Coming in My Graphic Memoir: Relationships

Perceptions of people with IBS (or any chronic illness that can't be "seen" by others) can be judgmental...   I imagine responses to me in people's heads. I fear the ignorance of this condition might lead to some "uncharitable" thoughts...   "Whiner...she should count her blessings!"   "Neurotic whack job!"   " Hypochondriac"   "ZZZZZZZZ"   "Big Deal"   " Take an antidepressant"

When you are living with a chronic illness, relationships suffer…how could they not? Depending on the severity of your symptoms and your personality, several things can occur, including the curtailment of social life, alteration of marital and romantic relationships, and perceptual changes made about you from others.  It takes a lot of energy to keep up a social life and maintain contact with friends. This is where people who “push” themselves to keep going no matter how they feel may have an advantage over those who don’t. The phone stops ringing if you say “no” enough, and many friends will stop trying to get together if you keep resisting. They get out of the habit of being with you.  I find myself searching for other excuses not to go somewhere other than my intestines, just to mix it up a little. The internet is a blessing, as it provides a way to keep in some sort of contact if you are not feeling too swell. And in a primary relationship with a spouse or significant other, constant complaining (who else is going to listen?) is only tolerated by saints, far too few of whom roam this earth. The lack of a social life also affects your partner, and that can cause guilt on one side and resentment on the other. It’s not that many people don’t care. But I think there are limits to a person’s understanding and tolerance to unrelenting discomfort in another person. People want you to feel good, and have a “happy ending” to your illness. Resolution is required, and when it never comes, I believe people lose interest and patience.

Working is a tough social situation, as symptoms follow you wherever you go, and a stoical front is necessary in the workplace. There is no escape, even on vacation, as there is no vacation from chronic illness. Distraction is great, so work,socializing and vacation are great, if only we can push and make it all happen. There are times it is good to push yourself to do something. If it turns out well, it’s a huge relief. But sadly, many times I find too many social situations to be an endurance test.

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