Thursday, December 13, 2007

7 tips for social plans when you're chronically ill

New to Somebody Heal Me? Subscribe to the Somebody Heal Me feed:
Subscribe in a reader or subscribe by e-mail. Follow me on Twitter @somebodyhealme.

Chronically ill people often find themselves worrying about how to handle social invitations from family and friends. Do you say yes if you know you are free and want to attend? What if you don't feel up to it when the event arrives? In a nutshell, how do the rules of society mesh with your life when you're often sick?

I've lost friends from my inability to keep plans or attend events because of my health conditions. I wonder now if I should have handled these situations differently. However, I also know that anyone worth having in my life will understand when I explain why I had to cancel or couldn't attend. If this is really the reason for my drift from these people, I say good riddance. Not to say these experiences weren't painful, of course, but rather life is too short to waste time worrying about people who weren't important in the first place.

The question of how to handle invitations presents real challenges for us all year long. Unfortunately, the pressure we put on ourselves is often elevated at the holidays. I hope these tips will give you something to consider next time you're in the difficult position of RSVPing "yes" or "no."

Share your dilemma and ask for advice on how to handle these questions.
By making your questions hypothetical, your friends and family may feel more comfortable revealing their true preferences about how to handle an invite. Would they prefer you say yes and try to come even if you know you might not be able to make it? Or would they prefer you say no if you know your health may make it impossible for you to attend? Does the type of event make a difference? How would they handle these situations if they were in your shoes?

Be candid with people you care about.
In discussing plans for a holiday gathering, my friend felt free to share that it will be easier for her family if we gather at their house. They have a new baby, and we all know how much work it can be for parents to travel with a baby. As people with debilitating health conditions, we should feel similarly comfortable being honest with people we love.

Be honest.
If you must cancel at the last minute or turn down an invitation, tell the hosts the truth about your circumstances. It can be tempting to hide the limitations imposed by illness, but people who are worth having in our lives will be understanding and more concerned about our well being than that we are missing the event.

Consider where will the event be held.
If the event will be at the home of someone I'm close to I know I can always arrange to lie down in a spare room if I have to. I may not be able to do this at a more public location or at the home of someone I don't know well, which makes me less likely to commit myself to attending.

How long is the event? Will it be weird or noticeable if you have to leave in the middle?
If the event is a short one, I usually feel more confident I'll be able to survive even if I'm not feeling especially well. And I'm also more likely to attend if I know I can easily slip out without making a spectacle of myself or disrupting.

I've had to leave wedding receptions in the middle or arrive late, and no one was the wiser. I even had to come late to the reception when I was in my best friend's wedding, and I feel certain she was the only one who noticed (because she was worried about me).

It may not be so easy to slip out in the middle of a play or musical, especially if you're seated in the middle of a row.

How well do you know the hosts?
I feel more comfortable asking for a place to get away from the crowd and to share the truth about my limitations if I know the hosts well. I don't even want to go there with people we only know professionally or casually, so I'm most likely to decline an invitation unless attendance is extremely important.

Think hard about whether you really want to attend.
If you're thinking of RSVPing "yes" out of a sense of obligation why bother? Just say no thank you, send a gift if the occasion calls for it and don't give the invite another thought.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Subscribe to the Somebody Heal Me feed: Subscribe in a reader or subscribe by e-mail.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Content by Diana E. Lee.