Great Expectations: How to Move Through the Impact of Illness on Friendships

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by: Jamie Rautenberg

If we find ourselves in a place of turmoil (whether that’s mental, emotional, physical, or spiritual) it’s especially important to re-evaluate our choices. We must ask ourselves questions to reveal the root causes. Once we do this, we can address those causes with full consciousness and regain our power.

For me, reaching a state of profound mental & physical toxicity prompted me to take a second look at who I surrounded myself with, and how they were affecting me. I realized that there were some friendships in my life that left me feeling disappointment and deeper sadness. Upon further exploration, I knew that it was because I held onto some heavy expectations, mainly that they understand my experience.

We all want to be understood, especially during the dark times, but we can’t expect that we always will be. We can feel a great sense of loss due to the great expectations we may hold for our friends and those closest to us.

One of the ways I coped with my own recovery from these challenges is through processing that grief through writing. Below is a piece of my heart & mind from a few years ago, when I was feeling particularly misunderstood from those I held closest to me…

This is my last week of work before a self-imposed leave of absence.

I’ve wrestled with myself about this decision for months, afraid of the day it would come. It’s risky business getting to work in one centered piece now. The sound of my heart pounding echoes in my ringing ears as I sit in my office waiting for my first session. I can no longer ignore the palpitations that accompany every movement. As I listen to my patient speak her truth, I’m reminded of mine.

I have to model that we must take care of ourselves in order to possess the ability to care for others.

It’s a hard truth to face as a wounded healer. It seems like it’s something that should come more organically, but it’s definitely a learned behavior. For me, it’s something that I’ve been striving to learn my whole life and will likely never stop learning.

This reflection provides perspective about the great expectations I hold for myself and those around me. The impact of illness on friendship has surprised me, but I’m not entirely sure why. Everyone in my life has his or her own set of truths that they either choose to face or deny. I should not expect that those who deny their truth would accept mine, yet I become disappointed if they don’t.

Suddenly, I see that it no longer matters.

It cannot be my focus.

All validation must come from within myself, now more than ever.

Don’t get me wrong, outside support is absolutely important. But, I am surprised by those who stepped up and revealed to me how much they fight for a healthy self, and are unafraid to hear about my fight. These people courageously listen to the cold hard facts about my reality, no matter how uncomfortable it may be because they choose to face their own discomforts within their journey.

I’m so grateful to those who have reached out to me, yet I still experience sorrow for those who have not. I feel the initial sting, but it slowly dissipates as I remember that I have no right to hold them to any standard that they don’t hold for themselves. It’s not fair for me to judge this because it’s not a personal attack on me.

In fact, it’s not about me at all.

And, for these people, I wish for them to face their ugly as I face mine.

Because facing the ugly is so unbelievably beautiful.


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  1. leona idom  February 24, 2015

    Beautiful and so well wrote. I too embark on this journey, the losses and the gains. Leona

    • admin  February 24, 2015

      Thanks, Leona. It’s a journey of many lessons that I would never change. Much love! xo


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