The healing power of friendships

No man is an island,


Entire of itself,


Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.


If a clod be washed away by the sea,


Europe is the less.


As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manor of thy friend’s


Or of thine own were:


Any man’s death diminishes me,


Because I am involved in mankind,


And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;


It tolls for thee.

John Donne. Taken from Meditation 17, ‘Devotions upon Emergent Occasions’. 1624

I was planning to finish one of my ‘draft’ posts this week but this morning I awoke feeling so refreshed and invigorated and the following had to be written.

 

Living in a household with my husband and three teenage sons I very often feel isolated and misunderstood. With my condition, apart from carers coming in, it can be many weeks in between seeing and having a good catch up with my girl friends. It’s not that they avoid me but they all have busy lives and my energy is precious. The priority for my energy is my family, but I am now slowly realising the importance of regularly spending time with my girlie friends.

 

Over the past week I have been out for a girlie lunch, went to a birthday party, a wedding garden party, knitting and craft group and last night I managed to attend the meeting of the book group I belong to.

The  birthday and wedding were planned long ago and after having two weeks relapsed I was very relieved and determined to attend them both. Then I heard of another friend’s husband leaving her, after 24 years of marriage, and so the lunch was planned and I had to go to that. There were six of us, we all knew each other as our kids went to primary school together and I would consider them as my closest friends.

Now one of us was in need and so all of our busy lives jiggled their priorities and there we were all together as if we only saw each other the previous day. It’s probably been six months or more since as a group we have been together, and five years since our offspring played together. The energy of us combined was wonderful, we all felt our friend’s pain, some of us had already survived divorce, and one had been widowed. There was no doubting our combined qualifications to show support and understanding.

Our friend couldn’t eat, she ordered but we all remembered that nausea that comes with stress and grief. The lunch wasn’t all doom and gloom, we laughed, tears welled, and we ate chocolate cake together, and even a glass of champagne ( it was the Tea Room’s first birthday) We all felt the benefit of just being together.

All of us had various troubles going on with our lives, we are all the mothers of teenagers!

There were sick kids, sick parents, proud mum moments, shared divorce experiences, shared happy moments and plans for the summer. Everyone of us came away lighter in mood. We showed solidarity and our friend, more than anything, knows that she has a core support team, we’re on her side, all the way.

I almost didn’t make the craft group at a friends house, one of our sons broke his hand, although we didn’t know it was broken then. It was one of those evenings that erupts out of nowhere, just when you think you’ve found a place of calm in your family life, deeply buried insecurities and alliances come to the fore, in a way that only ‘blended families’ can.

During a moment of calm amidst this storm, I went to the craft night, putting my needs first.

Seven mums sat in a friend’s garden, some knitting, some painting, rest of us just watching, sipping wine (or water in my case) chatting. Nothing too serious, getting younger kids to bed, babysitters, end of term teacher’s gifts, the new art gallery opening, and nice gardens to see. Nothing like the witches coven some men may imagine would result in a group of women meeting.

There is something about sharing a problem that really does half it. By sharing you realise that you’re neither the first or the last to suffer, and almost every problem can be made humorous when you share it with friends! I didn’t share my problems that night, it was all still too raw and unresolved, however I actually had fun, laughed and felt supported.

One of the most powerful healing friendship groups I belong to now though is a group of friends that I have not yet met. I may never get to meet them but it doesn’t make them any less important.

Facebook may be the scourge of many lives, but for periods, mine, and so many others it is often the only contact you have with the outside world. During the years that I was mainly bed bound and having visitors was too much for my senses, I found groups of people that were in the same boat. Being closed groups we could seek advice about symptoms, have a moan about life but most importantly laugh at ourselves! There are some wonderful people in these groups, many are far sicker that I am or ever was, yet we actually have fun. There have been virtual Balls, parties and trips.We have ‘Secret Santa’, ‘Easter Bunny’ and this year a ‘Secret Summer’. These cleverly organised events give us all random names and we choose gifts to send to each other. Being in similar situations, many with chemical sensitivities, food intolerances and physical disabilities, we have a head start on choosing gifts that can actually be of use and treasured by a fellow warrior.

Today I have my 92 year old friend Mr T popping in, as he does every Thursday for half an hour, and tomorrow I have a very dear school friend visiting, she has been a constant in my life for almost thirty years, and has continued to be here for me during my illness.

I am feeling very blessed and really wanted to tell the world how lucky I am and how happy I feel, knowing that I am surrounded by so many lovely friends, in person and on line and together we can get through whatever life throws at us.

 

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