When Someone Can't See Past Your Disease

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Regular Member

Date Joined Jan 2007
Total Posts : 97
   Posted 3/18/2008 10:39 PM (GMT -7)   
It's been 14 months since my official diagnosis, and my sister-in-law and good friend (or so I thought) doesn't want to talk to me anymore. She has told me that she is uncomfortable being around me now, and doesn't know how to act or what to say. I understand that this can be scary for those who don't understand and I have offered multiple times to talk about it and answer questions to try and put her at ease. She has refused. All she sees when she looks at me is my MS. I don't have any "visible" symptoms right now and haven't since just after my diagnosis. I look perfectly normal on the outside. But she still only sees me now as the girl with MS. I'm no longer just Niki anymore.

This hurts me more than I can explain. I thought we were friends and that she cared about me. And her problem with me is due to something I have no control over. She keeps telling me that I "mean the world to her" and that she wants to be there for me. But when I need her, she won't come around. So I've stopped asking.

She has a wedding coming up, and all of the sudden she wants me to be a bridesmaid and do things for her. She wants me to be by her side and support her during an important time. I feel like this is a huge slap in my face. When I needed her...really needed her...she could not do it. But now I'm supposed to buy a dress and throw her a shower and be supportive. Wow. Just blows my mind.

I know weddings are stressful and that we want those we care about to be there with us to celebrate. And I am happy for her, I really am (I totally dig her fiance...he's great!). I just feel kind of insulted being asked to support her when she didn't want to support me through a really difficult time. I feel like she just wants to be a fair-weather friend....there only for the good stuff and none of the bad. To me, that's not what a true friend is.

I just don't know what to do. The entire family is pressuring me to just let it go and participate in all the little parties and things. And I just don't want to. I'm so hurt. They think I just need to get over it.

I dunno, am I over reacting? Am I not seeing her point of view? I'm not quite sure what her point of view is, honestly. She won't talk to me about anything but shoes and flowers.

What can I do? Has anyone else encountered a person like this in their lives? How do you handle them?

Veteran Member

Date Joined Jun 2005
Total Posts : 2135
   Posted 3/19/2008 3:22 AM (GMT -7)   

I'm not going to tell you that you should go ahead and participate in your sister-in-law's wedding -- I'm not even going to begin to meddle in family dynamics!

But I will talk generally about the bigger issue -- you're going to encounter lots of people in your life -- family, friends, acquaintences, even people you thought were your best and closest friends -- who won't be able to see past the disease.  At least your sister-in-law was honest -- she told you that she was uncomfortable around you, that she didn't know how to act or what to say.  More often people just drift away, or slam the door in your face.

And you are right -- you don't have control over her actions, or behavior. Only your own.  Have you done anything that might scare her off?  I know that lots of people when newly diagnosed find their diagnosis the only thing they can talk about. It will consume them, and they'll talk specifically and sometimes graphically about what is going on with them, and talk about old symptoms, new symptoms, possible new symptoms, the "what if's?", the bladder issues...all that.  When people ask, "Hi, how are you?" -- rather than taking that as a conversation starter, and answering, "Fine, thanks, and you?" they'll launch off into a litany of all the things wrong with them that day.

And frankly, nobody wants to hear that. At least not all the time. Even close and dear friends.  What they want to hear is -- "I'm fine", most of the time, and only "Gee, I need some help" when you really need or want some help, or an ear.

And it's not always easy to discern the differences, there, when you're deep in the swamp and alligators (MS related stuff) is coming at you from all angles.

I don't know if you fell into that trap -- the "I'm awful and here's what's wrong!" trap, every time you talked with her. But if you did, that might be adding to her discomfort.

So -- maybe...and I guess I am stepping into family dynamics a bit, here...maybe now that it's been over a year since your diagnosis, you're more comfortable with it, and don't talk about it as much...and so she is more comfortable about it, and trying to reach out to you.

And there's the matter of -- it's her wedding. The biggest and most important thing that will happen to her...at least right now.  She's consumed with all the planning, all she can talk about is all the planning, all the details, getting it "right"....just as some folks are consumed about their diagnosis. So that is all she can talk about right now.

Whether you want to participate in it with her, and see if you both can get past that, is entirely up to you.  But that's my take on it.

...I am not a doctor, nor health professional, and don't pretend to be one, here.....

Regular Member

Date Joined Feb 2008
Total Posts : 233
   Posted 3/19/2008 9:09 AM (GMT -7)   

Hi Niki,

I am so sorry that your sister-in-law has had that reaction to your ms.  When I first started to use my wheelchair full time I got the same reaction from many people.  They act like you're contagious or something.  You know what, that's their problem.  I am not going to try to excuse her reaction, but maybe she is frightened.  If this could happen to her best friend, then how certain is anyone's future?  You can't force someone to listen or to try to understand.  If she sees you going about life as usual, maybe she will eventually come around.

As to participating in her wedding, that is something you will have to decide for yourself.  Maybe you could explain to her that it would just be too much stress and too tiring for you to have an active part in the wedding, but that you are very happy for her and that you would really like to attend the shower.  You can't let family and friends push you into doing something that you know will only stress you out and make you ill.  This is your life and your body and you are the one who knows what is best for you.  You can't please all of the people all of the time.

Hope things work out for you.  Try to be a little patient with your sister-in-law.

Gentle hugs,
Fibro, Osteoporosis, OA, RA, DDD, IBS, Vertigo, Tinnitus, Carpel Tunnel, Epilepsy, Hypothyroidism, Familial Tremors, Spasms, Nerve damage

Veteran Member

Date Joined Mar 2006
Total Posts : 2146
   Posted 3/19/2008 9:12 AM (GMT -7)   
Hey Nikki

I totally agree with Uppity here on this, but would add that i've soooo been in u'r shoes. Not from an illness standpoint, but i've been (to me) horribly betrayed and then asked and expected to forgive and forget. Well that's much easier said than done. Sadly, i've not done so with a particulair friend and to this day remain distant from her. I think what Uppity was trying to tell u makes sense. This is a big deal for her. If u can find a way to at least swallow some of this and move forward with participating and being there with her...then maybe u'll find that the worst is behind u and u really can get past it. Many times it's hurt and pride that keeps us from going back into relationships. For me it's both...but pride is huge there for me. I feel i was made a fool of and i won't allow her the chance to do that again. I'm not saying that's where u are...it doesn't seem so....but maybe there is that element there and once u get past it u'll be able to see that old spark of closeness u once had and all the hurt won't be so big and insurmountable anymore? I suppose that this gets down to the bigger of the two? U show her what a real friend is and maybe she'll get the message...and maybe that'll open the door for a talk about all of this later on too. It'll also lend it'self to better family relations. Everyone will see that u've done what u could. Maybe in the end it won't change her or the situation...but will u have any regrets in trying?? Take good care friend...i know u'r hurting on this, but u'r not alone. We've all been here in one way or another and we know what u'r going thru.
Co-Moderator, MS Forum
*~*Sometimes the Lord calms the storm. Sometimes He lets the storm rage and calms His child.*~*
Things that make u go hummmm......
*I wonder how much deeper the ocean would be without sponges.*
*One day without sunshine is like...um..well...night?*

Regular Member

Date Joined Jan 2007
Total Posts : 97
   Posted 3/19/2008 10:31 AM (GMT -7)   
Thanks for all the advice. What you have all said makes sense. I know that I should try to be there for her regardless of how she treated me, because I don't want to have any regrets in the future. And also perhaps showing her what a real friend is like might open her eyes. I'm in way too deep at this point to back out...the wedding is in less than a month. I bought the dress. I threw her a shower at my house. I'm trying, I'm trying so hard.

But I declined to attend a pedicure party and another bachelorette party, which has caused uproar with the Mom and other sister. They say I am hurting everyone with my actions. But honestly, I didn't know I had to go to so many parties. I figured me throwing one would be enough to show my support. And honestly, I'm not into pedicures or going to clubs. Like you guys say....can't please everyone!

This is going to be one of those situations of grin and bear it. Now isn't the time to work out our problems, she's far too distracted which, of course, makes sense. And I don't want to put a stain on her big day that may never come off. I just need to figure out how to quell my anger towards her and try to enjoy the day as best I can. At least there will be an open bar at this thing! :)

Thanks again.

Regular Member

Date Joined Aug 2007
Total Posts : 144
   Posted 3/19/2008 7:53 PM (GMT -7)   
For my 2 cents on this ---As we all have gone through you think ppl are your friends you become less than perfect they cant be bothered.I feel it is their loss cause we are the same ppl just a little different..The friends who knew us before ms know what we were..Friends who know us after ms know who we are...People who try to keep our heads held high and go on with our daily routines.Maybe a little different but we are still who we were!!!!Wr maybe riding instead of walking but as long as we get there..I think my opinion ms is bascially the same as a death..You do talk about a loved one so with a "friend"you should be able to talk about how you once were and if it scares them......Well time to meet other mser's and form friendships with them....Because they know maybe a little different but they understand..If you can find a local support group..Such a great thing....pokey 79
diaganosed 1983
avonex once weekly
steroid infusion every three months for three days
mycoline three times a day
fosamax once a week
bladder meds. daily

Regular Member

Date Joined Oct 2007
Total Posts : 343
   Posted 3/19/2008 8:42 PM (GMT -7)   
Littlechina, hope you don't mind a little more input here.

Do what you have the energy to do. You're just a bridesmaid right? The Maid or Matron of Honor has the biggest responsibility to the bride. Don't let things get pushed on you that you shouldn't be doing. It'll exhaust you. One of my many talents is being a wedding planner and the thing about weddings is that you'll never make everyone happy. You accepted, you bought the dress, you've thrown a party, you declined a couple, so be it. They'll get over it. Get a thick skin about the "hurt feelings" and criticism and take care of you thru the process. Be there for her on her day, and then see how she is afterwards to realize whether or not this outreach is sincere or not.

And then from that point, either grow the relationship or let it be however she lets it be, and develop new friendships with other people like suggested in an MS support group or other areas of your interest.

Uppity made some seriously good points. I found myself obsessing about my condition and tests etc... but I've made a point of not bringing them up or going into details unless someone specifically asks. I smile when folks say, "Hope you get better soon"... they just don't understand this isn't a "Get well soon" condition. My close friends understand, my family knows. I keep it light from there because even if you're not ill when folks ask how are you, they're really not always listening. :) Check it out sometime, it's quite amusing to give odd ball responses to the greeting and see how many are actually listening for a response. :)

Good luck and enjoy the wedding despite the tensions. Tension is just part of the dynamics of weddings. It's sad but true.
 ~ Ephesians 6:13 ~  * ~ Psalm 27:1 ~
Fear knocked ~ Faith Answered ~ No one was there! :)

Forum Moderator

Date Joined Jan 2007
Total Posts : 3550
   Posted 3/20/2008 6:57 AM (GMT -7)   


This is a great thread.  I think most of us have had to deal with this once diagnosed.  I am sorry this has been so painful for you.  Your story broke my heart and made me so angry all at the same time.  I lost some good friends that I really thought were "life" friends when I was diagnosed.  I found out that one didn't even beleive my diagnosis and was over heard saying, "Wow maybe she really does have MS!" when I was in the midst of a terrible flare.  It was a sad time.  I have had to re-define friendships since being diagnosed.  But I have also experienced just the opposite.  I have had old friends come out of the woodwork and show themselves as remarkably empathetic.  I have also gained new friends that did not know me before MS.  Those are perhaps the sweetest of all - those friends that have stepped in to love you even though your body is damaged.  Those new friends enter knowing that your body has limits but somehow seeing your soul as more than enough (Thanks RB and PG I love you more than you know). 

So go to that wedding and keep in your heart that you have a perfect soul.  Your body just doesn't allow you to do what you used to do even if "mom and sister" don't see that you have limits and symptoms.  That is the old "if I can't see it I don't believe in it" shallow thinking.  Try to think of them with some compassion - they are not living THEIR fullest, most joyful life. You just cannot get all that life has to offer with that sort of shallow thinking.

Love and prayers,


Gretchen       co-moderator MS board       diagnosed with MS July 2006

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