Hello and welcome to Believe in ME with Rhona Barton. In this week’s episode I’m going to be chatting to you about Relationships. More specifically, the feeling of being a burden within your relationships.
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Let’s jump straight in.
By now, you’re all aware that I was unable to move out of the family home as I had planned. This had a knock-on effect to a number of areas of my life. The one that we’re talking about today is Relationships. By not being able to move out, my relationships with different people changed.
Of the two friends I was due to move in with, one stuck by me and one disappeared from my life without a second thought.
The one who stuck by me has been there regardless of how well I was and whether or not I could tolerate more than a few mins of a visit with him. We’ve known each other for over 25 years now and he saw me at my worst and helped me celebrate my little wins. All without judgement and expectation.
The rest of my established friendships disappeared as my peers moved on with their lives. Having said that, I went on to gain some rich friendships via the online chat rooms and messaging services I’ve mentioned before. A number of these friendships have never been face-to-face but we still keep up with each other and our respective lives. It’s great having people who truly understand what you’ve been through and the concerns that you can go on to have about getting back to a “normal” life.
But did I tell my friends or my family what it was really like to live with ME?
Not really. Not 100% of every feeling, symptom and thought I had about it and what it could possibly mean for the future. And I think that can make relationships difficult as we don’t give other people the opportunity to understand what it’s like. It was hard to have those conversations as my confidence took quite a knock and I just didn’t have the energy to explain everything! It’s so draining to have to think about your symptoms and then pull them together into a coherent sentence or two in a way that others would understand.
If you’re not honest though, problems can come up. Friends or family may think you can do more than you can and when you don’t do something, they could feel like you’re avoiding them.
I know that I didn’t feel like my old self. My confidence had nose-dived. It’s normal to feel like your self-esteem has dropped when we feel ill – it happens to people when they have a simple cold, so it was no surprise that it happened to me with my ME. When I look back now, I’m quite surprised by how long this lasted and how much of my old confidence I lost.
I know I’ve said it before but working out my baseline activity and sticking to it helped to boost my confidence a little. That boost also meant it was easier for me to then explain how my ME was impacting me that day. Of course, not everybody understood, and this really showed me who my friends were. Yes, it hurt to lose friends, but when you feel more confident in yourself, you begin to see that this is THEIR problem and not yours!
Something to keep in mind is that when ME hits you, it also hits everybody else in your life. Your family and your friends are impacted. It’s frustrating, it can make you feel angry and it can lead to confusion and a dependency on others.
For friends they may be wondering where their once active friend has gone? The old person they used to know doesn’t seem to exist anymore. I didn’t have any news to share with my friends as I wasn’t out and about and my life had ground, quite literally, to a halt! I was dependant on them sharing information with me and keeping track of the conversation as well as pretty much leading the conversation.
They are likely to be just as confused as we are about it all. I found this a hard aspect to consider. Especially when I was trying to deal with my own feelings and emotions. I felt like I just didn’t have the headspace to consider their feelings on top of everything else!
Life is too short to hold a grudge with those friends who have chosen to move on. I had to remember that they had their own problems to deal with too. Although I wasn’t able to articulate it at the time, I changed a lot whilst I was ill and, truth be told, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed their company as much as I had in the past. I was, ultimately, a different person.
Stress, worry and regret are not good for anybody. These can all add to your ill health so my advice would be to forgive them if possible. Put what has happened behind you and focus on moving forward with the new you.
There was also a change in my relationship with my parents, my brother and my grandparents as they then became my carers.
Most parents don’t expect to still be looking after their child when that child is an adult in their 20’s. The fact that I needed help to do everything from getting out of bed, to going to the bathroom, to getting dressed when I was able, felt like I had taken a few hundred steps backwards in my life. I can only imagine what they thought.
The relationships we have with our family is an important one and it’s usually through our parents that we form our view of ourselves and it’s difficult to deal with tough times if we feel they are not supportive. I was fortunate. My immediate family was very supportive and, as they were the ones I was around most often, this was very helpful.
Having their support and understanding was very important to me. They were the first point of contact for any queries about how I was doing and even answering the door if friends dropped by. There were times when I wished that they would just let me have another 10 mins of a visit but, as seems to be the way with parents, they knew better and would help move my visitor on as my energy levels dropped.
Although your family don’t have the ME symptoms that you may have, they are still going through the rest of the effects with you. They have maybe had to make changes to their own friendship groups if they have experienced “non-believers”; their social activities may have taken a hit to ensure that they are home with you when you need them and they may have had to make changes to their work routine.
I found that I became dependant on my family for everything. This meant that pretty much everyone else was excluded until I found my online friends. They helped to keep me sane and gave me something to look forward to on the days I could managed to participate in the online chat.
I felt like things were very one sided. I felt like I was a burden to my family as I was dependent on them for so very much in my everyday life. Not only for some of the practical elements such as helping me wash, dress and prepare meals but also for bigger things. Things such as helping me apply for welfare support benefits, sorting out a SORN declaration for my car as it was off the road and even helping me out with being able to pay my bills whilst waiting for any welfare support to be confirmed and received.
The more I felt like I was becoming a burden, the more I tried to do and the more I over did things! That then knocked me back and I would have to start again. It was quite the vicious cycle and I got trapped in it a number of times.
Only when I began to accept that I had no control over things and that my family were only doing for me, what I would do for them, did I begin to feel a shift within myself. That feeling of being a burden slowly began to lift. I’m not convinced it ever really went away and I still don’t like feeling like I’m dependent on others. I’m stubborn enough that I like to try things for myself so that I’m not feeling like a burden again. That’s not always a good thing because it can mean that I forget to ask for help when I need it and I do have to remind myself that I’m not an expert in everything!
So that brings me to today’s take aways:
1. Not all of your relationships, be they within the family circle or within your friendship circle, may survive your ME life.
2. It’s hard to lose those relationships from your life but please remember that that’s their problem, not yours!
3. You can find new friendships and relationships through your ME with people who understand.
4. Feeling like a burden or that you are dependent on others, does not last and it doesn’t define you.
That’s it for today everyone. I’ve touched on my experiences of feeling dependent and like a burden to my family and friends. In doing so, I’ve chatted about what that looked and felt like for me but also for those around me. I’ve also spoken a little about how this changed as my health changed. I suspect that you’ll find the same and I’d love to hear about your experiences too.
Thank you for listening.
Please review, share and follow Believe in ME with Rhona Barton via Apple podcasts, Spotify or wherever you find your podcasts. Remember that you can join
my Facebook group, Believe in ME Community, by heading to my facebook page (@rhonabartoncoaching) and you can leave me a short voice message by heading to speakpipe.com/BiME