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The Sadness of Former Friends

In recent times, I’ve found myself making some rough decisions when it’s come to friendships. Creating and maintaining friendships while suffering from Multiple Sclerosis can be extremely difficult, enough that I’ve spoken before about how MS can turn friends into strangers and strangers into friends. While it’s common for people to discuss how they’ve lost friends because of their disease, we don’t often speak about consciously removing friends from our lives for the same reason. I have found myself talking to certain friends less and even unfollowing them on social media of late because seeing and hearing about their lives saddens me.

The life I expected to live

Who am I talking about? The friends that are always taking trips, that are always out, that are starting or having families. The ones whose lives are going the way I thought and hoped my life would go. For a while, I admit, I experienced feelings of jealousy. I’m not proud of that, but I admit it. I was jealous that longtime friends were living the life I expected to live. I was jealous that they still had their careers, that they could go and enjoy a baseball game on a hot, sunny afternoon, that they travel, and date, and do everything without the giant weight of an incurable illness weighing them down. I was happy for them, but I was also jealous. I desired what they had so very much.

Envy changed to something worse

Over time, my feelings of jealousy started to change.  My envy eventually morphed into a different and far worse feeling: sadness. Seeing and hearing about their wonderful lives and the experiences that I’ll never partake in because of my disease became increasingly difficult. Vacation pictures moved me to tears (traveling is incredibly difficult for me), promotions felt like a slap in the face (I miss my career), and birth announcements felt like a punch in the gut (my illness has left me alone and at an advanced age). I can honestly say I fell in the pit of despair whenever I would get or see great news about some of my friends. What does that make me? It feels like such a terrible thing to admit.

In addition to the sadness their exploits brought me, I realized that the longer I was on disability, the longer I had this disease, the less in common I had with them. There is eventually less to talk about. Less in common. You have different goals and aspirations. Life changes, they go one way and you go the other. It happens all the time, with or without a disease involved. It just seems like a sadder thing when it’s because of a disease, when it’s against your will.

Tired of the fight

Of course, I still care about them, and I am genuinely happy that their lives are going so well. At the same time, seeing it hurts me. I know that’s on me, that’s about how I handle it. People will think I’m a terrible person for saying these things, they’ll think I’m ungrateful, and even selfish. I swear I’m not, I know my life is much better than many people’s. I know I’m extremely lucky, and despite how this article may come off, I am generally a pretty happy guy. However, I’m human and I’ve been through a lot and I get tired. Tired of the fight and tired of seeing the things I thought would be mine. No longer wishing they were mine, but simply sad that they never will be.

Thanks for reading!

Devin

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Carol
    9 months ago

    Devin,

    I despair over former long-time friends dropping me because of my having MS. Maybe or probably it is because I am no fun anymore, I can’t do the things that I used to do, and have less and less in common with them anymore.

  • dtwhite1
    10 months ago

    Thanks again Devin, once again, I couldn’t have said it better (and I’m an English Major LOL). I related to everything you said about seeing people live the life you thought you would have. Tired of seeing the pictures of everyone’s vacations. I left Facebook for 3 years just because of that. I have gotten rid of a few friends even though there isn’t that big of a number left after my diagnosis….but my stress is reduced so much by not hearing their drama. I think anyone dealing with a disability like ours has gone through those very feelings. Thank you for being so honest and making me feel like I’m not alone in the many emotions I battle because I have way
    to much free time to think….Please keep writing. You help me immensely 🙂

  • Azjackie
    10 months ago

    Devin what an accurate article again. It’s as if you’re reading my mind.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    10 months ago

    Thanks so much Azjackie!

  • jsmith
    10 months ago

    Devin, my wife of 33 years is in end stage MS. You once wrote about caregivers and it was so comforting and reassuring. You are a brilliant writer. I don’t know what path your life without MS would have been but you are doing such important work now. I was a Sgt in the USMC and served in Vietnam but when I see people like you and my beloved Debbie nothing I did ever could compare to the bravery you both display. That is no BS. You may be doing more good now than any life without this wretched disease. You are a true warrior.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    10 months ago

    Thanks you so, so much jsmith! I very much appreciate you saying that, it means a lot.

  • Shelby Comito moderator
    10 months ago

    Thank you so much for sharing this, @jsmith. My heart breaks to hear what you’re going through with your wife, and I’m so glad you’ve found Devin’s articles comforting. Your strength and ability to speak such life into others in the midst of what you’re going through is truly inspiring. Our hearts are with you and please let us know if there’s anything we can do to support you and Debbie. Warmest regards, Shelby, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • MarveleeC
    10 months ago

    Devin, I always read all your posts/articles and I really like what you write as well as your style of writing. I have never wanted to write a comment until now. This post/article moved me to tears! I wanted to yell, “Me. too!” I, too, have been overcome by sadness at what I can no longer do (work, travel, etc.). And someone simply saying to you,”Buck up, look on the positive side, change your attitude.”, simply doesn’t cut it! Sometimes I just need to sit on my “Pity Pot” for a while! Also, I totally get it about being disheartened when reading Facebook posts about wonderful lives, wonderful trips and vacations. That’s why I got off of social media sites! At the risk of being too “preachy” I want to share two quotes that I really find helpful, The first one is: “Courage does not always roar, sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’ ” Sometimes when I get sad about having MS, I wait for the next day to come. As for all the people who talk about their wonderful trips/vacations/ cruises or their wonderful lives/jobs/kids, I’m reminded of this quote: ““Always remember that each person you see … sits next to his or her own pool of tears.” Those folks have some sadness in their lives that they are not sharing. Keep writing and I’ll keep reading as we both “keep on keeping on”.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    10 months ago

    Thanks so much MarveleeC, I very much appreciate you taking the time to comment and share your thoughts!

  • watergir1
    10 months ago

    I sure wish I could fix it so you could do all of those things. (If I figure out how to fix me, I will let you know right away!) Yah, I get it. For the past 5 years since I stopped working, I have this dream (nightmare?) where I still go to work, and everybody acts like it’s normal, but then I remember that I’m on disability and that I should be making 3x as much as I am if I’m going to do all of that work! Never thought I’d miss HAVING to go to work.
    Thanks for sharing – I hope it helps a little that you do.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    10 months ago

    Thank you watergirl1, I actually have dreams about still going to work too, not something I ever expected when I still worked!

  • Lily
    11 months ago

    This is the second article I’ve read of yours and I love the way you express yourself, your intelligence and your humor. I’ve even used one of your articles to share with my brother who doesn’t understand MS.
    I too have lost friends to this disease. Maybe I just realized they really weren’t my friends. I think they were acquantinces who shared my same interests, but not necessarily my same values.
    I’ve lost my career to this disease.
    I have learned to let go of saying “What I used to be able to do…”
    I also learned, and am still learning, to let go of any anger.
    The frustration and anger will always be there, as people do things that I can no longer do, such as just picking up and going to a baseball game, on a hot day. Heck, I can’t even go outside when it’s a beautiful 80 degrees! Anything over 71 degrees, and that’s pushing it.
    Getting back to the anger part, sure, I feel it when someone asks me to join them for an activity I know I cannot, or a family member asks me to help out in a way I know I cannot.
    I realize, for the moment, they are upset that I am not there for them, but what they don’t realize is that I am dealing with MS every minute of every day.
    But I have to let go of the anger or I would be angry every minute of every day.
    I think about what Nelson Mandela said, “I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, those who imprisoned me would still be in control of a part of my life.”
    Of course, I have to tweak it a bit to fit my life, but I realize I have control in my life, now that I know my limits.
    I also realize the friends and family who are in my life now, love me and accept me as I am, limitations and all.
    Thank you for allowing me to share. Keep up the good work Devin!

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    10 months ago

    Thanks so much Lily!

  • dhortho1
    11 months ago

    Devin,
    It is very natural and human to feel the way you do. You are sensitive and aware that, yes, maybe you do feel a little guilty about how you view your friends’ non-MS lives but then you recover, shake it off and wish them well. It’s ok to go through that progression of feelings–we all do it.
    I’m the guy who has written you in the past about my MS friend who has stopped communicating with me (says she goes dark, often). I sometimes wonder if she has pushed me away because I lead a healthy life without MS and the strong feelings we had for one another long ago. Maybe it makes her sad, it does me.
    Be well,
    David

  • poetgirrl
    11 months ago

    Please don’t be so hard on yourself, Devin! You’re not a terrible person; in fact, it’s normal and understandable to have feelings of envy and sadness about the things we can’t do that people who don’t have MS can. I always thought I would travel, and I did get to a few places when I was much younger, but now I’m having to face the fact that with SPMS at the age of 72, I will probably never see Paris, or Bali, or Austrailia, or all the other places in the world I would like to experience. But especially Paris. And it just kills me. Right now I’m going to let myself feel that. Tomorrow or next week or next month I’ll think about the good things in my life–just not tonight.

  • Alina Ahsan moderator
    11 months ago

    poetgirrl, Feeling sad about not being able to do things that you always imagined doing is so natural, yet it’s so easy to feel guilty about these emotions. Allowing yourself to really feel – and then being able to refocus on the good things in life – is such a wise and mindful approach to life with MS. Thank you for sharing this perspective.
    -Alina, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    11 months ago

    Thanks poetgirrl! It’s OK to lament some of the tougher situations in life. As I mentioned, my life is pretty good, but sometimes, particularly when it seems pushed on you by social media, it’s hard not to occasionally think about it!

  • Carol
    11 months ago

    Oh Devin,

    I know exactly what you are saying. I too don’t like how my life turned out. I am jealous, filled with envy that I don’t have what and how my life was supposed to be and I just can’t shake the sadness.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    11 months ago

    Thank you Carol, appreciate the comment. While the things I see others doing, particularly people I was once close to, can certainly bring me down. We must remember that we don’t know if those things would really bring us joy anyway, or even if they are full of joy. It’s OK to be upset some times, as long as you pick yourself up!

  • collena
    11 months ago

    I get what you’re saying- so I’ll just remind you that people on social media (most of them anyhow) are only showing the good stuff. Everyone is their own editor these days. It makes sad sometimes too, always thinking to myself ‘I don’t play this game right’.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    11 months ago

    Thank you collena! Social media is most definitely a direct cause of these feelings for many people!

  • nasus
    11 months ago

    Hi Devin,
    I have been reading your post.
    I’d like to suggest that maybe you try harder to stop feeling sorry for yourself.
    Maybe you could brush yourself off and try harder. Maybe be more positive.
    Negativity will get you no where.
    Where is your family? Talk to them to help you feel better and not like the world is against you.
    My opinion of course.

    Enjoy your day!

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    11 months ago

    Trust me nasus, I am not feeling sorry for myself. I’m left questioning how much of the article you’ve read. I’m an extremely positive person, but please understand that, while an attitude is helpful, it does absolutely nothing to re-grow the myelin around one’s nerves. I’ve also encountered many people in my two decades with the disease, including myself, who thought that simply being positive is the way to success. That works out well in the first decade or so, but I find that being more realistic about life considerably more effective in the long term. I also have learned over my life, not only from my own disease, but from others with various health issues, that telling someone to “be more positive” is very much akin to a slap in the face. It a way to show that you either don’t believe someone or won’t take the time to actually learn how their illness works. Worst of all, it’s an extreme form of victim blaming, essentially telling someone that it’s their fault. “well if you were more positive, these things wouldn’t happen to you”, that’s just an incredibly unrealistic and offensive approach to many people that battle extremely hard in their life with an illness. I still thank you for your comment, but please realize that there are many, many people, particularly ones that have had an illness for a long time, that are very much offended by that line of thinking.

  • cllemasters
    11 months ago

    I completely understand and agree with what you are saying. It’s hard to hear and see everyone around you continue with their lives when yours has been affected with such a monster of a disease. I was diagnosed in 2009 and believe me, I am familiar with those feelings of envy and sadness. They are difficult to overcome and it doesn’t help for someone to advise you to try to be more positive. It sounds to me like you are already a pretty positive person and are just offering your personal experience as a guide and support for others going through the same thing. Thank you for writing what so many of us experience, but can’t always explain. It’s much appreciated.

  • Shelby Comito moderator
    11 months ago

    Hi @nasus, thanks for the comment. There’s no right way to feel with MS, and emotional symptoms can often be a part of MS. But it’s good to know there’s support out there. Best, Shelby (MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member)

  • poetgirrl
    11 months ago

    I just don’t think it’s helpful to tell people that what they’re feeling is wrong, that they should be more positive, count their blessings, blah, blah, blah.. It’s clear from Devin’s post that he’s as hard on himself as anyone else could possibly be and that he’s anticipated what other people might think of him and feels a little guilty. In my experience, it’s better, more authentic, to face one’s feelings rather than try to stuff them down; only then does one have a real chance for growth.

  • nasus
    11 months ago

    Thanks for your reply Shelby! I do know that. But with a more positive attitude you can allow yourself to feel better. It all starts with the right attitude. There is no right way to feel with lots of medical conditions and diseases. You have to keep yourself going. I speak with experience. . Just trying to influence Devin!

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