Updated: Apr 18, 2020
Since we’ve had Lydia in our lives I’ve noticed quite a dramatic shift – I mean apart from all the obvious shifts that come with having a little one with disabilities.
That shift has been in friendship, and I’ve noticed it to be the same for most other parents in our situation.
The reality is that we ourselves have become friends with deficits, that is that we are now people who have financial deficits (we’re broke) time deficits (we’re often busy) energy deficits (we’re tired) and maybe personality deficits (being a special needs parent has probably made me a more boring person). This is a perfect opportunity to test the adage – a friend in need is a friend indeed
After managing to put back together some of the pieces of our lives that were shattered by diagnoses and long hospital stays, most of those parts which carried our friends were either missing in part or all together. Below are the 4 types of friend that I believe you may have after having your life turned upside down by disability.
Check down the back of the sofa all you like – I’m afraid they’re gone. Not out of existence, just out of your world. You may still see them around but if you bump into them at Tesco and talk to them they’ll give you that look that says, “I really wish you hadn’t seen me”, that is if they didn’t manage to dodge into another aisle and leave before you caught them and assumed you were still friends. I’ve had this with people that I’ve known since I was 4 years old, maybe they just don’t know how to relate anymore – the truth is they’re not cut out for going through storms with you so best to let them float away I’m afraid.
These guys are still in your world but on the other side of it – It’s the same effect as if they had moved to Australia. They still speak to you but don’t initiate contact much, if at all. You’re no longer invited to do things with them (because you probably couldn’t make it anyway) and a house visit might possibly occur on a special occasion. The far-flung friend is still your friend but much more distant and you can’t really rely on them for much.
These creatures can be found living among unicorns and fairies – Ok they’re not quite as rare as that but they are few and far between none the less. These friend’s may have stepped into this category when things got hard and those you expected would be there through thick and thin fell into the last 2 categories. Faithful friends recognise you have things to contend with and support you in the way that they can and step out of the way when you need them to, without becoming any less faithful. These are the people who don’t just send you messages saying “I’m here for you if you need anything” – which is all very nice and 99.99% of the time useless and not genuine, but they say, we need a coffee, I’m on the way or how is Tuesday? Or what do you need I’ll bring it. The beauty is that they recognise that you will be that faithful friend when they need you to be too. BIG SHOUT OUT TO THE FAITHFUL FRIENDS OUT THERE
New friends in the same battles as you are – Hopefully you’ve made some of these, as a Dad I must say that I can see that this seems to be easier for Mum’s to do. Both me and my wife have taken the same sort of hit to our friendship circle, but she has been able to rebuild a circle of “Mum friends” a lot better than I’ve been able to link to Dad’s who “get it”. Dad’s we need to link together a lot more and Mum’s you seem to be doing a great job at supporting each other. Friends, I just want to say how important you are. You don’t realise it, but we need you, Far-flung friends boring isn’t contagious, underneath it all we’re still here honest, don’t disappear when we need you. Faithful friends, thank you for perfecting that word friend in your caring support, you’ve kept us going. To you new friends who are the fellow fighters, be a friend to somebody in your similar situation and they’ll be a friend to you. Talk about the difficulties of disability but move beyond that too and as time rolls on you will hopefully move into the category of faithful friends for many years to come. Sometimes you will be on your own, some things you will have to do on your own, but you can’t do everything on your own and thankfully you don’t have to. Friends you are vital.