The Importance of an Invitation
For many people battling a chronic illness, like Multiple Sclerosis, social opportunities become increasingly difficult to attend. This can become especially problematic in the warmer months, as many of those with MS suffer from some form of heat intolerance or during the holidays, when large gatherings and travel prove problematic. Friends and family begin to realize that we either have to cancel our plans at the last minute or simply outright decline many of the invitations we get. Eventually, as we are forced to continually be unable to attend functions, the invitations can start drying up. This can be disastrous for someone with a chronic illness.
Attending isn’t easy
No one feels worse about not leaving the house than us. Trust me when I say I wish I could be at every single event my friends and family have. I even crave it because I can attend so rarely. When your body forces you out of action so much, even attending events that would previously seem annoying becomes a coveted activity. I’m sure there are many times where it feels like we are simply “blowing you off,” like we aren’t interested and we are making excuses. I assure you that is not the case. If I say something and it sounds like an excuse, that’s only because I’m embarrassed to, once again, explain that my body is failing me. That some symptoms suddenly increased, maybe even because I was excited to be joining you (“happy stress” can be difficult for us, too). Let’s face it, anytime you have to constantly give the reason behind anything negative, you begin to feel like it’s unbelievable.
It doesn’t end with the cancellation
While your activity will no doubt go on without us, we are left yet again at home, feeling disappointed. Our sadness isn’t only because we can’t attend, it’s also because we feel like we’ve let you down. Whether we always show it or not, we are all very aware of how much of an inconvenience our illness can be on others. Feeling like you are disappointing others when you have no real way of controlling it is an extremely hard thing to live with. That is especially so when you have a lot of time to sit around and overthink it. Those feelings of disappointment are made worse when we are made more aware of what we see as our shortcomings. Off the cuff remarks about our attendance history is certainly one way to make us feel even worse than we already do. Another way is to simply stop inviting us. Even though we know we likely can’t attend, to not get an invite can be devastating. It can make us feel discarded and less like human beings.
It’s the thought that counts
I get there are some events that I’m probably going to always decline or cancel on. Sitting on the beach on a sunny 100-degree day is definitely one of them (my heat intolerance is so bad, I can safely say that’s pretty much the worst situation for my body, I’m honestly not sure I’d live through it). That doesn’t mean I don’t want to feel included though. While it took some time to understand, a lot of my friends seem to know this. Even acknowledging the issues I might have, “I know it’s really hot out” or “I know it might be a bit loud” and even giving an option for later “Hey, we’re hitting the beach, but if you want to come by the house later when it’s cooler…” Being at least given the option is important. Yes, I might feel a little bad declining, but it is much better than never being asked. I know my body has a few limits, but they’re so much easier to live with when you acknowledge them. You know I probably can’t come, but you know why, you wish I could, and you understand. If there is one thing we all wish we had, it’s more understanding. If you have a friend with MS, or another chronic illness, please don’t stop inviting them.
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