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“Wow, I Really Thought You Were a Real Friend…”

Most people who have lived a decent amount of time with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) already know what I am talking about based solely on the title of this article. It’s not uncommon for people with MS to learn that the people they thought were their friends for years turned out to be the complete opposite. A friend should be there for you to try to make you feel better when you are down, to help you through tough times, to offer a shoulder to lean on, and not to always complain that “your life is too negative for them” because you can’t go out and do the things you used to be able to do before MS. It hurts to learn that someone you cared about, even loved unconditionally, only wants you in their life if certain conditions of their own are met (they may not even consciously be aware that they have these conditions) and when you can no longer meet them they simply walk away like they turned into someone else the moment your life changed. All because to them you are now just a downer…

Tragedy reveals the true colors of people.

I see it all the time with people online and even worse is when their significant others leave them! It’s sad to know that some people are not as loyal as they led you to believe they are. I have been there, my girlfriend (at the time of my diagnosis) left me after I was diagnosed. What really gets me is that I know that if I love someone (friend, family or significant other) I am loyal which means no matter what happens I will be there for that person but when I got sick and needed support it was “too much for her” so she just left. OK, I know, we were both young at the time but I see the same exact thing happen to people who have been married for 10 to 20 years so maybe it’s not just an age thing… As well, when I talk about “relationships” I do not just mean romantic, I mean any relationship between two people as in how a simple friendship is technically a relationship.

So I do not mean to highlight only the fact that people sometimes leave on their own because sometimes you have to be the one to kick people out of your life. Why is that? Sometimes after being diagnosed certain people in your life stick around without actually accepting that any change has occurred. Maybe they build resentment or something (I personally think that a lot of people are just not that great at the whole empathy thing) but for whatever reason they become toxic to you or maybe they always were a source of stress but before it was not even a big deal, just a specific trait that they had that you always ignored, but now you can no longer handle whatever stress they are bringing to the table. And now, the best thing you can do is end whatever relationship you have that is causing you more stress than “good” because we all know that stress is bad for you, especially if you have MS. It’s hard and can hurt to just “let someone go” but sometimes it’s necessary for the greater good of your own health. I myself have also had to terminate many friendships that were doing nothing but causing me stress, which was making me feel ill. Of course I always brought the issues up and tried to talk about them like a mature adult would but when, after all that, they are not willing to try you have to be the one to say enough is enough because how is that fair that you are the one paying the price for all the stress they are bringing into your life? A relationship requires effort from both sides and if someone is not willing to put as much effort into the relationship as you then that should serve as an indicator as to how much you actually mean to them.

“It’s not that easy, but it is that simple” –Dr. House (House M.D. TV Show)

This has greatly affected my trust in people to the point that I probably need to see a therapist. All I know is that I would rather have a few really close friends than 100 friends at a party. I am now much more careful about who I let into my life because I don’t even know if it is possible to completely avoid this situation so I can only try to surround myself with positive people to reduce the chance of things getting ugly.

What has your experience with various relationships been after being diagnosed with MS? How do you deal with these kinds of “toxic” people?

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

  • dlsd12
    3 years ago

    Oh I am facing this right now. My best friend for 50 just told me she didn’t want to hear about my illness anymore. I said well it is kind of consuming my life so I guess I will talk to you when I get cured. Because I missed her I got back in touch a few weeks later, only for her to go on a rant about how she doesn’t want people to post on Facebook about politics, then religion, and other things. I was so twisted in a knot full of stress, I finally said then I guess we really have nothing to talk about anymore. Although I miss my friend I finally realized that sometimes it’s the other people who change as they get older and even though I may have a disease and may not be able to do the things I love to do I am the same person I have always been.

  • Matt Allen G author
    3 years ago

    It’s tough, it also seems that some people react/respond to your illness much differently than you would have thought based on who you THOUGHT they were, that can be painful because your image of them just crumbles as you realise “oh, i get it, you are actually a crappy person”

  • dricci
    3 years ago

    When I first was diagnosed in April 2015, my friends seemed to be there for me. But this past summer I was depressed and going through a stressful time in other regards. 2 of whom I thought were my closest friends told me they couldn’t deal with me because I was too negative. Gee, ya think? I was just diagnosed with an incurable disease and I was sick and exhausted all the time. I think it’s normal to be a little negative under the circumstances. When I started feeling better all of the sudden they wanted to be my friends again and spend time with me. But now I am the one to pull away. I just don’t trust them.

  • Matt Allen G author
    3 years ago

    So they want tp be around you when THEY feel they are getting something good out of it but when you are down and YOU need help? Something that requires them to step up and be a true friend? They shy away? Yeah… Maybe it’s just me but that is not how friendships are supposed to work…

  • Tess
    3 years ago

    I have a best friend that knows my condition and as long as each day is “normal”, it’s all good. I recently fell and broke my foot and am pretty much stuck st home. She seems to have be one elusive. Very sad.

  • cabotsmom
    3 years ago

    Tess – so sorry. It was not so much my friends but my family (mother and sister) who walked away right after my diagnosis never to be heard from again. My mother walked away from me, her grandson (at the time 12 years old) and my sister (real piece of work) called me and said “mom knows you think it is her fault and it is not and we just can’t deal with you.” So take things as they come and those who are truly your tribe will be there through it all.

  • Matt Allen G author
    3 years ago

    It is… It baffels me how some people have SO LITTLE empathy…

  • Penny
    3 years ago

    This has been the most painful reality for me. I was diagnosed in 2010 at the age of 49. I was managing a busy ER, working long hours and frankly most of my friends were coworkers. By 2012, I could no longer work due to cognitive issues and frequent relapses. I failed on 2 frontline disease modifying drugs and it wasn’t looking good. The first year people were pretty good at staying in touch, stopping by, and inviting me out. When I was no longer able to drive, wow the whole world changed. Suddenly I felt like a burden to nearly everyone! What I will say is those who truly care for you will make time for you. Those who are only there when things are easy will walk away. Even if they try to pretend they haven’t walked away, I encourage you to emotionally let them go. When you feel as if there’s a disconnect, trust your intuition because you are probably correct.

  • Matt Allen G author
    3 years ago

    It’s definitely one of the worst parts of living with MS if you ask me,

  • zeddogg
    3 years ago

    I let go of a friend who was TOO empathetic! Pre-diagnosis we’d dance (badly) and laugh the night away…then, I was told not to go out in case I got tired, if I was at a dinner party she’d suggest to everyone to wind-up by 9.30 because I needed to get home and rest, I was told to stay seated and not dance.

    Perhaps she thought she was being supportive, but she was taking away the opportunity for me to control what I (still) could, and treating me like I was a child who couldn’t make sensible decisions.

    On the other hand, I left my husband who regularly accused me of “turning it on” if I went to lie down in the middle of the day. I’m sure he found it scary and wanted to deny our lives were changing – but the effort to “look good” for his benefit was toxic and unsustainable.

    To end positively, I have a wonderful (small) group of incredible friends who completely ‘forget’ the diagnosis, unless I tell them something’s happening – and then we alter what we’re doing, no fuss at all. I also have a wonderful (small) group of MS friends who understand, and who always supportive of the twists and turns in our daily lives.

  • Matt Allen G author
    3 years ago

    Yeah I could not handle being treated as if I were so fragile… Too much can be just as bad as too little for sure,

  • Trina
    3 years ago

    The woman I thought was my best freind, for years, actually told me that I ruined her day when I told her of my diagnosis. I thought, ‘ruined your day, well, how about having your entire life ruined?’ I spend my days at home, not being social because I don’t want to talk about my illness and I don’t want to be stared at because of the way I move.

    People automatically assume that if you have MS, you are getting free money every month. (without a job) I get no help from my terrorist government. (SSA) I have no money, my life sucks because I can’t even take care of myself, and everyone I know assumes everything about me. No one bothers to ask.

    I need assistance to walk, but my government and my friends (ha) tell me to get a job. I’ve supported my government for most of my life and they’ve told me to take a hike.

  • Matt Allen G author
    3 years ago

    wow, I am in the same boat! I ask for help and they say “nah, you can work, in fact, go ahead and give us back that 25 grand we ‘lent’ you” PFT.

  • Marcie Kim
    3 years ago

    My husband’s GF at the time broke up after his dx. They were in their 20s and she freaked. My husband and I are 45 now and he doesn’t harbor any ill will toward that sweet girl. She was young and scared. I’m sorry it happened to you!

    As for “real” friends, I agree with you that some people aren’t great at the empathy thing. They just cannot relate on any level to what you’re going through. You’re smart to move on. Ditto, obviously, for the jerks and/or anyone who sucks your energy because you don’t need that. But I think most friends who back off fall into a third bucket: they really do care but they don’t know what to do or say and that awkwardness they feel pushes them back. My husband and I have seen that since his MS became progressive and scary. Some tender hearted friends have struggled to be a friend and be present. So don’t give up on everyone. Try to understand their limitations. We are all weak – just different ways. Hold close to the brave, strong friends who know how to support you. Our social circle has definitely shrunk in recent years but it’s a stronger, more supportive circle. Good luck!!!!

  • Matt Allen G author
    3 years ago

    Yes, I tried for years to give my ex as many chances as I could after we broke up but after all that I realised she did not even really want to learn how to better work with me, so why go on when we were both making each other miserable in some way.

  • Tess
    3 years ago

    Had who I thought was a friend until her backaches, headaches and arthritis trumped my invisible disease. She was causing me so much stress due to her trivializing my MS, that I let her go. Another friend just stopped inviting me to anything and anyplace because I can’t make plans in advance. I never know, simple as that. I tell them to do the research, and they don’t. Moving on and forward.

  • Kath
    3 years ago

    I love your story. So many people have left my life. My husband does not handle my ms very well. We do nothing but fight over stupid things. I don’t think he is ha ply. We are working on it. I did tell him that I cannot live so unhappy any longer . My days are so positive but when he gets home it all goes to hell.

    Thanks again for the story.

  • Matt Allen G author
    3 years ago

    That really saddens me, I am sorry to hear :/

  • v.shane86
    4 years ago

    Oh, wow! All the stories I have about “friends” and people that “love” me… Lol

    My ex broke up with me because my problems were “too much for him” and he felt “pressured”. This guy broke up with me as I was being transferred to another hospital, 4 hours away, for emergency surgery. I have cystinuria (chronic kidney stones) so my kidneys were blocked, I was bleeding quite a bit, in a great deal of pain and very, very sick. He even had the nerve to call me at the hospital that night to see how I was doing. He wanted to know everything that happened. When I asked why he wanted to know, he got mad at ME. Now he holds a grudge for whatever reason.

    My only “real” friends are the ones that have MS or cystinuria. They understand what I am dealing with every day and they don’t make childish demands. I am a loyal friend and will drag my friends around when they need to be carried because I know my real friends will do the same for me.
    Being sick every day makes you tough! You don’t have time for games and don’t have time for fake friends.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and struggles with the world, Matt! It takes a very strong person to do what you do every day. Your blog was the first thing I read about MS when I was diagnosed in 2013. You gave me hope and I didn’t feel so alone and lost. If you ever need to talk or vent, I am here and will always listen.
    Have a nizhoni (beautiful) day!

  • Matt Allen G author
    3 years ago

    I really do not get how people can be so lacking in empathy. Maybe you have to go through something to understand and they just haven’t?

    And yeah, skype is nice but sometimes you just need someone to sit on the couch with and watch TV, not even say anything, just hang out.

  • v.shane86
    4 years ago

    Thank you for getting these issues out there! I have so many similar stories to the one I shared. Honestly, I just let stuff go but how could anyone do that to someone you claim to love so very much? Lol I’m not saying stay in a relationship or friendship with someone that doesn’t make you happy, but do they have to be so cold about it? I couldn’t do that. My conscience would eat away at me.
    Skype is fun, talking and texting on the phone is fun, but it’s also fun to just go out. Sometimes that’s all we need to feel a little better. I understand that. 🙁

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    Thank you! Thanks for sharing your experience (with your social life post MS) here as well! I am in the same boat, the only friends that really understand me to the point that I feel “open and comfortable” have MS or some “similar” disease. It just sucks that we can’t hang out together, Skype is nice but it’s still not the same as BEING there with them.

  • Jessica Petroff
    4 years ago

    This year has been the toughest year so far. I find the more I progress, the more family and friends pull away or just simply don’t understand, nor do they try to understand.

    I’m sorry any of us have to deal with this, like having MS and trying to adapt to the changes and challenges that causes us isn’t stress enough.

    It’s especially hard when family or friends think that you’re a cry baby or feel sorry for yourself just because you are vulnerable around them and express your feelings with them. It’s hurtful and hard to let go, but we have to for the better of our health.

    Wishing you and everyone who deals with MS good healthy relationships with the empathy and understanding we deserve.

    Many Blessings,

    Jessica

  • Tess
    3 years ago

    I just stopped talking about how I feel. Ask me how I am today and I’ll just say I’m fine, how are you? Difference is, when I ask how you are, I really want to know.

  • Matt Allen G author
    4 years ago

    Yeah I feel like the social issues that come with MS are an entirely separate but almost equally difficult issue to deal with yet there are almost no “self help” guides for us to try to follow…

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