Tonight I finally committed to act on a decision I had technically made weeks ago.
I had a friend that I cared a great deal about. I enjoyed chatting with them, had shared a lot of personal things with them online. We are both people with disabilities, so there was a level of understanding between us that was nice. Lots of well-meaning friends try to understand, but never really fully can because disabilities can be complicated, chronic health conditions can be tricky to cope with, but someone who lives with such conditions can sometimes be a support for others with similar concerns.
Things started to deteriorate around Christmas between my friend and I when it became obvious to not only me, but everyone else who read exchanges between us, that my friend was reading meaning and intent into things I was sharing and posting on Facebook that simply weren’t there. Rather than asking me what I was thinking, this person assumed they knew.
At first, I tried hard to understand that this person’s disabling condition was likely contributing to the problems with perception. It was difficult and frustrating to not be defensive, I tried to be patient, but things escalated quickly. Even after being told what I think, what I meant, what my intention was, and feeling analyzed, I kept trying to explain myself, trying to help them understand that they were misinterpreting, misunderstanding what I was sharing. I even tried to explain and reason with this individual after they had signed offline.
At first I felt badly for this person, knowing that the particular disability this person had was likely causing the misconceptions. I reached out to a couple of friends who know me personally in my ‘daily life’ and one whom I’m close to online for some ‘clarification.’
I didn’t want to lose this person, hoping that things might improve for them and we would be able to ‘reconnect’, so I changed my settings on Facebook so that they wouldn’t be able to see all of my posts and the sayings/quotes I was sharing, thinking if they were so distressed by what I was sharing, perhaps not making it accessible to them would have a positive impact on the friendship.
I didn’t know how to approach my friend, not wanting to endure another negative exchange. I just kept putting off making contact, appreciating not having to explain everything I said or thought, not having to defend the way I choose to deal with the challenges of my life.
A person I greatly respect that works within the disability community recently pointed out to me that while two people with disabilities and/or similar backgrounds can be great support for one another, they also can do terrible damage to one another. Each person has to be willing and able to consider and respect the other person’s unique physical and emotional needs, there has to be mutual respect, but this can be difficult, if not impossible, depending on how each person copes with and feels about their health concerns.
I realized that I wasn’t practicing some of the strategies I have learned when it came to my relationship with this person. After seeking ‘clarification’ I realized that I wasn’t taking care of myself when interacting with my friend. I spent a lot of time considering whether or not the problems we were having communicating were influenced by disability and I was defending my beliefs, coping strategies and outlook on life rather than enjoying the friendship.
I had made a lot of adjustments to accommodate this individual, from editing the pictures I was posting because they objected to some of them; explaining why I hadn’t blocked a friend that this person objected to; explaining over and over again that their comments on this blog were visible, that they were not being prevented from seeing other people’s comments (something I don’t even think is possible on wordpress); and reassuring repeatedly that they had the same access and ability to subscribe/follow this blog as everyone else had; and I even removed the falling snow from my blog (even though it was only available for a month during the holidays and I had been looking forward to that feature being available) because it was causing this individual issues seeing the moving image on the screen.
I decided that though I didn’t want to do it and felt we had invested a great deal in our friendship, it was time to practice ‘letting go.’ It makes no sense to argue with someone who thinks they know better what you think, feel and believe and no one should have to defend themselves to someone who is struggling to deal with the same issues you are and having equally as much difficulty.
I feel good about making this decision because I know I practiced some of the coping skills I’ve been learning, I considered the alternatives, I had to take care of myself.