keeping in touch, but a combination of symptoms that come together in a perfect storm. Add to that, when (or if) I do remember to respond to someone or check on someone, I’ll realize how I had forgotten and feel a bit ashamed. Even with a legitimate excuse, it’s embarrassing and I’m left wondering if they’ll really believe the truth. I start to psych myself out and put off contacting them even longer. Even the most understanding friend or family member can get fed up with this behavior. It can also lead to them being dismissive of us and starting to not care, because they think we don’t care. It’s an awful and all too common occurrence for those with MS and certainly one that ends up severing some relationships.

Trying to get better

So I’m trying to get better at staying in touch with folks. I think keeping myself aware that it’s a problem is a key first step in getting better at it. Keeping my phone close to me and utilizing reminders is another step. Remembering to mark items as “unread” has been helpful too. When I am feeling decent, I’m also trying to go back and review my various forms of communication, to see what I’ve missed. Despite my efforts, I know I’ll still make mistakes. Some lines of communication will fall through the cracks. I just hope my friends and family will read this and realize that I do care and I will get back to you, I simply ask for some patience and understanding.

Thanks for reading!

Devin

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Comments

  • Shawna1968
    1 year ago

    Thank you Devin! This answers a lot of questions for me!!!! I really need to work on staying connected with my friends! They are my support team!

  • Loopyone
    1 year ago

    Another good article and many good comments

  • ClaireElizabeth
    1 year ago

    Once again Devin thanks for encapsulating many things we deal with daily, that can be so hard to explain. It really helps when I can quote a particular paragraph that you have written.

  • DeniseC
    1 year ago

    I make a point of ringing two numbers on my mobile phone every Saturday. If they dont answer I send a short txt to say that I rang and hope all is well. Received a lovely txt from someone I used to work with saying what a lovely surprise it was. Small steps.

  • Tess
    1 year ago

    What do you do when a friend only reaches out cuz they’ll be in town and wants to use your car and crash at your place knowing it’s just too much for me. I tell her this time that I just can’t acommodate her…it’s too much, but look forward to seeing you. It’s been 3 weeks and not one word. Not even an I get it and don’t worry about it. It saddens me and infuriates me all at the same time.

  • sevensix
    1 year ago

    Phone rings.

    Me: Hello.
    Caller: Hi, I’m Wippy from ….
    Wife: Who was it that called?
    Me: I don’t know.

    I forget to remember all the time. (This call may be recorded for quality purposes. YES!) This is an example of short term memory at its optimal performance. Good grief.
    -sevensix

  • TracyShudo
    1 year ago

    First I would like to THANK Devin for taking the time to write this article. No I dont think anyone else can understand the devastating fatigue we have unless you/ they have experienced it themselves. So no, most people just dont understand. I have explained to friends when we are out I am about to hit my wall we have to go now. My husband understands as well as close family. But again the issue is have we told them about our fatigue and putting in to simple words that they can kind of understand?
    Second to what ASAPcindy said Oh that’s a hard one, but I have found I dont spend time with negative people. If I do it just makes even an ok day a bad one. On a bad day it can set me back days. But she is your mother in law, I would have a conversation with your spouse to have them have a talk with their mom that you can only have short visits and your Dr has advised during all visits with anyone. It needs to try and stay on the positive side or it can and does effect your health. Of course mom your not doing this but we have just found out that this is a real health issue for my partner and if you could help me out by keeping visits short and over all positive and encourage other people to do the same that would be so great and helpful. Again I find blaming someone else but along with the information that you need CAN make a person take a closer look at what they are doing. If that does not work, if your at home after 20 mins I would say soory Mom but I am not having a great day so I have to go to bed now, Sorry for the short visit. If you keep doing this they then MIGHT learn to change. Hope that helps.. Tracy P.S I watch Ellen most days the show is so full of positive energy it just makes me feel good.

  • ASAPcindy
    1 year ago

    It seems to me that one day bleeds into another and I just lose track of time. I’m pretty good at life events, congratulating on being a grandma, or a wedding, or even the passing of a loved one, but I find everyday chit chat taxing. My mother in law loves to ‘visit’, having coffee and deconstructing everyday nonsense. I don’t care how rude the waiter was at lunch, or so and so’s such and such, or her bridge partner’s new kitchen. I really hate other people’s feelings. Tell me who, what, where and when. I don’t care about how mad she got at the dry cleaners because they shrunk her sweater, or how swell it was when she ran into her old neighbor. Seeing this in print makes me sound like a real b****, but to be perfectly honest this was never my strong suit before ms started to overwhelm my life.

  • DDeFord
    1 year ago

    I totally agree ! Sometimes keeping in touch is the last thing that’s important compared to what we deal with everyday !

  • lcal
    1 year ago

    Devin
    Once again, thank you for expressing what
    Apparently a lot of us are going through.
    I’m very grateful you wrote this and am going to be forwarding it to my close family and friend
    Lisa

  • meghmacn
    1 year ago

    I can completely relate to this. I’ve deliberately ended friendships, where the expectations for constant communication or socializing past my energy (err, fatigue) levels were too much.

  • Danielle Stone
    1 year ago

    Hi Devin. This is a great article. Thank you for sharing it. I was so glad to read there is someone else with MS I can relate to that does not use the phone that often. Sometimes I really want to and still won’t make a call. Writing is much easier for me but it is so impersonal. I understand how it is. I wish there were more people that understood this. Have a Thankful Thursday!

    Danielle

  • Parker 1133
    1 year ago

    So much of “not staying in touch” is fatigue, but for me at least it has a lot to do with the embarrassment I have because of cognitive issues and speech issues.

  • messeeone
    1 year ago

    Oh yes! That feeling when I’m talking to a friend on the phone, feeling fairly well, catching up with him or her, being my old, out-going self and he/she says, “let’s set a date to get together!” I freeze up a little, think oh, “we just did catch up, didn’t we?” and the difference between laying on my couch and talking to you and getting up, showered, dressed, and actually getting to a destination to meet you is like waking from a deep sleep and trying to climb a mountain! One of best solutions I’ve learned is to share post like this one to help our dear, treasured friends understand us better!

  • DeniseC
    1 year ago

    Yes sometimes I feel we need to have a written list so when they ask to catch up we have something to focus on.

    It is daunting to have to get together with someone. I found that if I do the first ‘date’ they meet my carer, watch me slowly walk on my frame, and do a double take of how it is a big deal. After that good friends get the general idea of where I am at.

  • lcal
    1 year ago

    Bandmom you’ve also summed it up great! One of the catch 22,s is you know that when ya get on phone with a close person you have not kept daily or weekly
    Or monthly etc in touch with
    It’s gonna be a long convo on the dreaded phone
    And yes the cringe of being asked about going out or feeling like I don’t really have anything great to share goes up on the list of reasons
    Devin, it funny I have been trying to be more cognizant of this since a life long friend who is very understanding brought it up to me
    Lisa

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thanks so much bandmom! I admit, I hope me sharing this post will do just that, help my friends understand.

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