Hey Monty's Mom,
Chronic Pain sufferers are at a great disadvantage because it's a hidden condition, depending on what malady or affliction is at the root of our discomfort. People have a hard time acknowledging what they can't see, what isn't tangible to them. Thus, when we tell someone else we are in pain, they just have to take our word for it, and since they aren't experiencing it themselves, it tends to quickly fade from their consciousness. Basically, out of sight, out of mind. Friends who have never had chronic pain issues can't relate, and often end up shying away because they no longer feel like they share common ground. Unfortunately, they don't realize that a little loyalty and a dependable presence can make dealing with CP more tolerable than having to suffer all alone.
I've been on SSDI(Disability) for about five years at this point(with multiple CP issues), but due to the strong work ethic that was drilled into me by my parents growing up, I still feel like I am somehow "playing hookie" because I don't (actually can't) hold down fulltime employment anymore. The guilt I feel is ridiculous under the circumstances, yet it's there all the same.
I spent the first four years on disability at home alone, with only one or two friends that I would occasionally talk to, but almost never left my house, much less have anything resembling a "social life." I tried making friends in a group therapy environment for people that were suffering from depression and anxiety disorders, but I even failed to find any kindred spirits there. The answer for me came when I finally ended up joining a social club that does a lot of various charity work. In my case, I joined my local Parrot Head Club, which are fans of Jimmy Buffett's music and the laid-back tropical lifestyle. The club's motto is that they "party with a purpose", basically doing good deeds for others as we are able (which in itself is quite rewarding), and then partying together as a reward for our hard work. This club has members from all walks of life, and many of them have there own personal challenges with pain issues and other health problems, including cancer, MS, and other serious maladies. We support each other, and take up the slack for one member or the other when someone is having a particularly difficult time. By doing our different charity projects, it reminds us that no matter how bad our own situation might be, there is always someone else with a more rotten lot in life. The Parrot Heads have each other's backs, and I would be lost without them.
The other thing I started doing was making myself go out to the local bar/watering hole that's right down the road from my house. My best friend(from childhood) plays in a band, and they play at the bar on a fairly regular basis. I decided that he could use my support, just as much as I needed to get out and be around people. Over the last six months, the bar has pretty much become my own personal "CHEERS", where I've got my own barstool, and everybody knows my name. People actually applaud when I come in through the door, and several come running to give me a friendly hello and a big hug. Heck, I can't even leave anymore without hugging and saying goodbye to a dozen or more friends now.
I can't tell you how much making new friends has impacted and improved my quality of life. My chronic pain is still there, just as strong, but my new friends care about how I am doing, and if I don't put in an appearance when I am expected, they track me down ASAP to check on me and see if I need anything or if there is anything they can do for me. It really is worth the effort to put yourself out there and let the good people find you, cuz they will. If your current or longtime friends fade away because they can't handle or don't want to make the effort to relate to you with your medical issues, then find yourself some good people that will care about you through thick and thin. I didn't think it was possible a couple of years ago, but I am so happy to say that I was TOTALLY WRONG!
•On Disability for: Chronic Migraines, serious Back and Knee problems (will need surgery eventually), moderate Depression, Anxiety/Panic disorder, TMJ, stomach problems
•Divorced, 45, spawn-free
"THE WEATHER IS HERE, I WISH YOU WERE BEAUTIFUL." -Jimmy Buffett