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The Difficulties of Maintaining Friendships With MS

One of the common gripes I often hear from those with multiple sclerosis is about the toll it takes on relationships. This disease can have a very negative effect on the personal relationships that we had prior to being diagnosed. Many people with MS find that, as time with the disease goes on, they're no longer close to the same folks they once considered major parts of their lives.

Many have found that they relate more to different people (as they say, “MS turns friends into strangers and strangers into friends”). While some people are able to swap old friends for new ones, others struggle to maintain any kind of friendships. I am one of those such people, so I thought I’d take a look at some of the MS-related aspects of my failure at maintaining relationships.

Maintaining contact and friendships

One reason I’m horrible at being a friend is that I’m absolutely awful at keeping in touch with people. I will never ever talk on the phone because of a variety of speech issues. I also have a lot of problems remembering to not only reach out to people but to respond to those that have reached out to me. I can’t even begin to figure out how many times I’ve thought I’ve responded to someone’s message only to realize later that I never actually did. Eventually, it becomes so long since I’ve responded that it feels awkward to do so. The strange thing is that, a  lot of times, I’m actually thinking of the person, but don’t think to actually reach out to them.

Canceling plans

Another reason I struggle with maintaining relationships is that I cancel a lot. I don’t think I’ve been friends with a single person and not had to cancel plans with them. That’s the nature of MS, our bodies are unpredictable. I can be fine, even dressed and ready to go out, then suddenly feel awful. Canceling so much creates resentment with our friends and weighs heavily on us. When you have to bail on your friends so much, it makes the relationship harder to maintain.

Difficulty relating to others

While it’s easy to understand why I no longer relate to my former friends, that kind of mutual understanding fails with new ones a lot too. I know a lot of folks who become friends because they share the same illness. While they have a lot in common with me, it’s ultimately a tough foundation to build a friendship on, particularly because MS is so different from person to person.

Similarly, I’ve had a lot of friends I’ve met in recent years who don’t share my illness, but I still thought we had some things in common. Well, as time goes on, it’s harder for me to relate to them. The simple fact that I don’t get up and go to work like they do, is often enough to make me feel alienated over time. I simply have so much less in common with people these days (and staying home so much can really lead to overthinking about this kind of thing).

This life is exhausting

Even though I don’t leave my house and go to work like most people, my life is utterly exhausting. I’m not even talking about the fatigue that I suffer, but everything else. Being in pain all the time takes a lot out of me, both mentally and physically. Trying to do the bare minimum to care for myself depletes any sort of energy I have. Honestly, just trying to stay alive in this body of mine is extremely exhausting to me and has a major impact on my ability to maintain relationships.

These aren’t excuses

The last thing I want is for people to think I am making excuses for why I’m not great at relationships. While I am pointing out the MS aspects that make it difficult, I’m still aware that I may just be a shitty friend. I think that can still be a valid evaluation by those that are (or were) friends with me. That said, there are definitely some mountains that those with MS have to climb when it comes to maintaining friendships, and I feel like acknowledging those might enlighten some and make others feel better.

How are you at maintaining relationships? Hit up the comments below!


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